Thursday, December 21, 2017


Every year, I take one of the boys with me to pick out the family Christmas tree. Like Trump's cabinet, it's on a rotational basis and this year it was Peter's turn.

The problem was that two weeks ago, I pinched a nerve and managed to throw out my back. I was watching Peter totally rocking the bench at one of his basketball games. After three hours I tried to stand up and the emphasis is most definitely on 'tried'. I couldn't stand up, walk, or sit down without piercing pains, so it's been a fun two weeks.

On Monday, I had an MRI done and at least it is not a slipped disc and no surgery is needed. I know this has nothing to do with this story, but MRI's suck. Big time. Angie and I recently watched an episode of CSI Las Vegas where a horse with a broken leg was given an MRI. What a load of horseshit! If there is an MRI machine big enough for a horse, then why the hell do they make super-humans like me cram myself into a custom-fit coffin for 20 minutes?

The bright side of my being immobilized is that Angie finally got to fully embrace the tree hunting experience. Even brighter is that she was not saddled with David or Tom, who generally pick the first tree they see. No, no - she hit pay dirt with Peter, who takes his responsibility of picking the family tree extremely serious. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Angie and Peter left to get the tree and David and Tom spent the next four hours asking the same question.

'Why are they taking so long?'

'Because it's Peter.'

'Oh, right.'

Don't get me wrong, I love the tradition. It's just that Peter can drive you nuttier than fruit cake when it comes to picking out THE perfect tree. Our last adventure involved going to three different lots and inspecting every single tree on all three lots at least twice. He does not waver or cave into pressure like 'I'm freakin' cold! Would you just pick one already? How about this one? This one looks great, doesn't it? Come on, Peter. PLEEEEAAASE!!!'. Oh, yeah - he also has an undersized bladder and Christmas tree lots, at least the ones in Germany, do not have toilets. They also do not accept anything other than cash, but there is no point in bringing up old shit that really happened to me and pissed me off beyond belief at the time.

I thought at first I might be overdramatizing my memory of Peter's last hunt, but the excerpt above matched Angie's recount of events almost word for word. Unless you ask Peter.

The only point where I can take pride is that out of all of the trees that I helped to hunt over the years ALL of them fit in our car. Angie had to pay the guy an extra five Euros because the tree did not fit and he had to secure the trunk with string. Ha! Who the hell goes hunting without the ability to transport the trophy back to the cabin? Angie. 

Anyone that has been to our place can confirm that Simba is a crazy cat. His look, though, when we turned our living room into a forest, confirmed that our feelings for each other are mutual.

I call it the 'WTFAYHDN?' look. The last five letters stand for 'Are You Humans Doing Now?' and I trust in your creative cryptic skills to decipher the rest.
Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That it was the last day of school, that I went to Jonas' house and started on the project for religion, that I'm going to Arman's house to spend the night, and that I got to pick the tree.
David: That finally it is the break and I could meet with Cyril.
Tom: That I didn't have training and that we got the tree.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That David was bugging me. 
David: That after playing with Cyril, I remembered that I still had training.
Tom: I didn't have a worst part.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Decorate the tree with Arman. 
David: I want to have fun on my first day of the break.
Tom: I want to have fun decorating the tree and play with Lilly and Max.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Split Decision

Tommy's gymnastics training switched after the summer break to six days a week. That's right! It's not enough that Angie and I inflict sufficient pain on ourselves on Saturday mornings; we now have the joy of watching Tommy inflict a different type of pain on his body. It's also worth pointing out that, after this switch, Tommy now spends more hours in training than Angie does working. Just saying. 

Most of the gymnastics clubs in the area are "hobby" clubs. The "hobby" clubs are the ones for normal kids. You know, training is twice a week for an hour, they have tournaments every other weekend and win lots of trophies and medals. They play to have fun, not to win, and everyone can stay on the team for as long as they want. Needless to say, Tommy is not a normal kid.

Tommy is in a special program. They only have two tournaments a year and instead of a medal, they determine whether or not you get invited to continue in the program for another year. If you don't show steady improvement, you might want to start looking for a nearby "hobby" club. Tommy's group started three years ago with ten kids and they are now down to four.

Within the program, there is a special group called the Cadre. These are the cream-of-the-crop. If you're lucky enough to make it into this elite few, you get your own locker and, well, that's pretty much it from what I can tell. Oh, and bragging rights.

To get into the Cadre, you have to excel on both of the two tournaments and score high on all of the stations. Leading up to today's tournament, Tommy's group has had several practice tournaments. Tommy did not make the mark in any of them except the one last week. The training tournaments mean nothing, though, it's how you perform on the big day, so Tommy was a bit nervous. Okay, bullshit. He was more petrified than fossilized wood. My words of wisdom probably did little to quash his anxiety.

'Just do what you did last week.'

Tommy has never been one to listen to anything I tell him, so of course he ignored me and did even better than last week.

Well done, Tommy! Welcome to the Cadre. Don't forget to brag about the locker.
Ladder Talk: 
[Tommy was too busy doing victory flips to do Ladder Talk ]

1) What was the best part of your day?

2) What was the worst part of your day?

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

¿Cómo se dice "loud"?


The kids used to wake me up at 5:30 in the morning all the time, but I certainly never fell asleep at an airport café while waiting for a flight.

Luckily for David and Tom, Peter stayed vigilant. He also devoured David's chocolate croissant as he drooled on the wall, but the important thing is that he woke up both of the sleeping beauties before boarding. Okay, it took some parental convincing to get him to do that, but the important thing is - he did.

Directly after taking off, a kid sitting next to us (not one of ours) got up to use the bathroom. While climbing over us, he stomped all over Angie's purse that was laying on the floor and broke off the strap. I laughed. Angie almost cried. Destructo Dave said nothing, but cast an admiring eye towards the boy with the weak bladder and heavy feet.

In case the travel tip didn't give it away, let me narrow down our whereabouts for the next ten days.

After landing, we moved on to our next adventure, which was picking up our rental car. As we approached the counter, Angie was dragging her broken purse by one strap and looking absolutely thrilled at the sound this was making. Or maybe that was me. Not sure - it was a long flight. Doesn't matter. To me.

We dumped our baggage in front of the counter and Angie told Peter to watch the bags and disappeared with David and Tom to get drinks. She ignored my request for a cerveza, but I'm sure that is because she studied nine years of Latin instead of Spanish. What a waste.

As I was finishing up, I turned around to find a uniformed man sporting a machine gun trying to hit on my wife, who had just returned with nothing closely resembling a beer.

'Señora, you need to watch your bags. ¡Siempre!'

'It's okay, my son was watching the bags.'

As it often happens with men dealing with my wife, the policeman shook his head and laughed.

'¡No, no, Señora! ¡YOU need to watch your bags!'

With that, our Spanish friend and helper pointed to his female partner in crime, who was standing at the opposite end of the airport. In her hands, dangling by one strap, was Angie's purse.

The Hollywood side of my brain immediately raced to the logical conclusion that this was a shakedown and that we were going to need to blow our already low pool of funds on getting Angie's broken purse back.

Luckily, Sergeant Jefe just shook his head and laughed for the second time. Then he whistled at his partner, who came over and gave Angie her purse back. My mind immediately transmitted two thoughts:
  1. Pull the guy aside and tell him politely that whistling at women stopped being cool in the eighties.
  2. Check for missing money.
I cannot control my mind when it comes to transmitting thoughts. Angie can testify to this fact, even if no one has asked her for her opinion. Unlike the love of my life, though, I can control how my mouth responds to such thoughts.

'¡Muchas gracias!'

After picking up the rental car, we did the same thing that I'm sure all families do shortly after landing in Spain and drove directly to Taco Bell.

In our defense, they don't have a Taco Bell anywhere close to where we live, so, unlike their regular customers, we were genuinely excited to be there.

Our final destination was actually about an hour from Valencia in a beautiful city called Jávea. Leif's mom has an amazing place at the foot of the mountain bearing the name that sounded a lot like an imperative to our family - Montgó. The view is breathtaking in any direction, it's about ten minutes to the beach, it has enough rooms to house a zoo and she made the nonretractable offer once for us to stay there. Oh, yeah, it also has a pool.

By dinner time, the Zoo Crew was collectively losing energy. That's when Patricia woke up the boys by unveiling the "Beefer".

If you have never tasted food cooked in a "Beefer", my recommendation is not to. No other steak or burger in your life will ever taste like you know how it should taste and they can be a bit pricey.

Basically, you raise the tray with meat until it is less than an inch from the flames, which keep the entire hot box at a whopping 800 degrees Celcius (1,472 F). The result is an incredibly crispy outside and the searing completely seals all of the juices inside. You can only do one large steak or two burgers at a time, but it only takes a minute per side so my belly accepted the tradeoff.

After dinner, we got the kids to sleep and Patricia woke Angie and me up by unveiling the "Gin Tonic".

If you have never tasted Patricia's "Gin Tonic", my recommendation is not to, for reasons that will become blatantly obvious in the morning.
Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we came to Spain and the flight was good.
David: That we landed and could play in the pool.
Tom: That we came here to Spain, that Patricia is SO nice and that the house is so nice with the pool.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That David was kinda grumpy at the end of the day.
David: That I accidentally did a belly flop and that hurts.
Tom: That Peter and David were the whole time dunking my head under the water.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Play in the pool and maybe go to the city or the beach.
David: Play in the pool and maybe go somewhere and have fun.
Tom: I want to go in the pool and eat burger meat with the Beefer.