Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lost and Found

I'll get into how I almost killed our family pet later; first, I'd like to pick up from the last blog. For those of you with short attention spans, it's the one that ended with a triumphant Mama flaunting her de-piping skills and gloating about digging out Peter's tooth from thirty years of yuck. Yeah, bravo, honey. You do realize that you've now stereotyped yourself as the one to tackle the disgusting jobs. By the way, Tommy's on the toilet and he's calling for you.

After getting Gap boy back to bed, I came out to find Plumber chick putting on her coat.

'I'm going out.'

'Hard day at the office?'

'Very funny - don't forget Peter's loot.'

As the front door shut, I realized that I've never actually done the whole tooth-for-cash switcheroo. My first thought was 'how hard can it be?' Since I always trust my gut and its feelings, I decided that the best course of action was to ignore the tooth factor, drink a beer and try to piss off people on Facebook.

After an hour of visiting various Farmville fan pages and posting 'Farmer Dell called - he'd like his life back', I decided it was time to head to bed. As I was brushing my teeth, I remembered that I had forgotten to deceive my son. How could I forget? That's normally the highlight of my evening.

I rushed into his room with a handful of coinage thinking 'this can't be that hard'. I inserted my money hand under his pillow and was about to release when his eyes popped open.

[awkward pause]

'Peter, I thought I heard you screaming. Are you okay? Did you have a bad dream?'

Peter didn't answer; he just drifted off back to sleep. I waited a second for my heart to stop pounding and for Peter to start snoring. Then I dropped the money load and held my breath, waiting for the clinking of metal to wake him again. Luckily, he gets his sleeping patterns from Mama.

I went to bed, content with myself that I had not only lied to my son quite convincingly, but that I had also continued on a tradition of making him believe in things that will probably not last more than another year. At least for Peter.

As I laid down to go to sleep, I thought about what I should dream about. I hate nightmares, so I ruled out the U.S. elections right from the start. I was still debating between mustard-flavored beer and bacon-scented candles when it hit me. Shit! I never took his tooth!

I leaped out of bed and raced into his room, tip-toeing the last few steps. I lifted his pillow gently and started frantically fishing around for Gap boy's calcium deposit. Where the hell is it? For the second time, Peter's eyes popped open.

[awkward pause]

'Listen, Peter - I can't keep coming in here every five minutes. If you need the bathroom, just go. If it's a nightmare, you need to tell me. Otherwise, stop calling for me to come in here and just go to sleep!'

'Okay, Papa - sorry.'

It's the 'sorry' that made me almost cry. Luckily, I'm a manly man who would never shed a tear. I'm also the guy who pawns off plumbing chores to his wife so I'm fully aware that there are some minor inconsistencies with my whole 'manly man' image. Shut up. I'm Metro.

In the end, I was able to steal Peter's tooth for Angie's slightly less than disturbing little collection. I was also able to sleep easy, even after lying to my son. I went with the bacon-scented candles, by the way.

In the morning, I was awoken by Angie accusing me that I had killed our cat. Talk about your attention-grabbing wake-up calls.

'Good morning to you, too. Glad you made it home safe.'

'Luke is gone! When I left, he was here. Where is he?'

Angie didn't even wait for an answer. Instead, she yelled her theory at me that I must have let Luke out on the balcony while getting a beer. Luke was no longer on the balcony, which clearly meant that he had jumped down two stories and ran away to quietly freeze to death in the middle of the night.

I have to be honest; she did have me feeling guilty enough to launch a series of search expeditions. Angie and Peter demanded the first shift and I was next on the duty roster. We took turns and spent several hours combing the streets of Heidelberg for a cat that likes to attack toilet paper. I even asked the homeless people in a park nearby if they had seen a cat. Most shrugged, but one guy with huge pupils actually responded.

'Cats? I've seen millions of them - they're everywhere!'

Before crazy dude decided to join the search party, I gave up and reluctantly headed back to explain to the Zoo how sorry Papa was that he had killed the family pet. Angie gave me eye-daggers when I walked in empty handed and decided that a little salt needed to be added.

'What are we going to tell Davey? He's spending the night with Grams and Opa, but it was HIS cat.'

The 'how could you?' wasn't verbalized, but it was definitely there. Angie has a knack for ignoring the fact that you already feel bad and making sure that you pay for your mistakes. It's almost biblical.

I was on the computer preparing 'Missing Pet' flyers when our elderly neighbor from upstairs rang the doorbell. I answered.

'I think I've found your cat.'

'I love you.'

Despite the confused look she gave me, she pointed to a spot in our stairwell that was lined with potted indoor plants. It took me a second to see the two gray-blackish ears poking out from behind the greenage.

I scooped up Luke and pranced back into the house to find a very red-cheeked woman scrambling to save her soul.

'My theory is that Luke jumped from the balcony and ran around the building and waited in the freezing cold until someone opened the front door. He then sneaked back into the house and hid out in the stairwell.'

'Thanks, Watson, but my theory is that when YOU came home from your girl's night out, you might have possibly - and I don't know, this is just a guess - left the front door open long enough for Luke to escape like he does anytime anyone leaves the front door open, but not long enough for him to come back in. Because, for me - call me crazy - that would explain why our cat was cowering behind one of the plants located in the stairwell just outside our front door.'

I've learned at work recently that 'silence is acceptance' so I accepted Angie's silence and moved on. It took all of the afternoon and a good portion of the evening before Luke would even hiss at us. At one point, we reached what I would like to call 'a tit for tat'. The 'tit' would be us (Angie) locking him out in our heated stairwell. The 'tat' would be that Luke scooped up one of Angie's new white slippers. I actually cheered him on as he ran off to find a suitable hiding place.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That I go to Arman's and the tooth fairy gave me more money and that we found Luke.
David: That I woke up at Grams and Opa.
Tom: To look T.V.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When we didn't know where Luke is.
David: That I wanted to lay on the bed but I banged my head on a book.
Tom: When you said 'Come!' as I play cars with Peter.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want to go in the school and say 'Kaboomba!'
David: To sleep by Grams and Opa.
Tom: I want to play in kindergarten cars.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remote Controlled Birthdays and Teeth

Before we get to the pint-sized cases of nuts, let's recap the morning, pre-coffee.

Today started out with me waking up in a strange bed. As juicy as that might sound, it was Tommy's. With eyes half shut, I stumbled my way into our bedroom and head-butted my pillow. My snoring was immediately interrupted with what I would classify as mild nagging cleverly disguised as curiosity.

'Did you go out last night?'

My first reaction was wondering if I had somehow missed an opportunity to go out, since Angie was not foaming at the mouth. Then I remembered chapter 5 of 'The Hubbie's Guide to Chains and Balls' that clearly states that answering rhetorical questions in the affirmative will immediately result in nightly confinement to the sofa.

'No, of course not. Don't be silly.'

By 'silly', I of course meant 'human', but we were still in the pre-coffee hours of what would be a long day, so I thought I would continue my strategic sofa avoidance by telling the truth.

The truth was, Tommy had starting hacking last night like a retired coal miner with a two-pack a day habit and a penchant for Churchill Cubans. Angie had laid down with him with the same 'wake me if I fall asleep' comment that she gives me on a bi-nightly basis.

As per usual, Angie fell asleep. As per unusual, so did Tommy. As per usual again, my attempts to wake Snoring Beauty resulted in a big fat fail. Tommy did stir, though, prompting me to vacate the room quickly and enjoy the evening, which I did.

After watching T.V. shows that I actually wanted to watch and reading a book, I made my way to the bedroom. As I approached the door, I was reminded of my time in the Navy when I flew on jets off of an aircraft carrier. We were forced to wear ear protection, something that should be mandatory for any husband trying to sneak into bed with a woman and her sick child.

My first observation was that there was no way in hell I was climbing into bed unless I undid the big X that Angie and Tom had formed in the middle of the bed. I'm a big fan of letting sleeping dogs lie, so I crawled into Tommy's bed instead.

There is always a problem with my logic. It's scary, actually. I'm beginning to wonder if I am really that unlucky or if I'm just stupid. Please don't ask Angie.

The problem was that the night before, Mama had promised the boys that Papa would build them a super-duper-cave-night-fortress that they could sleep in, which we did. My thinking at the time was that I would still be tucked away nice and cozy in MY bed when they awoke in their super-duper-cave-night-fortress and began to freak out on each other. Unfortunately, I had managed to arrange front row seats for my morning wake-up call.

'Oh, man. This is the coolest thing EVER!'

'I know, should we go steal some candy?'

I'll give you one guess as to who made the last comment and yes; his name does rhyme with Deeter. Oddly enough, they did not notice me sleeping in Tom's bed and I was curious enough to keep quiet as they babbled on. There was no real 'dirt' to their conversation, but it was really cool just to eavesdrop on semi-innocence for a while.

The lack of full innocence was quickly drowned out by guilty demands for breakfast from the naggy room, so I slapped on my French Toast hat and whipped up some Freedom Bread.

After two pots of coffee, I was ready to start the day. I got David dressed and took him and Alessio to the University square to terrorize innocent pedestrians with motorized cars. It was awesome.

David surprised me with his motor skills. I began randomly throwing the camera case around the square and David practiced how quickly he could run it over with the monster truck. Alessio was more preoccupied with trying to run over pigeons. Unfortunately, he did not share David's success.

A brief side-note to dads everywhere: If you happen to ignore your wife's nagging the day before about needing to charge the remote-controlled cars and only remember to plug them in an hour before leaving - they do not run for an hour.

So, yeah. After twenty minutes, the cars almost simultaneously came to a halt. As luck would have it, Alessio's car stopped directly in front of a flock of pigeons. When one of them landed on his car, Alessio started spastically bashing his finger on the controller. I was pretty sure that he was going to break a digit, but luckily his growling noises eventually scared off the wildlife.

When we got back home, Angie made some smart-ass remark about batteries. I'm not sure what it was - I tend to tune out directly after any snippets that begin with 'Remember when I told you...'. Instead, I counter-posed a smart-ass question about her abilities to pour boiling water over dehydrated coffee crystals.

Over instant lunch, Angie I and worked out who would be taking Peter and David to Lena's big 30th birthday bash that was planned almost a year ago. Unfortunately, Tom the Sick-o had thrown a monkey wrench into our previous plan of making a collective Zoo appearance. In the end, we agreed that Angie would take Peter and David and I would be in charge of Typhoid Tommy.

I only had one condition, which was that I could get a haircut. Unlike women, it only takes me 20 minutes to get shaved, so the agenda item was approved. Thank you.

After being reincarnated as a bald eagle, I found out that Master had changed the itinerary. I discovered this as she shoved a bag of gifts in my hand and told me to hurry; otherwise I would be late.

'Late to what', I innocently asked, since I still assumed that I would be staying home with Tom.

'To the party, Moron. I don't have time to explain, just go!'

'What about Peter?'

'Peter went to a movie with Arman.'

'But I thought he...'

'Ba-bye, have fun!'

If thoughts could speak, I would probably spend WAY more time on the sofa. Instead of arguing, questioning, and/or whimpering, I simply scooped up Davey and headed off to what I will now refer to as 'THE LOUDEST KID'S BIRTHDAY PARTY THAT MY EARS HAVE EVER BEEN SUBJECTED TO'.

Lena can try and argue that it wasn't a kid's birthday party. Bullshit. We have three kids and we never invite more than 7 to any of their birthday parties. The simple parent-to-ankle-biter ratio just does not allow for such reckless behavior. Either Lena doesn't know the rules or she just doesn't give a damn. My ears certainly did.

Lena's first party trick was a bathtub full of balloons that are apparently made of the thinnest material known to man. David discovered this within two minutes on his first of many balloon attacks against unbelievably patient teenage female-types who had the unfortunate task of 'defending the tub'.

At one point, I scooped up Davey in a rather silly attempt to calm him down. The silly bit was when I flung him upside-down and dangled him over the ceramic floor tiles. The sillier part was when I decided to tickle him. The not-so-silly part was when he wiggled in delight and I accidentally dropped him on his head.

It always takes a second or two for an injured kid to muster up enough breath to really bolt out a wail of pain and displeasure. It's always those few precious seconds that bad parents like me frantically use to try and come up with what I like to call 'an exit plan'.

My exit plan involved scooping up Davey and using the sleeve of my sweater and some minor pressure to muffle his screams until I could get him to the recovery sofa.

Yes, I look guilty. Yes, I was truly sorry. And finally - yes, David, in twenty years, when people keep asking if you were dropped on your head as a kid, you can say 'yes'.

The next party favor in Lena's BIG BAG of kid-friendly tricks was fire. I'm sorry, what was that? Did you honestly just give a bunch of hyper KIDS tiny sticks of FIRE?

Lena didn't actually respond to my curiosity, but yeah, she did. I asked what I thought were very straightforward questions about fire insurance, only to be answered by nervous chuckles. Um, okay - I was serious.

Angie never takes me seriously, so I wasn't exactly shocked when people that haven't even spawned offspring with me openly laugh in my face. I ignored everyone and took a silent mental note that I did ask about fire insurance.

When David left the recovery sofa, he asked if he could have the camera. When I was growing up, we did not have digital cameras, so the answer was always an inevitable 'HELL NO' or some other short and very direct response. Luckily, I have grown quite fond of the delete button and am full-on okay with my kids taking two hundred pictures in order to land that lucky one that might end up in a blog.

Veris - you might hate me now, but I should remind you that David took this picture. Blame him.

After Lena's 'House of Noise', I found out that I had been volunteered to take David to Grams and Opa's for the second attempt at spending the night. You might ask about the first attempt, which I now affectionately call 'the night that Angie forgot to pack David's pajamas'.

See, last weekend, David was also penciled in for a sleep-over at Grams and Opa's. All was fine and hunky-dory until an idea was born to watch 'The Star Wars - The Clone Wars'. It was a taped episode that thrilled David until one of the main characters was dramatically killed.

At that point, he declared that it was bed-time, only someone (and I won't mention the ditzy blonde's name) forgot to pack his pajamas. Needless to write, David lost it. We subsequently got 'the call', which prompted Angie to look at me. I thought about verbalizing my utter disbelief that a mother, packing for her son's over-nighter, might glance over something as brain-dead obvious as packing pajamas. Instead, I chose a different approach and tossed her the car keys. 'Drive safe'.

Today, Angie proved that old dogs can learn new tricks and actually managed to pack the boy's jammies. At one point, David asked if he could bring something for Grams because 'she is always giving me so many nice things every time'. Angie damn near cried and gave him a piece of paper so that he could draw Grams a picture as a thank you.

Yup, that's right, Grams. Soak it up. In return for the past five years of dishing out clothes, toys, sweets and pure love, David has come up with the perfect token of appreciation - a crab, a shark, and a fisherman reeling in what looks to be an airplane. As if this was not enough, David threw in a baby penguin key chain just for good measures.

As I got the boys ready for bed, Tom was still hacking away, so I laid down with him in an absolute futile attempt to get him to sleep. See, he had had a four-hour power-nap earlier, courtesy of Mama, so he was wired for sound.

Peter was whimpering about how he had to sleep alone in his bed, so I caved in and told him that he could crash on David's bed, since he had apparently hurdled the 'sleeping over' barrier. Tommy was almost asleep when I heard the first of many loud whispers from Peter.

'Pssst. Papa - my tooth is wiggly.'

'That's great.'

Two minutes later, Peter announced the next mind-blowing statement.

'Pssst. Papa - my tooth is wigglier.'

'Okay, listen. I don't need bi-minute updates on the wiggliness of your tooth. If it actually does pop out, let me know. Otherwise, shut up and sleep.'

No shit, two minutes later, Peter decided to test my authority and patience. I have neither, by the way.

'Pssst. Papa....'

'Listen! I get it, okay! Your tooth is loose, but the last time, this took TWO months! Just suck it up like a man and....'

'Papa, it's out.'

Okay, I must admit - I felt like an ass. But only for a second. It never takes me long to forget that I was a jerk. I have Angie to thank for all those years of unintentional practice.

Peter started jumping up and down and squealing like a little girl, which puzzled Tommy, who sat up and asked Peter if he had gotten stung by a bee. Peter paused for a fraction of a second to stare at Tommy before he disappeared down the hallway to show Mama his latest calcium trophy.

After explaining to Tommy that Peter had lost a tooth, he crawled out of the bed and asked for a flashlight. I asked him what the hell he was doing and he just looked at me like I was a moron.

'I'm going to go find it. Do you have a flashlight or not?'

I sighed and simply accepted that it was going to be a long night. I finally got Tommy back into bed and had just tucked him under the covers when I heard a scream. I often hear David or Peter scream while I am putting Tommy to bed, but I normally ignore that and leave Angie to take care of whatever minor scrape or bruise the boys have managed to inflict upon themselves or each other. Sometimes both.

This scream, however, was more of a blood-curdling wail that made my heart stop. I raced into the bathroom, trailed shortly by Tom, followed by Angie, certain that we would find that Peter had poked his eye out or had somehow managed to decapitate a foot. Instead, he was hovering over the sink and spastically blubbering something about his 'toof' and pointing to the drain.

When we finally grasped that Peter had managed to drop his tooth down the drain, I ran to grab the camera, prompting Angie to call me an ass. If you've been reading any of this, though, you can probably guess how long it took me to stop feeling bad about photographing pure tragedy.

When we realized that there was no way in hell we could get the tooth out without dismantling the entire sink, I told Peter to go get some towels from the other bathroom and quietly whispered our options to Angie.

'Okay, listen. Option 1: we explain to Peter that the tooth fairy knows where to find his tooth, no matter where it is. Then we dump the loot in the sink for Peter to find tomorrow morning. Option 2: You've kept every tooth that Peter has lost so far. To be honest, I've found that to be a rather sick and twisted pastime, but it might actually help here. Just go to your little box of human trophies, find a tooth that hasn't decayed too much, cup it your hand and pretend to dig into the sink. Wallah! Here's your tooth, Peter - go to bed.'

'Yeah, no. We shot option one down with the last tooth that Peter lost and as for the other teeth I have, none of them are the same size or shape - he'll know.'

Peter came racing back in, leaving no more time for discussion - Angie was obviously hell-bent on un-piping the bathroom, whether I found it funny or not. As she brought out wrenches and hammers, I reflected on her response.

She was right about Peter noticing. I showed him a card trick the other day where you pick three 'random' cards and then separate them using cards from the top of the deck. Peter took one look and innocently commented 'Yeah, Papa, but you showed me 2 black 8's and one red one and now there are 2 red 8's and one black one.' I shit you not, I have been doing that trick for well over a decade and the only other person to figure it out was, yup, Angie.

I hate it when Angie is right once, which rarely ever happens, but twice in one night? I thought again about her reluctance to option one and came to the conclusion that she wasn't entirely wrong.

The last time Peter lost a tooth, he was also spending the night in David's bed. He freaked out that the tooth fairy would not be able to find him, so I told him to write a note to the tooth fairy, explaining that he was in David's room. He took it to the next level and added a map that showed the tooth fairy how to go from his pillow to David's bed. A bit overkill in my opinion, but still cute.

That night, we had friends over for poker and one good hand led to another and before we knew it, we were being shaken awake by a toothless kid who was furious that the fairy had not visited.

Angie may have the 'book smarts', but I definitely have the 'lie to your kids convincingly smarts'. I leapt out of bed, telling Peter that he surely must be mistaken. Then I tried to convince my brain to think without coffee. Against all odds, a smile crossed my face and the plan was hatched.

I told Peter that I wanted to see this note of his and he disappeared into his room. I then raced to the computer and wrote a quick note of my own.

'Dear Peter, I could not find your tooth. I found the map, though - I hope I left your treasure in the right place.'

I had just finished as Peter came racing up to me, slightly out of breath and clutching his note/map. I looked at it and shook my head.

'Well, of course, Peter. You wrote the note in German. Tooth Fairies are global - they can't possibly know every language out there. The common international language for fairies is English!'


I then reached in my pocket when he wasn't looking and fished out a wad of pocket shrapnel. Next, I pretended to discover his loot in his hammock, cleverly dropping my note in the process. I then proceeded to criticize his map with statements like 'what the heck is this? No wonder the tooth fairy couldn't find you. Duh - I would have guessed the hammock as well.'

Somehow, my lying and treachery worked and Peter believed the whole thing - hook, line and sinker. Angie kept giving me the stink-eye, but deep down, I know that she approved.

Angie was right, though. If I had tried to explain that the tooth fairy automatically knows where the tooth is, he would have busted out the story about not being able to find his last tooth, even though there was a detailed note and a map that, despite my false criticism, was actually pretty accurate and easy to follow.

So in the end, Angie had no option other than to rip off the sleeves of her dress, break open pipes and dig through 30 years of spit and hair. After dislodging several black clumps of mysterious sink-gunk, Angie had the daunting task of poking her finger through the mess to find small hard objects that might be a tooth. After several extremely disgusting false alarms that might explain Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance, Angie poked a winner.

Peter was ecstatic that Super-Mom had rescued his tooth. I felt slightly less than manly that my wife was the one volunteering for plumbing detail, but I almost killed one of our kids a few months ago while trying to change a light-bulb, so I waved bye-bye to simple man-tasks, whether I like them or not. Tom was starting to get sleepy, but still totally confused as to how Peter's tooth could have fallen out into the sink; he even started nervously wiggling his own tooth.

As I finally tucked Peter into bed, he looked me in the eyes and made what I would call a knowing statement.

'Papa, I'm sleeping in David's bed again but I would REALLY like it if the tooth fairy could find me this time.'

Shit. I think he knows.
Ladder Talk:
[David was busy not watching Star Wars episodes where people die, but Angie did Ladder Talk with him the next day]
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That my tooth fell out.
David: The balloon-laser fight and that the girl didn't get the purple one.
Tom: That Peter find his tooth.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That it fell in the sink.
David: I didn't have one.
Tom: That Peter was stung by a bee.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To go to Arman's.
David: To go back home to you and Mama.
Tom: I want to play cars.