Tuesday, December 31, 2013


In German, you say 'Frohes Neues' for 'Happy New Year'. To pronounce the German phrase with a thick American accent, you would say 'Fro-yes No-yes'. To further butcher their holiday greeting, I took out the yeses and started shouting 'Frono!' at anyone that would listen to me.

As it turned out, nobody listened to me; they were too busy helping. Like Sarah, who was supposed to be making a salad.

I kicked Peter Skywalker out of the kitchen and told him to get the drinks ready. Peter can be a bit lazy at times, so he recruited Chiara to help mix up a few drinks.

After knocking back a few shots of Strawberry, Peach, Mango and Tangerine-flavored Fanta that they are normally not allowed to have, the kids started to get a bit loud. I didn't even try asking them to be quiet; any good parent knows that the only proven way to get children to shut up is to give them a video game. I'm an excellent father.

I used the brief moment of silence to finish the chili I had been cooking since breakfast. As we were setting the table, I realized that it had been almost an hour since my last selfie.

I've suspected it for years, but the tiny bunny ears poking out over my head have finally confirmed it - my children don't respect me. At all.

Dinner was loud, but great. If Angie would have finally given up her naggy little rule that the kids can not eat and play video games at the same time, we probably could have had a win-win meal.

After checking on the apple crisp, I went into the pantry to get paper towels and caught Chiara and Peter. By their feet was a huge pile of gummy bears, candy canes, a bag of hard candies and a pile of cookies. Peter was also caught cold-handed with the ice-cream that was supposed to still be hard when the apple crisp was finished.

In a few years, Peter and Chiara sneaking around in a closet might really worry me, but for now, it was luckily just thievery and deceit. Whew!

After confiscating their sugary loot, I made the rounds to make sure that all of my boys were equally as wound up.

Tommy. Check.

David. Check.

Everyone seemed genuinely excited, but it wasn't at the 'over-the-top freak-out' level that it needed to be before midnight. We still had a few hours to go, but if you don't balance the sugar levels correctly, you can wind up with a bunch of cranky underteens crashing too early. Even worse, they might want to stay up after midnight and jeopardize your all night poker-thon.

I made the call and brought in the Jell-O that Sarah had made. Chiara and Peter's night of kleptomania raged on as they stole the portions meant for Angie and me. Thank you - we hate Jell-O.

I gave it another 20 minutes and then called everyone front and center for another pulse check.

'Over-the-top freak-out' level. Check.

Sarah helped keep the roller coaster going by blowing up a stick of dynamite on our dining room table.

Peter only played it cool until the big bang, followed by confetti and gifts littering the living room. Then he was giggling like a kid as he snatched up tiny toys that only smelled burnt.

In Germany, it is a tradition to melt lead figures on a crack spoon and dump the liquid metal into a bowl of cold water. You then fish out the destroyed figure and use a magnifying glass to read the list on the back of the packaging to determine your fortune for the coming year.

I looked at my watch. With forty-five minutes to go, we had time for one more adrenaline kick and kids, you know, they just love to play with fire.

'Bring out the lead!'

Peter wasn't bored, but he wasn't exactly interested in liquid metal.

'Hey lover-boy! How 'bout you focus on the spoon?'

Peter turned redder than the candle and was probably about to say something quite witty when I started barking orders. See, Angie's not the only one.

'It's time! Let's go! Shoes on, coats on! Come on! Move it! Move it! Move it!'

We made it to the corner exactly two minutes before midnight. Damn we're good.

We had a mega-pack of fireworks and a bunch of rockets to launch, not to mention the stockpile Sarah had brought. I knew that we would be outside for a while, though, so I brought two bottles of Champagne. I know, I know. I put the Boy Scouts to shame.

Peter disappeared with his Godfather to shoot a couple 'real' fireworks.

I stayed behind with Tommy and David, who were still thrilled with penny crackers and sparklers. Sebastian and Peter rejoined us at about the point that Tommy tried to eat one of the sparklers.

'Tommy! Stop singing into the sparkler! You're going to burn your lips!'

I don't get it. I explain in advance how serious and careful you have to be when playing with fireworks, but do they listen? No, of course not. I really don't understand where they get it from.

As we reached the end of our ammunition supply, I came across a rocket with a broken stick and curiosity got the better of me. In case you are wondering what happens when you stick a rocket with only half of the stick in a bottle and launch it, it flies up to about eye-level and then tears off down the street horizontally and almost takes out an innocent group of bystanders who duck quickly and then start shouting obscenities.

I very rarely do stupid things, but when I do, Angie is somehow always there.

'Okay, Rocket Man, I think it's time to go home.'

As we passed the group of people with quick reflexes, I countered profanity with a greeting that is certain to go viral.

Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That Chiara and Alessio came over and that we watched 'Dinner for One'.  
David: New Year's 'cause it was so pretty with the fireworks.
Tom: The fireworks.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That Tommy cried.
David: I didn't have a worst part.
Tom: That I did hurt me everywhere.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: To play with Chiara and Alessio.
David: I want to say everyone a good New Year 2014 and play with my friends.
Tom: [Tommy's roller coaster ended after his worst part of the day and Blubber-boy could not finish Ladder Talk]

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pure Energy

I wanna know
what you're thinking
there are some things you can't hide...
I wanna know
what you're feeling
tell me what's on your mind.

*pure energy* 
                                  --Information Society

As per usual, the boys woke up a few hours earlier than what mere mortals would call early and tried to sneak into the living room to start their frenzy before us humans woke up. And this, despite several reiterations of my rule that they are not allowed to go into the living room until I give the go-ahead. But, ha ha! I used to be their age once. Just ask my mom.

I knew they couldn't possibly resist, so I had blocked off the main entrance to living room with signs that directed them to the other entrance, which conveniently took them through our bedroom. They then found that the other entrance was also blocked and their pitiful cries of disappointment woke me up. Ah, there's nothing like waking up to the sounds of sobbing children on Christmas morning.

The boys know that Christmas will not start until Papa Grinch has a coffee in one hand and his camera in the other. Peter has recently learned how to make coffee for Master and David knows where I keep my camera, so in less than five minutes, we were ready to get our jingle on.


*pure energy*

It only looks like the picture is blurry. Actually, it was that Tommy was traveling at the speed of noise when he turned the corner to check out his loot. Last year, he had damn near collapsed from excitement after unwrapping a pack of batteries though, so I'm guessing we've got a few more years until anything wrapped disappoints him.

Peter has been waiting for this day for a long time, too. For a change, though, he wasn't being selfish. About two months ago, Peter began his 'list' and started buying, making and building people's Christmas gifts. Every week he'd ask for a few Euros and then run off to get supplies. For the last month, nobody has been allowed to enter his room. Except me, of course, but more on that privileged exception later.

When I finally released the animals to go wild, Peter baffled me by not being the first one to the tree. Instead, he raced to his room to get the first of three boxes full of his gifts, apparently for anyone and everyone that has ever spoken to him. He then spent the first five minutes placing his gifts for us around the tree. I guess Christmas for him is all about giving. Weirdo.

For David, Christmas was a frantic race to see who could open all of their gifts first. He won.

For Tom, Christmas consisted of opening a gift and playing with it for an hour before moving to the next. Luckily for my ears, Tommy's first gift was not a pack a batteries.

David was getting rather annoyed with Tommy, who had plopped down on the carpet and was trying to open his 'Dragon Chopper'.

'Tommy! Here's another gift for you. Open it!'

'No, I open this first.'

David had just finished unwrapping all of his toys when Tommy was ready for his second gift, which was an Uno game that catapulted cards across the room. At least it impressed Angie. You should see her happy face.

David had given up on Tom's idea of Christmas and was busy getting his nano-boogie on in the background.

Tom's third gift was a pack of batteries. Oh shit.

*pure energy*

AA batteries were not on Tommy's list for Santa, but you know what was? A hedgehog. That's right, a real, live hedgehog that Tommy could feed and pet for one, max two days, before losing interest and asking Mama to take care of baby Sonic for him.

The problem was that Tommy didn't explain this point to Santa and how in the world could a man with more chesthairs than a coconut possibly know that Tommy had meant anything other than a Christmas bulb hedgehog?

As I was busy explaining the phrase 'Deal with it' to Tommy, Peter 'surprised' me with a bulb of his own.

I write 'surprised' because I've known about this work in progress for over two months. It all started one night when Peter was supposed to be sleeping but burst into a sissy fit that I could hear from the other room.

I ignored the "DO NOT ENTER" signs he had posted and asked Blubber-boy what the problem was. He didn't want to tell me at first, so I had to go diplomatic.

'Listen, Peter, I got your mother to say 'yes' to me when I asked her to marry me, so trust me - I know how to get people to tell me what I want to hear. Now, we can try this the merry way or...'


'No, not at all. Actually, Mama and I are quite happy together...'

'Papa! That's not funny! I worked so hard and now it's all ruined.'

Peter then reluctantly showed me the Christmas bulb that he had been secretly painting for the family. He had a 'paint pen' that had somehow malfunctioned and managed to release a huge clump of liquid gold paint that had bled into some of the letters making them unreadable.

Luckily for Peter, I had a pocket knife and experience dealing with panicky female-types. I dried the splotched area with a tissue and then used my knife to scrape away the paint from the entire section.

My actions only further freaked out Stress-Boy, who thought I was completely destroying his bulb.

'Now it's all gone, Papa! Thanks! I'll buy a new one tomorrow and start all over again!'

Stiffling a giggle, I pulled out a dark purple-blue paint pen and watched drama fade from Peter's pale face as I colored in the scraped-out area. Ta-da!

Peter finally breathed a final sob as we let the background dry. Then we used the gold pen to retrace the letters and restore the world back to it's normal state. Yeah, define normal.

At some point during this morning's hysteria, Peter wandered over to me, winked, and asked me to open his 'most toppest secretest' gift. 

I unwrapped the tissue paper and immediately recognized the bulb, only this one had more text on it then the night that Peter had freaked out. The fact that Peter wanted me to open this one almost made me choke up. Then, I read the lettering that had apparently been written after our nice little bonding moment: "Merry Christmas to the Johnsen Zoo".

'Are you freakin' kidding me? Does our oldest son really not know how to spell his own last name?'

In the spirit of Christmas, Angie told me to shut up. I already had my dose of Christmas Day tears this morning, so for a change, I listened to the love of my life.

Speaking of wives, I gave Angie three ostrich egg lamps.

Okay, I didn't give her the lamps for Christmas. I actually gave her one to add to her collection years ago before we voluntarily gave ourselves human anchors. She'd probably have more than a dozen by now if she hadn't laid it out simple for me.

'Steve, please stop buying me egg lamps for my birthday.'

Okay, got it. Now, flash forward to the present, where up until today, Angie only had three egg lamp stands.

With three boys, it was only a matter of time before all three egg lamps had been smashed to pieces. The first two were chalked up to Destructo Dave. The last stand standing was annihilated by Tom a few months ago while he was swinging a rubber ball on a rope around his head as David chased him through our bedroom. Who the hell buys a ball on a rope?

You would think that if they sell ostrich egg lamps, it should be relatively easy to find replacement egg lamp covers. Wrong, dummy. Guess again.  

I spent the next few weeks exchanging very courteous emails with stores in South Africa that all replied that of course they sell ostrich egg lamp covers, but only if I would fly to their store and buy them there. Apparently, businesses over there do not use the postal system. As I wrote, though, I know how to get people to tell me what I want to hear.

'That's great that you have a whole warehouse full of egg lamp covers, but do you think you could ship three to Germany for, say, a sizeable extra fee?'


I then spent another few weeks on eBay until I finally found people who were willing to take my money. One person only had one egg and another person had two. Finally! That's one headache gone.

After turkey dinner, Peter's headache was just beginning. Okay, it wasn't actually a headache, but I don't feel bad in the slightest. Over the years, I've come to the realization that I only warn my children so that I can take pleasure in the outcome of them ignoring my words of wisdom.

'Peter, you better slow down on the ice-cream before you get a brain freeze.'

'Yeah, Papa, sure. My brain is going to freeze if I eat too...ow...OW...OOOWWWW!'

As Peter's brain pain competed with my laughter, I noticed that Tommy was going native American with his ice-cream and making sure that no part of his dessert was going to waste.

Notice Sammy begging in the background. This is the same dog that bit Tommy's hand a few weeks after they met for the first time.

With Tommy's second bowl of ice-cream, he decided to let bygones be bygones and allowed Sammy to lick the hand that fed him.

After two bowls of 'normal' ice-cream, Tommy also had a Magnum ice-cream, followed by a healthy helping of apple crisp and a bag of gummy bears, just for good measures.

When Tommy started shaking like a Polaroid and tried using their sofa as a trampoline, my 'wild kid' radar started pinging.

'Honey, sweetheart, darling of my life....can we please go now?'

When we got home, Angie plopped on the sofa and merrily announced that I had the festive honors of putting wild animals down for the night.

As I was tucking Tommy into bed, his mind had apparently flashed back to the pack of batteries.

*pure energy*

Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter:  That we could play with the presents and I could check out my iPod Touch.
David: I think again the presents and that everyone had fun and that we watched a movie.
Tom: That we got presents and the things that was in the sock.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That David has a headache and think he needs to throw up.
David: That I'm now almost need to throw up.
Tom: I don't got a worst part - today was Super!

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Get good presents from Arman and that he's happy about my presents.
David: To play with Luka and show him my headphones and my Sklyander SWAP Force figures.
Tom: Play with Peter and David the presents.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Christmas Eve started at 6:30 in the morning. iSleepy.

The second thought going through my head as the boys jumped on our bed screaming on about decorating the tree was actually something that my loving wife had recently whispered to me:

'I can still return your Christmas gifts.'

My threat came too late, though; the boys had already made their way into the living room and were too busy jack-assing around with fragile porcelain to notice my pre-coffee grumbling.

In a move that was unexpected followed by an act that was expected, Peter broke the first bulb and cried.

After Tommy broke the second bulb, I made an interesting discovery of how much the personalities of brothers can differ. Tommy froze and stared at me. I froze and waited for him to break down into tears and beg forgiveness.

'Can I have a milkshake?'

Before my jaw could move again, David strutted away from the tree, waving his hands in the air and claiming victory to the contest that nobody knew he was playing to see who would be the only Johnson to not break a bulb. Congratulations!

After some mild cursing and major sweeping, Peter decided to, you know, just be cautious.

'Um, Peter, just curious, but weren't you wearing a pair of oversized Crocs on Tommy's fourth birthday when you lost your footing and fell from the garden wall? You know, that time you face-planted the sidewalk and broke your wrist?'

Peter is a quick learner and he has an excellent teacher, so he simply ignored me. Kind of like how Angie ignored me when I told her that she was making Chiara's braid tight enough to make her eyes pop out.

As the sun went down, Grams, Opa, Barbara and Leif showed up and we began our delicate dance of cultures.

See, in Germany, you finish Christmas Eve dinner by herding the kids into another room to look for cookies and then, after about five to ten minutes, they hear a loud 'Ho-Ho-Ho!' and race back to the tree to find that they just narrowly missed the Man.

Now, provided you don't speak with my wife, which I highly recommend, I'm not one to criticize a culture's tradition, but come on! The kids' questions alone should sum it up.

'Papa, why does the Ho-Ho-Ho sound like Opa?'

'Well, all men sound the same after two beers; Santa is probably just more lit than Rudolph.'

'Yeah, but we were in the other room, and you were in the living room. Why didn't you see Santa?'

'Well, it's a well-known fact that men cannot see clearly after two beers, so my theory is...'

At this point, the Q&A session was abruptly ended when Angie launched a gift-frenzy that put to shame my previous claims that the boys could not possibly wind themselves up tighter. My children then did things to wrapping paper that still makes me shudder.

As the night progressed, I'm pretty sure that Apple stocks surged. Peter was the first to get fruity.

Peter was shaking with Christmas spirit after unwrapping his 'iPhone'. I write 'iPhone' because it was actually an iPod Touch, but we'll let Peter figure that out in his own time.

'Hey, Peter, why don't you call Arman and tell him about your new iPhone?'

I know, I'm an ass, but I had moved on to snapping joyful shots of Tommy, who had unknowingly 'inherited' Peter's now old iPod Nano. 

See, Peter now had an 'iPhone', so he had no problems ditching his silly little 'Nano-pod'. With two older brothers, Tommy has developed an unhealthy hatred of hand-me-downs, so we simply neglected to inform him that his iPod Nano, that had come in a plastic bag, wrapped in tissue paper and inexplicably pre-loaded with all of the songs that Peter had had on his iPod Nano was not exactly shipped directly from Cupertino. Hey, come one! It was Christmas Eve; the night of lies and deception was just beginning.

So, yeah. Peter had his 'iPhone', Tom had a recycled iPod Nano, what about David? Well, thanks for being nosey, Rudolph.

That's right, Destructo Dave got a brand new iPod Nano that actually did dent my wallet. Red, of course, with kickass shades to complete the coolness. For the rest of the night, he kept screaming at the top of his lungs how much he liked his new headphones. I'm pretty sure he meant the iPod Nano, but I've been trained not to question David's train of thought.

Not long after the frenzy, the Christmas entourage cleared out. This probably had something to do with previous years and the fact that our guests actually remember.

About five minutes after everyone left, I snapped this shot, which pretty much summed up Christmas Eve.

Tommy was still on iCloud nine, David was still tickled pink with his new pair of headphones and Peter was at peace with his new 'iPhone'.  I'll refrain from commenting on Angie, who was in the background getting her Crackbook fix on an, you guessed it, iMac
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That everyone got good presents and that it's Christmas.  
David: That it was Christmas and that everyone come and that we had fun.
Tom: That we did get presents.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: I didn't have a worst.
David: That today I cried because Tommy kicked me down off the elephant and kicked me in the face.
Tom: That you did say we could play Nintendo and then David play the whole time and I could play not.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want that everyone is nice to each other and that I get good gifts and that everyone is happy.
David: I want to have a good Christmas and that everyone has fun and is happy.
Tom: Look at my presents and play good with my friends and play Nintendo a little bit.

Monday, December 23, 2013


I woke up this morning to find Shaggy sitting at the table drawing Christmas pictures.

'Angie, I think Peter needs a haircut!'

'He has an appointment this afternoon - I told you that yesterday. You never listen to anything I say!'

'Yeah, yeah, I just...uh...what were you saying?'

Angie's huff is not nearly as cute as her puff, but I was too busy making pickled eggs to notice.

Pickled eggs take about two days for the beets to turn the entire egg pink, so you can probably guess at which feast they will be devoured. If not, you're a moron.

As Mama dragged Shaggy off kicking and screaming to his showdown with a barber, I was busy rounding up David and Tom, who were this year's Christmas tree hunters. David ran off to get his 'hunter costume' on.

'What do you think, Papa?'

'You sure you want to open Pandora's box?'

'Who is Pandora?'

'Never mind, let's go! We've got a tree to find!'

When we got to the tree dealer, I saw this cheerful Santa greeting people that like to spend a shitload of money to kill trees.

Last year, Peter was the 'Tree Hunter', so I reflected on the 'Lessons Learned' and laid down a few rules:

1. If you need to pee, you go in the bushes; there are no toilets here - trust me, I know.
2. We are not leaving the plot with the pre-cut trees; ignore the forest over there where you cut your own tree down.
3. We are on a time clock; if you don't find the perfect tree after 20 minutes, Papa decides.
4. Mama said she wants a tall tree this year.
5. David is the one picking the tree this year; what he picks is what we get. Tommy, you're the helper; next year you get to choose.

David walked into the tree farm and made a bee-line to the first tree he saw.

'I want this one!'

I was about to chastise him for not even looking around, but then I remembered the two and a half hours it took for Peter to find the 'perfect tree'. I whistled to the guy in overalls.

'We'll take this one.'

I shit you not; we spent more time trying to get the tree in the car than we did picking it. At one point, the man in overalls strolled by and snickered.

'You might have to leave the kids to fit that tree in.'

'Okay, thanks. I'll pick them up next year.'

At that point, the overalls-dude walked away rather quickly and I turned to see Tommy's lip quivering.

'Papa, I don't want to stay here.'

'Then you better help me squish our tree into the Pedato-mobile.'

In the end, I put David into the trunk and asked him bend the tree into positions that would probably embarrass normal evergreens. Then I slammed the trunk shut and told David to high-crawl over the back seat and buckle up.

All was fine and dandy until I tried sticking the tree into the tree stand. That's when I realized that I had the tree stand for big trees and what I needed was the stand for Redwoods in disguise.

'No problem, Opa gave me a saw one time and I'm pretty sure I can figure out how to use it.'

Angie smirked and Peter almost cried.

'Maybe we can get a new tree tomorrow.'

In the true spirit of Christmas, I ignored annoying family members and focused on the task at hand. When that failed, I tried using the saw as an axe in a way that only Jeffrey Dahmer could appreciate.

Fifteen minutes and a half-gallon of sweat later, I finally answered Peter's fifth offer to help me.

'Sure, can you get me a beer?'

Peter raced off and Angie stepped in.

'Don't you think we should make sure the tree can actually stand first? 

'Calm down, Negative Nancy - we'll get it to work.'

After half a beer, I had whittled down the oversized stump to get it to fit into the stand.

'It's not straight.'

Peter tried briefly to argue with Mama that it was straight, but I've been down this road before, so I simply dropped to the stand and released the grips and told Angie to move it to her ideal latitude and longitude. When she had it in the right position, I racketed the clamps and stood back to admire our tree.

I looked over and saw that our cat had also come in, not so much as to admire, but rather to gape in absolute confusion as to why Master had brought a forest into the living room. Just then, the tree came crashing down and damn near killed our bewildered cat, who justifiably took off running to unknown hiding places.

I laughed, Angie glared, and Peter cried.

'Christmas is ruined! We don't have a tree!'

I interrupted drama boy and assured him that I would erect that tree if it took me all night. Then, well, it really did take me all night. In the end, I almost gave up.

'Honey, the tree is simply too big for the stand. I'll go tomorrow and buy a bigger stand.'

'What? The stand is not the problem.'

I knew that Angie was right, but I still think that buying a bigger stand would have also solved the problem.

Instead of explaining my brain's logic, I dropped down and scooched under the tree to the stand. Angie leveled the tree and I focused on the stand, which was rising up off the ground at a slight angle as Angie found her sweet spot. I pounded the stand to the ground with my fist, admittedly too hard, and then punched the clamps. From underneath the tree, I asked for Angie's assessment.

'Much better! It's stable, it's straight.'

Okay, I would have expected a 'thank you' or a simple 'people should pay you for interviews'. Luckily, like my children, I am accustomed to disappointment.

After finally getting the tree erected, I looked around for Lukie. He wasn't hit, but after almost being killed by falling pine trees, I could understand that he was not exactly in the Christmas spirit. Or was he?

Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That Paul came over and that we got the Christmas tree.
David: That Paul was here and we all had fun.
Tom: That we did the Christmas tree.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That it didn't work by the first 25 times that we tried to stand up the Christmas tree.
David: That the Christmas tree didn't fit in the car.
Tom: That we did with extra in the cave a bench and then we can't watch TV.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want to get good presents and get done the presents I need to get done.
David: I want to have good presents and that others like my presents.
Tom: That I have a good day and not a bad day.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Rush

I knew that it was coming. We all did, but it wasn't until I saw the stack of clutter that Angie wanted to move from the living room to the kid's room that it hit me - my wife's end-of-year freak-a-thon had begun.

The warning signs started a few days ago with comments like 'we should really make some room for all the new toys' and 'Wow! I didn't think your muscles could get any bigger!' 

The only thing bigger than my guns is my brain, which hatched a plan to go grocery shopping when the straw finally snapped. Unfortunately, today is Sunday; other than churches and bars, nothing is open in Germany.

In the end, I gained a better appreciation for how lab rats must feel; I was trapped. I decided to retreat to the kitchen and ask Peter to help me bake an apple cake. Peter was fully aware of what was going down and he jumped at the opportunity.

After shoving the cake in the oven and setting the timer, I peeked into the hallway to see where Master was. She was in the hallway, frantically mopping the floor. This didn't surprise me, but the fact that she doing this in her underwear peaked my curiosity.

'Um, honey, humor me - why are you swabbing the decks in your skivvies?

Angie turned beet red and told me to go away. Instincts kicked in and I grabbed my iPhone and snapped a picture. I should be an iReporter.

Angie knows the sound of a picture being taken amazingly well.

'Steve! Don't you dare!'


'Steve! I'm beyond serious. Delete the picture now!'


'I can still return your Christmas gifts.'

I was so moved by the fact that she bought me something for Christmas that I showed her the shot I had snapped.

I'm not a moron, unless you ask people that supposedly love me. I knew as soon as Angie explained to me that she had slipped on a freshly mopped floor and ripped her skirt in the process that there was no way in hell I could photograph her half-naked. Still, I could have my fun.

I switched the camera into 'selfie' mode and snapped the shot that was heard around the house.

I knew that it was coming, but it wasn't until I raced down the hallway with my camera held above my head that it hit me - my wife's end-of-year freak-a-thon was in full gear.
Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Papa: That Mama ripped her skirt in a cleaning frenzy and spent a good part of the afternoon prancing around in her panties.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Papa: When Mama punched me in the arm for allegedly taking compromising pictures of her.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Papa: Clean the house again - that was fun!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Never a dull moment...unfortunately

After the summer cards that we've been dealt, I thought that we were ready for a full house. Apparently, life's dealer wasn't quite done with his round of shuffles. 

A few weeks ago, we found out that Tommy had a cyst in his throat that needed to be removed. I can't even type those words without shuddering. No parent wants to deal with such news, but we also realized that we could not let such things wait.

We booked the earliest surgery possible. Tommy was in goofy spirits on T-minus 1 as the head surgeon prepped him. 

On the eve of T-minus 1, Peter and David finally picked up on the seriousness of Tommy's operation. They gave Tommy 'extra cuddles' and fought each other over who could sleep with Tommy in his bed; David won. Who knew?

Even the morning of, Tommy was being a brave trooper.

I had taken the week off from work to make sure Angie had someone's hand to squeeze. While we waited nervously, I came across this lovely gem.

This fun display of ancient medical torture devices is apparently the hospital's brain-gem meant to somehow comfort nervous families waiting outside the emergency room to hear news of their loved ones. Um, how do you say 'fail' in German? 

The 'Little Shop of Horrors' cabinet did nothing for me as I impatiently paced the hallway waiting for news. When Tommy finally came through, the German version of customer friendliness kicked in.

'Only one parent is allowed in.'


'Because only one parent is allowed in.'

I gave up on trying to understand the hospital's asinine rule that was supposedly intended to avoid overcrowding the 'wake-up' room which, by the way, had enough space to accommodate Tommy's entire kindergarten class.

After a long visit with Mama, Tommy asked for me. At least the hospital allows the parents to rotate. Danke schön!

Tommy was groggy and kept asking why the doctor had two heads. I was so relieved, though, that I didn't even come up with a smart-ass answer. 

After an hour in the wake-up room, Tommy was whisked off to his room via an underground tunnel that connected the surgery room and the children's clinic. Tommy was contently surprised to find that he had a TV and headphones in his room.

 I left Angie and Tommy to watch cartoons and headed off to pick up Peter and David from school. We made it back to the hospital five minutes after he conked out. It was a long day for the poor guy, so we let him sleep. And, believe it or not, Peter and David whispered the entire time. 


Seeing Tommy and all the hospital equipment made the boys nervous, so Angie gently explained what they did during the operation and that everything turned out just fine.

After Mama's reassurance, David's belly took over and he started picking at Angie's dinner.

It was hospital food, though, so he didn't eat much. Instead, we rallied together for a family hug and left on a search for food. Angie didn't specifically rule out any restaurants, so I went with my gut.

I didn't think we'd be setting up the manly-man room again this year, but as we were getting ready for bed, it seemed like it was needed.

I got the boys off to school the next morning and went to visit an impatient patient. 

'Can we go, now? Huh, huh? Can we go?'

Angie rolled her eyes and something told me that he had asked that question already.

'No, and stop asking! I already told you that we have to wait for the doctor.'

After a few hours of sitting around waiting for a doctor that never showed up, we simply checked out.

Shortly after making it back to the ranch, Maren stopped by with Tommy's favorite cake from her bakery.

For a few seconds, things were absolutely still. Peter and David were in their rooms and Tom was simply smiling in anticipation. I was quite enjoying the silence when Tommy realized he had a whole cake to eat. This sweet epiphany unleashed an ear-piercing shout.

As Tommy tested his vocal cords, Peter raced into the room giggling like a villain, chased by David, who was swinging a plastic snake over his head and hollering like a madman. And don't even mention the rat on the table. Just don't. 

Never a dull moment... fortunately.