Friday, June 27, 2014

A Week at the Zoo


If you spend a week at the Zoo, you're pretty much guaranteed to have fun. If you're lucky, you'll experience things that most humans have never been privy to, like having a one-year old growl at you with pure joy. 

Speaking of abnormal human behavior, Angie's patented 'frenzy clean' kicked off shortly before Nil and Tara arrived for the week. I rescued Peter in time, but David and Tommy were caught in the cross-fire and we had to leave them behind. As it turns out, they actually had no problem jumping on that grenade.

A trip to the Zoo wouldn't be complete without at least one or two trips to the ice-cream parlor. Per day.

By that rationale, a trip to the Zoo wouldn't be complete without at least one or two beers. Per hour.

On one of the nights where we actually got all the kids to go to bed, I convinced the adult-types to play poker.

As any self-respecting shark will tell you, cards can simply not be cut without having an honorary shot. Nil was the first to take the bait.

'What do you have?'

'How about Ponche?'


Nil's affirmative confirmed to me that she had already tasted the Spanish brandy that rivals any nectar the gods might partake in. And she wanted more.

I raced off to get the shot glasses and overlooked a minor point that almost killed Angie.

See, a few weeks ago, David's closet door inexplicably fell off its hinges. As you should know by now, strange shit happens to our family all the time. Our kitchen shelf pretty much did the same thing two years ago and I didn't blink an eye, so I did not even bother asking why a perfectly mounted door felt the urge to unhinge itself.

Angie didn't ask either, but she did volunteer me to fix it. I don't know why, though; I've proven time and time again over the years that I am crap at anything that involves tools. It would be like if I ignored Angie's track record and kept bugging her to cook me a hot meal.

In any case, I had removed the screws from the torn hinge-plate, or whatever it's called, and came to the brilliant conclusion that the 'screw-holes' were stripped. I proudly announced this prognosis to my lovely wife, along with my ingenious solution, which was to simply go out and buy bigger screws.

On the odd chance that I was wrong, I decided to keep the original screws. When trying to find a place that I would remember weeks later when I actually got around to buying bigger screws, my thought process kicked in. Screws? Hmmh. Screwdriver. Orange juice. Vodka. Alcohol. I know, I'll put these useless screws in a shot glass!
Weeks went by and before I could secure bigger screws, Opa stopped by. I was at work, but Opa knows full-well that I am fix-challenged when it comes to anything under a roof and didn't even bother waiting for me to hold a flashlight for him as he fixed the door.

I came home and Angie summed it up nicely.

'My dad was here today and fixed the door that has been broken for over a month now.'

'That's great, honey. What's for dinner?'

And that is how neither one of us ever spoke about the closet malfunction again. Until now, of course, when Angie almost choked on a shot of Ponche laced with four undersized screws.

Luckily, Angie has a strange drinking technique where she closes her teeth and only allows liquid through. Me, I would have totally chugged metal, but Angie managed to somehow choke-spit-gag the screws out. Even more impressive is that she was able to simultaneously punch me in the arm and start screaming insanities about uxoricide.

Being married to a feisty Quiz Mistress does, believe it or not, have some disadvantages. One that comes to mind is that I, unlike her, did not have nine years of Latin, so I had to ask Google to translate crazy-wife talk to something I could understand. That's when I discovered that 'uxoricide' is Latin for 'a man who murders his wife'.

'Ha! You didn't die.'

And that's pretty much when the night ended. Luckily, David's victory bugle kept the night short.

A trip to the Zoo wouldn't be complete without at least three kids boring the crap out of debatably innocent bystanders. For David, it was a Monopoly marathon.

It probably wouldn't have been as boring if David hadn't won every time. In his defense, though, he always wins.

For Peter, it was his Country Report.

This is actually the second version of his Country Report, which brings me to the funny little story about how I made Peter curl into a ball and cry.  Again.

See, Peter's poster was actually finished a week ago. Saturday, to be exact, which coincidentally happened to be the same day when Angie forced me to change the kitty litter. I know, I know, we are just a balloon full of fun and sexiness.

Anyhow, I proceeded to dump the old kitty litter and wash the box with hot soapy water. When it comes to scrubbing the cat's poop box, I have less patience than Angie, so I did not wait for it to drip-dry; no, my brain rightfully thought that the right approach was to carry the dripping mess straight through Peter's room and to the balcony to let it dry, even if by doing so meant that water droplets would completely destroy my first born's class poster that was wrongfully placed in my wrath.

After Peter stopped crying, I laughingly convinced him that a second version is ALWAYS better than the first. As Peter tearfully re-drew his poster, I switched to poster children that were hell-bent on scaring the crap out of new female-types that were invading his home.

In Tommy's defense, Tara really did look terrified.

A trip to the Zoo wouldn't be complete without at least one weirdo stopping by unannounced to watch the U.S.-Germany soccer match.

Thanks, Eisi.

While we're on the topic of unexpected events, no trip to the Zoo would be complete without at least one unplanned visit to the clinic. Tara's trip to the ER began on her second to last night in Germany, shortly after she decided to see what happens when you run headfirst down a set of stairs REALLY FAST.

Luckily, Tara took it all in stride and did what any sane person would do after a hard night with the Johnson's.

So, yeah, if you spend a week at the Zoo, you're pretty much guaranteed to have fun. If you're lucky, you'll probably also experience things that most humans have never been privy to, like having a forty-one-year old growl at you with pure irritation for laughing at her while she tries to clean up popcorn kernels that were gleefully scattered by wild animals wearing yellow shirts.

Ladder Talk: No Ladder Talk this time; instead a BIG BIG thank you to Nil and Tara for the wonderful visit - come back again soon! If you dare.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rides, Slides and Funny Bunnies

The trip to Legoland should have taken two hours. With three kids averaging once a minute each, that added up to 360 times that I was asked 'Are we there, yet'. It's okay, though - I only answered once.

We were literally one minute before the exit when Murphy apparently thought that we hadn't been playing the waiting game nearly long enough. 

Peter's frustration was the first to jump out of the car.

'Ah, come on! I can see the park from here!'

'Well, the good news is - you guys can stop asking; we're there. The bad news is that they just announced on the radio that a truck overturned just after this exit and it will take them at least an hour to clear the road.'

'I need the bathroom.'

'Of course, you do.'

The hour delay exponentially increased the number of questions. My patience drew on my former managerial days and simply delegated the task of answering idle questions to my life planner.

When we finally made it to the Lego gates, Angie insisted on getting maps. I tried to convince her that we should download the app, but she is German, so change was simply not possible. Technology is just a fad. 

I love this picture. Angie and Tom are competing to keep the family from getting lost. Peter is just, you know, whistling. And David is...uh...

'David! Get your finger out of Lego-boy's mouth!'

Before we could even get started, David had skipped over to the Dark Side and was trying to pick a fight with Darth.

On our way to the first ride, Peter got suckered into the 'rickety bridge' scam. The task was simple - climb the rope ladder to the top, ring a bell and win an over-sized minion with one eye. Peter almost made it halfway before face-planting the mat.

David didn't make it as far, but I gave him extra points for his wildly flamboyant fall from grace.

Tommy fell after the first rung, but he noticed that the carny was busy selling tickets to other gullible children and decided to see how far he could make it.

Luckily, his brothers were there to keep him honest and starting screaming at him to 'STOP CHEATING AND GET OFF THE MAT!!'.

Peter was convinced he could make it and begged to go again, prompting me to explain for the third time that the game is rigged.

'Peter, if my wallet is going to be pillaged, I'd rather just fork it over to the Vikings.'

After a hard day of swinging back and forth on a wooden boat until you want to vomit, nothing hits the spot like frozen milk. Trust me. 

The ice-cream was a good start, but everyone knows that it's not a party until someone gets wet. Peter and Tommy took the low road.

David's a natural born adrenaline junkie, so we decided to take the high road.

David was full of giggles and courage on the way up. On the way down, well... let's just zoom in on the picture above. 

I've seen videos of lab monkeys witnessing fire for the first time that rivaled David's watery descent. Until we splashed to a stop. Then he giggled like a madman and asked to go on it again.

After passing on the second chance to give our middle-born a heart attack, we decided to go for a 'drip and dry' stroll. Something about near-death makes you hungry, so I bought David a big bucket of popcorn. 

Wannabe-detectives will certainly want to take a second glimpse at this shot. Notice the big pile of popcorn on the pavement. Hmmmm, what happened here?

David totally has the 'nothing to see here people, let's just keep moving' look.

Tommy has the 'I was ABSOLUTELY not the person that initially thought it would be funny to whack the underside of David's popcorn tub' look.

Peter has the classic 'I'm so disgusted and embarrassed to be related to any of you so I'm just going to glare until someone makes eye contact with me' look.

Angie has the 'I'm going to ignore what just happened and pretend that I am trying to fold a map, which is actually more difficult than one might think' look.

And me, I had the 'what in the HELL is a chainsaw-wielding bunny doing in a kid's amusement park??!!' look.

Luckily, I'm married to Angie, who has trained me over the years to never question faulty logic.
Instead, I navigated the boys to the grand finale they had been waiting for - the Star Wars 'Super-duper-amazing-wow' exhibition.

Inside, Peter hijacked my camera and took 453 unfocused pictures of obscure Star Wars characters that were immortalized in Lego pieces behind thick glass. Oh, yeah, and one picture of David and me as we went on the ride that I now lovingly call 'flip-me-upside-down-and-spin-me-around-until-my-brain-can-sympathize-with-my-washing-machine'.

It was after this lovely ride that my stomach decided to call it quits for the day. On the way out, we hit 'THE LEGO SHOP', which was, by far, the best part for all three of them. For David, it was the 'Lady Hulk' Lego figure that did it for him.

For Tommy, it was being able to grab fistfuls of Lego pieces without getting screamed at.

For Peter, it was all about building 'a pool that is cool'.

We actually stayed in the shop until we were kicked out. I was glad that it had more to do with the time and less to do with their collective noise level.

I was also quite pleased that we managed to actually leave an amusement this time without one of our kids suffering a concussion or breaking a cheek bone. Okay, we did manage to lose a kid on the way to the parking lot, but to be honest, it was his own fault. 

Luckily Tommy's muffled giggling made him easy to find.

Before leaving, we stopped another family and forced them to take a nice family shot. Thankfully, they were patient enough to overlook the first attempt when Peter tried to give David 'bunny ears' and the second try when David punched Peter in the arm for trying to give him 'bunny ears'. When Tommy dropped to the pavement and tried to get the photographer to take a shot of the bottom of his shoe, Angie whipped out an approach that made me truly happy that I am not in her class. Smile.

Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we had fun at Legoland.
David: That we go'ed to Legoland.
Tom: Legoland. 

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That I couldn't get a Minion. 
David: That we had traffic.
Tom: That we need to wait so long in the car.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want to play much much much Lego with Tom and David.
David: I want to play with my friends.
Tom: I want to cuddle with Mom.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stage Hands

This morning started out normal. Then Peter and David woke up. 

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

'Guys, the concert doesn't start for another twelve hours. Go back to bed!'

See, a few months ago, Angie bought tickets for the boys to see their first ever concert. Then she volunteered me to take them to see Adel Tawil. Who?

Rather than yet again thanking my funnier-looking half, I volunteered her to make me a coffee as I got the boys dressed. I was on my third cup when I heard Peter and David trying to teach Tommy the ice-cream chant. 

'I scream, you scream, we all scream for ICE-CREAM!'

'Huh?!! Eyes don't scream!'

Peter and David lost it completely and cracked up even harder when Tommy starting walloping them with his tiny little clenched fists. Before the vicious circle could spiral out of control, I grabbed my shades and opened the front door. 

'Let's go!'

Peter and David whipped around simultaneously. 

'Go? To the concert?'


Tommy was still hyperventilating, but I had piqued his curiosity.

'Where are we going, Papa?'

'To get ice-cream, of course.'

On the way to the parlor, a little boy about Tommy's age ran in front of us screaming. Before I could figure out what he was doing, he raced up to a pigeon perched on a bench and screamed again. 


The pigeon flew away and the boy with issues ran off again, apparently still in search of winged rats to scare the crap out of. 

The ensuing silence was broken by David, who had dropped to the pavement and was howling with laughter. He was still giggling away when we got to the ice-cream shop, where he broke into a perfect rendition of Screaming-boy.


Of course none of the patrons at the ice-cream shop had a clue as to what the hell David was doing, let alone why. Join the club. 

 Luckily, we are used to drawing strange looks and simply ordered the frozen cones to go.

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

'Guys, the concert doesn't start for another... ah, come on, let's just get this over with.'

After grabbing a bite to eat and two cokes that Mama will never know about, we made our way to the concert tent that was guarded by a tank. I'm sorry, I meant to say that we made our way to the concert tent THAT WAS GUARDED BY A FREAKIN' TANK!

I thought about questioning the driver on the logic of parking a tank in front of a concert and then allowing sugar-crazed civilian-types to strike a pose in front of it, but we were already late for a different mission that was about to crash and burn horribly.

'What do you mean I can't bring in my camera?'

'I mean that you cannot bring in your camera.'

After thanking the helpful security lady, I broke the news to the boys that cameras with telephoto lenses are not allowed in.

'But look, Papa - that man there is taking pictures!'

'Yeah, but he is using an iPhone.'

'But you have an iPhone!'

'Yes, I do.'

'Where is it?'

'In the car.'

And that, my Zoobies, is the funny little story about how I took Peter and David to their first concert ever and was only able to get this measly shot. From outside the concert tent. In the dark. After the concert was over. I'm an excellent father.

At least they didn't cry about it. Oh, wait, David did. It happened right after I had fought my way to the stage with him on my shoulders and Adel Tawil reached down and high-fived him in mid-song.

'Wow! Papa, did you see that?'

'Yeah, buddy. Pretty cool.'

'Did you get a picture?'

After David was done crying, I found Peter sulking by the drink stand. Without asking, I scooped him up onto my shoulders and ninja-kicked my way back to the stage. Two minutes of waving-like-a-jackass later, Adel Tawil bent over to tag Peter's hand.
'Wow! Papa, did you see that?'

'Yeah, buddy. Pretty cool.'

'Did you get a picture?'

After Peter was done crying, I decided that buying a bunch of overpriced souvenirs was the best way to secure their forgiveness. It worked. 

After the concert, I picked up my camera with the telephoto lens from security and decided to treat the boys to dessert because, you know, nothing says sorry like chocolate pancakes. My roadies paused in the heat of their feeding frenzy to announce to me that they were never going to wash their high-five hands again. Ever. 

Angie tends to love pointless arguments, so I decided to leave that gem for her. When we got home, she took one look at their chocolate-smeared fingers and surprised everyone by coming up with a solution that didn't involve tears or the sofa.

Ladder Talk: [Tommy was racked out by the time the stage hands came home]
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That Adel Tawil touched my hand.
David: That I got the high-five by the concert. 
Tom: ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That we couldn't make a picture in the concert. 
David: That you forgot the iPhone in the car.
Tom: ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Tell all my friends about the concert.
David: To show Tommy the hand print from Adel Tawil. 
Tom: ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz

Monday, June 9, 2014

Yeah, that's normal

I was in the Navy for five years, so I'm good at, well, pretty much anything you can do in a bar. Peter has already spanked me in darts and even Angie can beat me in table soccer, so I decided to take my oldest for his first ever billiards lesson. Bar diving will simply have to wait a few years, buddy. 

When David eventually picked up on our plan to go shoot pool, he pucker-lipped his way into the lesson. In retaliation, Peter invited Arman and Nuno and before I knew it, we had a quartet of hustlers ready to shark the tables. Game on! 

We started with the basics, like how to look cooler than your father when you take aim. Since this was obviously not possible for Peter, I told him to just try and hit the white ball.

David wasn't quite tall enough to teach him the proper stance, so he simply improvised with his self-patented 'sideways jab' that managed to hit the ball 1 out of 7 times. Hey! You're already better than Mama!

Some pool players sprinkle their hands with baby powder to reduce friction, but they clearly never spent any time in the military. After a short discussion with the waitress, I shared the insider secret with the quartet - pizza grease.

That's right, a greasy pie not only nourishes you; it makes your fingers slippery enough that you can focus on the important things, like looking cool.

On the way back from pool-school, David jumped spread-eagle on the hood of my new company car, death-gripped the sides and commanded me to start driving. Because, yeah, that's normal.

After entertaining convincing arguments like 'Please, I've never had a bug fly into my mouth' and 'come on, dogs would love it', I tossed crazy boy in the backseat and headed home.

Tommy felt a little left out, so in the afternoon, we allowed him to join the post-tournament soccer-hike. What's a soccer-hike? you ask? Well, first, you play soccer.

Then, you go for a hike.

It's complicated, I know.

David didn't join the hike, though. The beaver in him chose instead to build a dam. Damn!

He spent over an hour piling up rocks, sticks, mud and other disgusting muck just upstream from where the other boys were splashing anything that moved.

When the others started screaming and asking why the river had suddenly dried up, David smugly plopped down on a nearby bench, content that his self-assigned mission had been accomplished.

With no more water to splash on each other, the boys resorted to latest craze among underteens - bridge hanging.

The first step of this fun new sport involves finding a bridge. In this case, they found a bridge over a recently dried up riverbed. Then, you sit down with your feet dangling over the edge and, you know, just hang.

Staying true to nature, the boys did not sit still for long. David was the first to get bored and head for the hills.

Boys of any age love to climb, so it was no surprise when the hills were suddenly alive with the sounds of hyper.

Tommy only made it up halfway. After involuntarily mud-sliding down the mountain for the fifth time, he declared to everyone that climbing was dumb. Then, for reasons only known to Tommy's brain, he removed his shoes and stomped off towards the car barefoot. Because, yeah, that's normal.  

Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When we went to the pool place.
David: When I played pool with you. 
Tom: By the football and I make a goal. 

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When we couldn't keep playing. 
David: When I fell and hurt me on the knee.
Tom: That the climbing was so dumb.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Play pool again.
David: I want to go to the zoo.
Tom: To eat chicken.