Monday, January 12, 2009

You'll get a kick out of this

Angie lost her freakin' mind today and thought it would be wise to take Peter and David to a Judo class. Judo. As in the Japanese martial art that uses combat techniques like elbow thrusts, choking and throwing your opponent to the floor. The only good thing, I suppose, is that when you lose your mind and finally get it back, you appreciate thinking a lot more. Thanks, sweetie! I'm sure the kindergarten teachers will be quite impressed by how much more pain the boys can now inflict on others.

'Judo' actually means 'gentle way' in Japanese, but I think something got lost in the translation. There was nothing gentle about how the boys spent the rest of the day and night trying to kill each other. Luckily, neither one of them succeeded.

While the boys were busy karate-poking their eyes out, I was enjoying my first day back after four weeks of vacation. Yes, I used the word enjoy. The office was quiet. None of my employees tried jumping on me. Nobody came up to me to announce that they were poopy. And not once during the day did I need to break up any fights. Normally I would classify work as a four-letter word, but today, well...enjoyable.

After work, I got a welcome judo kick from Peter. As the pain dulled, I heard David giggling in the bathroom. Like a train wreck, I had to see. I walked in to find David with that 'caught-in-the-bathroom-squirting-shampoo-on-the-walls' look. I thought about patenting the 'child-proof' shampoo bottle and making millions, but then I came to the sad realization that there are probably not too many parents out there gifted with talented and creative children that paint on walls with conditioner. Instead, I added shampoo to our shopping list and grabbed a sponge.

As I sat down to read the boys their goodnight stories, I felt something under the covers and thought that it might have been Angie's mind. It was only a mule, though. Despite both being rather stubborn, the search for Angie's mind will need to continue.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When I played with Judo's when I learned that a kid come and I was kicking them and then they kick back and hit them on the head and then they did it, too.
David: When Peter and Patrick jump like pe-yang, byong, pe-yang on the bottom.
Patrick: When I was eating food and eating desserts.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When David said 'don't go on your chair' out in the living room and Mama pulled him off of the chair 'cause he said Patrick and me can't sit there no more.
David: When I cry like this 'cause I cry 'cause you so mean. You put me in bed 'cause you so mean
Patrick: My worst part was when I was crying. It was when I got the McQueen car and Mama took it and I cry 'cause I was fighting with David. David took it, so Mama took it.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Patrick hippo-flip.
David: When Patrick again play with me.
Patrick: I want to see Papa again and I want to come back here again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

At last, at last, a train ride at last!

After the past week, if you were not sick of hearing about Patrick salivating over the thought of riding on a train, I most certainly was. So much so, that I decided that instead of driving in the nice heated car to Grams and Opa's, I would take the future train conductor and his sidekick Smiley on the rails and try to put a stop to his incessant babblings. In the end, our little journey had just the opposite effect.

Because our trip was organized by the Johnson family, we were of course late. I checked the web for the train schedule, only to realize I should have looked sooner. The computer told me that I should have left the house ten minutes earlier and started making fun of me. What the computer didn't know was that I am married to Angie. We are late all the time and somehow always manage to make it. And, she makes fun of me on a bi-hourly basis so my tough skin simply laughed at the silly taunts. I took it as a challenge.

Trying to get the boys dressed and out of the house was not a mere challenge - it was an act of Papa, who was determined to show the computer and snickering Mama that getting to the train station was no laughing matter.

Two minutes after leaving the house, Peter began crying. He announced that he was tired and did not want to walk anymore. WHAT??!! You lazy little turd! We've taken, what, a total of twenty steps? Pop your snot bubble, soldier, and get marching.

In the end, bribes turned out to work much better than threats. I had a pack of strawberry licorice and promised them each two pieces if they ran the rest of the way. Never underestimate the power of candy. The kids took off like racecars and I'll let you analyze this picture and judge whether we made it or not.

When we got to our destination, we had to wait for a bus. This allowed the boys another ten minutes to make complete asses out of themselves. I normally only need two minutes to accomplish this goal, but they are still in train-ing. Get it?

All brilliantly witty puns aside, the boys had a blast making snow angels:

Shortly after this picture, Papa thought that it would also be brilliantly witty to give Peter a snow beard. In addition to snow beards and brilliant wit, Peter now also hates me. Whatever. His look of shock and realization, followed by his scowl of annoyed disapproval was so hilarious, I was forced to do it again. 'It was not funny the second time' is only true if you look at it from Peter's point of view.

Peter's tears dried as the bus pulled up and we continued on with our journey to Grams and Opa's heated home. After reaching our destination and warming up by the cozy fire, we all had cookies and coffee. Except Peter, David, Stephanie and Patrick, who only had cookies. And Tom, who only had the coffee, just without the coffee and sugar. Basically... milk: it does the body good and apparently makes you grin like the village idiot.

After cookies and milk, I assumed it would be nap time. Opa had a different and slightly less calming idea, though. He offered to take the boys on a tractor ride. Patrick immediately began singing the combine harvester song. I really worry about that boy sometimes.

Opa's garage is about a fifteen-minute car ride away. With Peter and Patrick singing, screaming, laughing and yelling in the back seat, the ride seemed more like 3 hours. In a fun kind of way, of course.

So yeah, we made it to Opa's garage with only minor hearing damage and fire up the tractor.

Patrick freaks. 'It's loud! I don't like it!' This is coming from the boy who thinks trains are groovy. Peter thought Patrick's fear was hilarious and started pointing and laughing. I joined in, but only for a few minutes. After that, we killed the engine and any notion of going on a tractor ride. I thought that going on a tractor ride would be a fun adventure that would not scare the holy crap out of the poor kid. In the end, though, our little journey, once again, had just the opposite effect.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When I played today with Patrick on the train back from Grams and Opa. I think of an animal that is in this world and the others needed to guess what it is.
David: When Patrick again come 'cause I a big boy for ladder talk.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When David was playing with his baby and he was throwing it.
David: When I cry 'cause my belly hurt.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Patrick red light, green light.
David: When I play with this spider man radio with Patrick.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Birthday Train

In addition to trains, Patrick is also fascinated by tractors, combines, dump trucks, cement mixers, cars...pretty much anything that is mobile. Perhaps this stems from a burning desire to get the hell out of Indiana, by any means necessary? Perhaps not.

Since Patrick will be flying back to the States soon, we had to limit the gifts. Aside from the obvious train or ten, one of the presents was a combine harvester. The kid flipped out. But in a good not-psycho kinda way. He loved it and wanted me to sing him a song about it. I found this extremely odd, but I am used to strange relatives, so I came up with the following verse on the spot:

(sung to the melody of 'Oh my darling, Clementine!')

Oh my combine, oh my combine,
Oh my combine harvester
I have grown you and I've picked you,
Now I'll eat you, you piece of corn!

There is a good reason why I am writing blogs and not pop-chart singles. At least the birthday boy appreciated it. And appreciated it and appreshiated it and appreshited it. Yes, the middle of that word aptly described my new song after hearing that stupid verse for the 200th time on the way to the indoor playground. Damn me.

At least trampolines, inflatable slides and pools full of plastic balls distracted the birthday boy slightly. He had one minor setback when he began to sing, but I promptly took care of that with a well placed hit to his vocal box with a sponge Frisbee.

After hours of building Lego houses and tearing them down, we took the kids home and tried to calm them down.

Yeah, ok, that obviously didn't work.

It may have been the chocolate cake. Or maybe the banana splits. Or HEY, I don't know - perhaps it was the Kool-aid, cookies, ice cream, chocolate sprinkles, whip cream and M&M's? Perhaps not.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When it's Patrick's birthday.
David: When Sami and Katherina come.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When my forehead hurts.
David: When my head hurts, too, ok?

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To do my banana split.
David: Kika and Sami come.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's the journey, not the destination

Kids don't give a damn, let alone five damns, about where they are going. It's how freakin' loud and annoying you can be on the way that counts. This sofa of the next generation was the preferred method of trainsport to this morning's pajama party. No, transport was not misspelled; I put that in there just for Patrick. He's the cute little train freak wearing red pajamas with, holy surprise, TRAINS all over them. Imagine that.

To get everyone primed for today's BIG TRIP, I shovelled bowl after bowl of Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries down their greedy little mouths until a glossy eyed Patrick began shaking uncontrollably and David tried to eat the cat. Luckily, Gizma is a veteran pro and just hissed the silly little human away.

It took the Breakfast Club 25 minutes to put on shoes, snowpants, scarves, hats, earmuffs, coats, and chapstick to finally be ready to brave the cold. The moment we opened the front door was, of course, when Peter decided that he needed to pee. What??!! What the hell happened to 'I don't need to go' which was your answer BOTH times I asked you before we started wrapping you up like a mummy?

I thought about telling Peter to just go, but he has taken to ratting on David lately and the chances were high that he might run into the living room and ask Mama first. Yes, the living room. The nice, warm living room, with the fresh pot of hot coffee. Oh, did I forget to mention that Mama would not be joining us on our BIG TRIP?

We eventually made it outside and the kids were bubbling over with excitement. Even though they had no idea where we were going, nor had they asked, I could tell the suspense was killing them so I finally told them. We are going to the BANK, followed by a side trip to the POST OFFICE. Yeah! Doesn't that sound fun? Whoooooo! Who's your uncle?

The boys did not catch any of it, though. They were already halfway down the street playing tag and a game of 'I'm going to knock you down and laugh in your face' that David was trying to teach Patrick. Judging by the tears, Patrick did not quite understand the game yet.

To cheer Patrick up, I took everyone on a streetcar, only I called it a 'train'. That worked.

We only went one stop on the 'train', mainly because the other passengers looked ready to mob us if we did not get off immediately. We jumped rails and found a nice cafe that served screaming kids. We ordered a hot chocolate for the boys, prompting the waiter to give me the 'I think they've had enough' look. I told him it was ok, I was driving. Now shut up and line 'em up, barkeep. And give me a double.

After de-thawing long enough to feel my toes tingling again, we packed up and made our way back. Yes, we took the 'train' back home. Yes, David tried teaching Patrick another new game on the way home. Yes, Patrick had problems understanding David's strange rules. Yes, the boys enjoyed our BIG TRIP. And yes, it most certainly the journey and not the destination.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When I found a new sleeping hat and when we played green light, red light in the snow with Aunt Christine.
David: When we play with Patrick play-doh.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When David was fighting with me over the chair.
David: When I cry 'cause I a baby.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play the wild game.
David: When Patrick come again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I like trains, too

Today was all about discovering new things. For example, I found out today that I, like Patrick, like trains. For anyone who is unsure how much my nephew really likes trains, first read The long train of thought. If it's still not clear, let me know and I will whack you in the face with a phone book until you get it. Only Patrick's tiny neurons could tell you why he is so addicted to locomotives. For me, it was simple. Patrick likes trains. Trains make Patrick quiet. I like quiet.

This morning, I took Patrick to the train station. This trip for him was probably comparable to my trip to the Guinness brewery when I was in Dublin. Only Patrick did not stagger when he walked out of the station. We did not really do much when we got to there. We watched some trains pull in and out of the station, which damn near made Patrick hyperventilate with excitement.

Chris and I calmed him down by going to the station cafe for a hot chocolate. You might think it is odd to calm a kid down by dumping liquid chocolate down his throat. To that, I would say two things. First, you're odd. Second, you did not see him by the tracks - a sugar high was much calmer than the explosive excitement I was forced to watch.

I also discovered today how much I like kindergarten. Actually, I don't even like kindergartens, but I certainly do appreciate them. The boys went back today after three weeks off. Don't get me wrong, I really liked having them at home. For a day or two. After week two, I found myself surfing web pages for boomerang hammers and do-it-yourself lobotomy kits.

In the afternoon, Angie kicked us out of the house for three hours. She had a visitor stopping by for coffee and felt that a full-on cleaning frenzy was needed. When we came back, I made yet another discovery - we have floors. Holy shit! I always thought we had carpets underneath all of the crap we have piled up throughout the house.

Some people like discovering new things. I enjoyed learning how to appreciate the silence even more. I no longer take kindergartens for granted and who wouldn't like finding cool stuff, like floors? Some people do not like new things, though, and would rather take comfort in the familiar. Patrick classified himself into this latter group when, on the way home, he continued with his mantra of I like trains.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When I played with Patrick this game.
David: When I played with Patrick and we all pulled.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When I was sad by the kindergarten 'cause I wanted to stay by you. I wish my kindergarten was by your work.
David: When I cried 'cause my nose bleed out here.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Patrick the Thomas Mountain game.
David: When Patrick come again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Freedom toast

Mmmm... nothing like a nice fork full of... um, air.

This morning started out with my sister cooking French toast for the boys. Christine has mastered the term 'snacking' so this was only one of three meals that made up 'breakfast'. I was just pleasantly surprised that someone other than me was able to cook in the kitchen without setting things on fire. I hate fire.

After the boys devoured their third breakfast, it was time to get out of pajamas. Brian called with the agenda for today, which his wife and my lovely ball-and-chain had planned out in advance without telling me. Swimming at the pool sounded good on paper. After a closer look, though, I bailed out. Let me explain the why.

After hanging up with Brian, I began asking exactly who would be joining us on this lovely water adventure. Angie had a headache... ba-bye. Christine had no bathing suit... ba-bye. That left me in charge of Peter, David, and Patrick. Pools scare Peter. Pools do not frighten David, which terrifies Papa. Patrick just likes trains and I could find no way of comparing trains to water, so I was up pool creek without a paddle. In short, I called Brian back and cancelled like a little girl.

Instead, I forced Christine to babysit until her neck cramped up. I didn't help out then - I just laughed, grabbed the camera and took some pictures. Sometimes, the world is easier to deal with tilted.

Next on our list of things to accomplish was to exhaustify the boys. We did this by shoving them in the snow and laughing at them. The cold makes me sleepy, so I was hoping that my little plan would work.

Either Patrick and Peter bonded here or they were so cold that they started to conserve body heat by snuggling up to one another. Either way, the photo op made me almost gag, so it must have been cute. To bring things back to the funny side of ice, I told the boys to go lick a pole. Mama Big Ears intervened, though, and suggested that I do something else with a pole.

As we went to bed, I found Christine in the kitchen chowing down on her nightly ritual of a spoonful of peanut-butter. I grew up with Christine, so I am fully aware that she is weird. I just didn't know how whack-o she had gotten in recent years.

Mmmm... nothing like a nice spoon full of... um, peanut-butter??
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When I played with Patrick cars.
David: When we eat from mommy and you.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When I fell from the slide and hurt my bottom on the floor.
David: When I fall down and go bonk really hard on my head.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Patrick spiderman.
David: When Patrick again come.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The long train of thought

Today we found out that castles make stroller-bound kids sleepy. We also discovered that Patrick likes trains. Actually, my nephew wouldn't shut up about them, so it was not really that big of a 'discovery'. I guess in Indiana they don't have trains. Or castles. Or the ability to state things only once and then move on.

'Hey P², what do you want for breakfast?'

'I like trains.'

'Uh, ok. But I asked about food. We have cereal, eggs, toast...'

'I like trains.'

'Yeah, I got it. Now, let it go. I can make some pancakes, waffles, or maybe some...'

'I like trains.'

'Thanks for the news flash, Boxcar Willie. I'll give you a dollar if you stop announcing it.'

It's a good thing I have developed a high tolerance for repetitive persistence, although it is normally in the form of 'are we there yet?'. See, the secret to that stupid question is to simply play their game - just keeping asking 'I know you are, but am I there yet?' over and over again until they cry. It is also a good thing that I had a dollar on me, since Patrick is obviously a financial investor in the making. At least he was able to put a plug in it for almost two minutes.

After drinking my brain breakfast with milk and two sugars, I had the brilliant idea of going to the castle for a picnic using the mountain rail car.

'See Patrick, it's like a train, but it goes up a mountain.'

'I like trains.'

'Here we go again...Ok, that's it! Someone put a coat on One-track and lets go!'

On the way to the cable car, I tried inventing a new game where if anyone said 'I like trains', they would lose. In addition to trains, I found out today that Patrick also likes being a loser.

If the caffeine had kicked into my brainstream a little sooner this morning, it would have dawned on me that having an outdoor picnic in the middle of winter is a cold idea. In my defense, I was slightly distracted by Patrick's bizarre declarations of fondness for locomotives. The aftermath of my brain freeze is this snapshot: Christine's jaw has frozen in mid-bite, Stephanie is stiff as an orange surfing board, Patrick is undoubtedly fantasizing about trains, Peter is trying to warm up by...I don't know, what is that - meditating, and David is flashing me his disgusted 'you're stupid' look that he must have learned from Mama.

We stopped in the castle café for some very HOT chocolate before making our way home. Peter and David threatened to gang-beat Patrick if he mentioned anything related to trains, so it was a relatively quiet ride home.

Christine cooked dinner tonight. For anyone who might be confused by this statement, let me remind you - Christine is my sister. Angie is my wife and if she cooked dinner, believe me, I would be more confused than you. I would also immediately increase our home owner's insurance and buy a few fire extinguishers.

Dinner was great - chicken marinated in soy sauce with 'a little garlic'. I saw Chris make it and sorry, but ten toes of garlic will definitely make the little piggy go 'wheeeee' all the way home. David liked it so much that he decided it was worthy of a food fight. After he took a handful of rice and chucked it at Patrick, I took a handful of David and chucked him into his room. Apparently garlic causes David to lose his freakin' mind.

As I was crawling around under the table trying to pick up tiny grains of rice from the carpet, David continued his little test of my patience. I don't do well with tests. I never have.

I heard a far-off giggling and my ears perked up. I know this giggle. This is not a good giggle. I hate this giggle. I ran to the source of the noise and found David by the toilet. Giggling. Oh crap.

After plucking my deodorant and a good portion of Angie's makeup out of the bowl, I opened a beer and suddenly the whole 'throwing shit in the toilet' game was pretty damn funny. Angie did not have a beer.

The kids spent the rest of the night using Aunt Christine's air mattress as a trampoline. I didn't approve, but Christine laughed and laughed and thought it was oh-so-funny until she went to bed later that night. I would be nice in calling my sister skinny, so unless it was one of her bones poking out, I am pretty sure that the boys had something to do with the air mattress blowing up. At that point, I opened another beer and laughed and laughed until Angie slapped me and told me it was not oh-so-funny. I offered her a beer. She declined.

David loved this new development, because it meant that we had to kick him out to Mama and Papa's room so that Chris could have his bed. Just watch out for spiders, snakes, bits of rice drenched in soy sauce, and any cosmetics that smell like toilet cleaner.

Tom decided to join in and make things interesting by starting to teethe. At age 3 months. Mama did not find this new milestone quite as hilarious as Papa, but I must repeat that Angie did not have a beer.

Before going to bed, Angie asked me what I had planned for tomorrow. I'm not sure, but if the phrase 'I like trains' comes up before my morning slug of adrenaline, I may be off to the store to buy a ball-gag and some masking tape.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When we go to the castle and I like the picnic.
David: When Patrick came.
Patrick: My best part of today was eating.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When my belly hurt because I drink too much juice.
David: When Peter cry 'cause his tummy hurts - the really, really big belly owa.
Patrick: When I cried - it's because somebody hit me and I cry - somebody who was very bad and I fall on the very hard floor. That's why I was crying.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Dalia.
David: When Stephanie shake her head at me and laugh again.
Patrick: I would like to go on the train.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Return of the Patrick

After being released into the wild, some animals will start to miss captivity. Patrick is one of those strange creatures, but his return to the zoo was welcomed quite loudly by the other primates. To celebrate his great re-domestication, we took everyone to an indoor playground so the animals would feel more at home. Patrick displayed his alpha male traits and repeatedly annoyed David by sliding faster. Damn him and his slippery pants.

Just getting to the playground brought me as close to being a shuttle-bus driver as I would ever like to be. I made the first run and dropped off George, Patrick, Peter and David. I then left George on his own with the boys, fully aware of the risk that might pose to his hair. I did remind him that we were in Germany, and that they did sell beer, even at a kid's playground, even at 10 o'clock in AM. I love Germany.

I left to pick up the ladies who were at the lady clinic doing lady stuff that made me envy George and his liquid breakfast. Stephanie and Tom both made successful 'transfers' from the stroller to the car without waking up screaming their heads off. It is amazing how the little things can make you extremely happy when your life has suddenly exploded with kids. Never take sleep for granted. Ever.

After we got all of the livestock herded to the pasture, it was time to put down the cattle prod and enjoy a moment of silence, provided you can ignore the 500 screaming kids around you.

You can tell by the sheer concentration on my sister's face that guzzling her very hot coffee is the primary task at hand. Putting on the lip cream to soothe the burns comes only after downing the second steaming cup. It's more important what's on the inside.

You probably don't know this unless you have bugged my house, but Angie is the censor for my blog. I write stuff that I find incredibly funny late at night that Angie absolutely hates in the morning, even after coffee. Calling our children spawns and references to milk bags are just a few examples that have been vetoed by President O'Mama. I now leave everything in draft mode and Angie is the knowing accomplice that hits the publish button.

In this picture, what you don't see is that Tom is hiding under the blanket. He is not shy, so I will leave it up to your imagination to guess what he is doing. I will also leave it up to La Presidenta to decide whether this blog passes or not. No pressure.

You can also see in the picture above that Peter and Patrick are both drinking, but David is not. He has a far-off stare that typically indicates he is plotting something. That is why the next picture disturbs me a little more than slightly.

It does not surprise me that David found the sponge-gun; this was only a matter of time and searching on his part. His sheer look of delight does not even phase me. What does concern me is how purple his happy little trigger finger is turning from squeezing so hard.

We decided to leave before David figured out what to do with the bags of fertilizer and jugs of ammonia that were littering the back room.

In the evening, we had Sebastian over to celebrate his birthday.

He had originally invited us to his place to serve fondue. I called to tell him that my sister was here with her husband and two kids and suggested that it might be easier if he came to our place instead of all of us shuttling over there. I heard a click on the line and 30 seconds later, the birthday boy was at the door with a douffel bag full of cheese, bread, a fondue pot, some wine, and his kitchen sink. I guess he liked my idea of not going over to his place.

I love cheese. I love bread. Make it a meal, though, and my bowels will love you for a week. Damn him and his cheesey meal.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When Patrick was playing that my airplane was a garage.
David: When Patrick came.
Patrick: The part of my day that was best was going to the restaurant and the museum. It was a big museum - there's nice things to see there. You wanna go there? And I have a big McQueen video - I hope you like it. I also have a Peterson book.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When David was jumped on me when I was under the blankets and when my nose was bleeding 'cause I wanted to jump and I landed on my nose.
David: When Peter make me mad and when Stephanie cry.
Patrick: The worst part was when I don't like being under the covers when David was crushing us and smoothing us.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Patrick the volcanoe thing.
David: When we go in the zoo and Stephanie no cry, okay?
Patrick: I would like to go on the train - I really like trains.