Tree Frog Shine

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. 

You can but it is difficult. 

And if it is Colgate you won’t get the stripes as cleanly the second time. TikTok says you can magically get the stripes no matter how many times you load it back in but I don’t trust anyone on TikTok. That nozzle isn’t magic. 

I saw a delivery guy go viral for finding a floating broom in the middle of a neighborhood around Halloween. He stopped in the street and made like three videos in utter disbelief at this magical bewitched floating Harry Potter Nimbus 3000 fucking broom. He was shaken. The video got seven million views and three hundred and fifty thousand comments. The full range of speculation. My favorite was the conclusion that obviously the witch had fallen off and the broom’s default holding pattern had taken over and was waiting on its master to recover. Like a jet ski without a rider. 

Not to brag but I’m basically famous-adjacent because I know the witch behind the whole thing. Which doesn’t really count because they didn’t get famous from it so… I’m obscure-adjacent. 

Where was I? 

I think I was setting the stage for not being able to travel to the past. To erase a misstep. To undo knowledge once it is gained. That is important this time of year. The one tradition that we have held for the children and our own selfish purposes is the tradition of inviting small stuffed elves into our home and thereby, their employer; Santa. 

Now… we have four children and their ages are getting into the range of non-belief and skepticism. That’s fine for most things. But my younger two really enjoy the Santa season. It is still fun to see the elves move around and get into trouble. It is still fun to get a stocking and sort out all the personalized choices that the man-in-red makes for them. As it so happens, the stockings became the issue this year. 

Christmas Day we pull out the stocking and sort all of the knickknacks. Each stocking got a pack of flavorful Trident gum. One was Tropical Orange and the other Watermelon. Each came in a pack of three so we chose four of the six and doled them out on Christmas Eve to make the stocking complete. The remaining two we set aside for our own purposes. We then placed the stocking on the hearth and retired to bed. 

Did you notice the error? We didn’t either. 

Fast forward. Christmas morning is a success. Brunch goes well. We eat and wade through torn wrapping paper and lie around like the lazy sacks of Christmas waste all day. As we are finishing the day and handing out some evening melatonin, Donna Threeto looks on the bedside nightstand and notices an unopened pack of Trident Tropical Orange. She then looks in the trashcan and saw the packaging that all of the packs came in. 

Like a puzzled puppy, she tilited her head to one side and said, ‘”huh…”. Then I saw it. The little childish twinkle got a little dimmer and she became just a degree more solemn. 

“Do you help Santa sometimes?” she asked.

“Yes honey, most parents help Santa.” I replied.

And that was it. She quietly walked into the kitchen and got a bowl of ice cream. 

Supermom and I both knew. She knew too.

It is one of those moments that is tiny but underpins a change in perspective. Less magic and more cold reality. 

Today was a little bit of that for me as well. We have a traditional day-after-christmas gathering with my father’s side of the family. My Grandmother has always loved Christmas and poured all of her energy each year into selecting gifts and giving them to her very large family. She would accumulate things over the year and they always had specific thought and purpose. In recent years she has struggled with Alzheimer’s and our tradition has been reduced to symbolic envelopes. This year the tradition was reduced further because she wasn’t in the room to watch the envelopes get handed out.

This feels like the last year we will carry that torch. The flame might have flickered out.

My aunt brought a large box with jewelry. Pins, button covers, bracelets, necklaces, broaches, and several other types of accent pieces. All had one thing in common. They had to be related to frogs. Greatmother built a reputation as a lady who enjoyed frogs in all of their whimsy. If something could be adorned with a frog then she had it and here in this box were years of the hoarded frogs. We spent part of the afternoon sifting through the collection and taking the ones that caught our eye. Tokens to remember a once powerful lady who has grown frail.  

Each trinket I looked at, I wanted. I could see a unique color or shape or detail that might have made it special to her. There is one where two frogs, who are clearly friends, are sitting on a log and just passing the time. They are happy in each others company. I grabbed that one. There is a Mardi Gras frog and I remember she had trips to New Orleans. I grabbed that one. There is a shiny smooth tree frog that looks like it is climbing a tree and looking back down. There wasn’t much to associate it with so I passed it over. It feels like passing those details over is letting part of her die. And doing while she is sitting in a wheelchair in the other room, wondering where she is at, seems especially cruel. I would love to have her sit and recount the special memories that each one represents. To tell me about trips and friends and how no matter where she traveled in the world, frogs were common ground. Maybe that is just a sorrowful thought that sounds good but is not something that would have been given the time.  

The truth is that I try to cling to things as surrogates to my own memories. It hurts to think about not having a lucid moment where my grandmother sees me and loves me the way she always had. She smiled at me and there was a brief second of maybe recognition but she wasn’t there. Her eyes are smaller and unfocused. Her mind wanders on the little things and she is rarely present beyond the moment at hand. Her light has all but died as well. I sit here tonight with tears streaming as I write and I mourn for someone I haven’t yet lost but I haven’t brought myself to visit in the past year. Too busy is a pitiful excuse. 

Our traditions are changing and there is this ongoing season of loss hanging over our heads. It is heavy. Then I look at the other end of the family tree and things are looking brighter. Children are happy and healthy and growing into young adults. It is important for them to learn the hard lessons and hopefully through a couple of generational layers to dull the sting. So we carry on and smile. We request things of Santa and welcome his elves into our homes. And for the next little while, when I wear a suit at work, there will be a small frog resting on the lapel. 

Greatmother has had a great life and is owed a giant slice of gratitude for who I am today. If you find yourself missing someone who might not even be gone, 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.


Underdaddy, Supermom, and Lady Bug took a trip to partly cloudy California last week. A dreamy wedding in San Jose. It was a really good trip and I will probably have a couple of blog posts that reference it in the future but for now I wanted to share some of the more interesting discussions/sites/situations that we encountered.

The only natural place to start would be the flight out. Our secret lair is in middle earth where the temperature fluctuates between hell fire of a volcano in Mordor and that icy mountain pass place. (Someone fluent in Lord of The Rings please give me some help here.) Currently the temperature is somewhere between 30 and 50 consistently while temperature in California was projected to be 50-70 each day. So warm clothes and a light jacket would work. Awesome.

One problem. The layover in Denver was in nine degrees of wintery pain. Adding to the pain is the fact that United Airlines runs the most ass-backwards boarding program I have ever seen. They board the plane in groups 1-4. Groups one and two appear to be special needs, priority club, and first class. Groups three and four are the economy class passengers. United loads the planes from the front to the rear to make sure that each and every passenger is loading an overhead bag and slowing down every other passenger still waiting to board. Maybe there is a reason for this? If someone knows some inside information please comment so the rest of us can stop having a brain bleed while we watch the madness.

Landing in the San Jose airport was like stepping into a space terminal. Denver was nice and big and technological but San Jose had a minimalist feel that seemed like some dystopian empire type building.

Oh I almost forgot, before we even left the airport we encountered a man on the Interstate who was playing a horn while driving. He would play for a second and then put it down and then do it again. Really kind of strange. Anyway back to the trip.

I have a checkered history with travel so I go everywhere with this deep gut feeling that I’m going to be screwed by a reservation, a flight delay, or some other unforeseen problem. I go up to the rental car counter and the young man helping me starts reading out the facts on my reservation to confirm.

“Okay let see here. I have a five day reservation. A standard vehicle.”


“That will be one of our two door models.”

“Wait it was supposed to be a Sedan, I have a baby who needs a seat. Here is my confirmation. See it says Ford Fusion or equal.”

“I don’t know why they do that? We don’t even have Fusions.”

Here we go. Took all of thirty minutes for this party to get started. I was about to lose some religion in the lobby but the CSR kept talking, “I guess we will have to upgrade you for free.”

“Wait what? Okay what is the upgrade?”

“We have a Dodge Challenger.”

“Sounds good.”

One disaster averted and the rest of the trip was ahead of us.
The first day the grooms party went to play golf. The course was beautiful and overlooked the valley. There were a few notable things about the golf outing.

Complimentary gift?

Complimentary gift?

A hidden treasure in our golf cart. A complete skull from a ground squirrel. I don’t know what they are really called but they travel around in burrows but look like squirrels.

So close.

So close.

I hit an awesome shot from 165 yards out to set up for a birdie putt that I totally screwed up.

After golfing I had an interesting conversation with a new friend about guns. He looked at me with sudden seriousness and asked, “So is it really like everyone has a gun in the South?”

“Pretty much.”


“Well not one hundred percent but enough that I assume everyone might have one.”

“Are there a lot of deaths from people arguing and they have guns so it goes too far..”

“We have a lot of gang shootings and hunting accidents but I can’t remember too many manslaughter cases from arguments.”

“Hm. Weird.”


I never really thought about it but it was interesting to hear an outside perception.

At some point I was in charge of watching the house for a few minutes and our gracious hosts had a small dog and a big cat that lay around the house pretty self-sufficiently so I didn’t worry much. After a few minutes of quiet reading on the internet I hear this wheezing noise coming from the living room. I know the dog is around thirteen which isn’t super-old for a small dog but still some age. I jump up and go into the living room to investigate. The sound is louder and I am thinking heart attack, poisoning, choking on some baby toy, or some other kind of death that I will have to explain and will probably be blamed for through negligence.

Instead I find this and video while I try not to laugh too loud:

The cat was awesome too. He didn’t hump anything but he is the biggest cat I’ve seen. He is fat but he is a big cat too. His body is built like a low-rider truck and when he eats he just sets it down on the frame and pulls up his wheels.


Jose Canseco lost a finger? Now it is for sale on Ebay.

On our last day we went to the Redwood Forest in Big Basin National Park. The trees were amazing and this was truly a bucket list type of sight. Some of the trees were up to 1,400 years old. I could have walked around all day just staring up into the canopy and feeling small.


Then I stepped in poop. It was a large wild animal or an inconsiderate hiker. Either way it made the ride back down the mountain unpleasant.

I did learn about Banana Slugs and that they can look like an accurate depiction of a yellow penis.

Left handed banana slug

Left handed banana slug

That night we went to a mall in California to see if it was different. Some of it was different. Some of it was the same. While we were walking around we passed an area being prepped for Santa. There was a huge Christmas tree shaped cabin that housed what I had to assume was Santa’s chair. I could see inside part of it and the walls were lined with lights and reflective surface like an inside out disco ball. The sign at the entrance summed up a lot of the culture of California for me.


I wonder if anyone sits back and thinks, “We are paying money to save time to see a fairy tale figure whose entire gig is bringing free stuff.” Then again that line looked huge so maybe it would be worth it.

Don Henley knew what he was singing about, “You can spend all your time making money or you can spend all your money making time.” It is probably the same whirlwind culture that inspired Hotel California. Good job Don.

The next day was our flight out around noon. We dropped off the rental car early and one of the employees offered to drive us to the terminal in the car we had just returned. It was about a ten minute walk so that was a nice gesture.

We all get back into the car and the employee leans forward as he gets into the car to avoid bumping his turban on the edge of the door opening. I think the gentleman was Indian and the turban is part of his culture but I don’t see that every day so I noticed it as different. Then as we are leaving the garage I notice the radio is still on an playing, of all songs, Alan Jackson – Where Were You?. If you aren’t familiar it is a song about the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I was instantly panicked. Even though I knew this man was totally separate from radical Islam all I could think was, “he thinks that I think he is a terrorist because of his turban.” How strange that I had assumed he had a prejudice towards people who look like me because lots of people who look like me have a prejudice against people who look like him.

Read that last sentence twice.

So here, in the midst of an Alan Jackson song with an Indian man in a rental car, I was able to cement in my mind the true battle of bias. Weird huh.

The flights back went fine and Lady Bug cried for an entire hour at the end of the trip. Then the plane landed and we were back to the real world; getting home too late, waking up in a rush, and going to bed exhausted the next night.


-Underdaddy to the rescue