Monday, December 25, 2017

Every day has a sunset

Christmas morning always comes earlier than I'd like, but the boys were actually somewhat civil this year. The first wake-up call was from, surprise, surprise - David. He tried convincing Angie and me that he should be allowed to open his gifts while his brothers slept because removing all of his gifts would only make it easier for his brothers to find theirs. I tried to explain to David how life really works, but he disappeared in mid-sentence.

A few seconds later, I heard David singing opera as loud as he could just outside Peter's room.

'Peter's up!'

Next, I heard the home phone ringing. David answered and then ran into Tom's room screaming.

'Tom, wake up! Telephone for you!'

Tom then crawled out of bed and grumpily grabbed the home phone from David.


David then pulled his cell phone from behind his back.

'Hi Tom. Merry Christmas! Bwhahahahahaha!'

Before Tom could complain, David had raced into our room.

'You said we need to wait until Peter and Tom are up. They're up. Can we open the gifts now?'

I gave David eight points for creativity, ten points for persistence and twenty-five points for being a pain in the ass.

I then went to the the kitchen for pot. Unfortunately, I could only find the kind that you pour coffee into. Angie and I then proceeded to guzzle liquid energy as the gift frenzy kicked into full gear.

Peter was the first one to strike a pose with his prize gift. Oddly enough, he ignored all rules regarding teenagers receiving gifts and actually liked getting clothing.

In his defense, he also got into knitting with his Oma on our last trip stateside. Okay, this doesn't really help his defense, but I'm sure this outing will score points with my mom.

David took a different approach. He got mega excited about a bell for his bike.

Kids get excited for different reasons, so this might even be normal if it weren't for the fact that David's bike was stolen several months ago and we had already explained to him that he would not be getting a new bike until spring. But hey, have fun with that bell!

Tom took a Mr. T approach.

'I pity the fool that takes pictures of me!'

Let's ignore the fact that the Santa Claus beard-hat was actually Peter's gift from Santa. Peter didn't mind, though, and I'm guessing that you can guess Santa's interest in the matter.
There were many other gifts that were victims of the present-frenzy, but the next one was the one that brought all the gift receivers to a frenzy.

At first, my parents' surprise gift remained a surprise. It wasn't until we explained to them that Oma and Pop-pop had paid for a hotel plus tickets to the Mary Poppins musical in Stuttgart that they started to huddle with joy.

After this year's present frenzy, we made our way to Frankfurt. Today is Sonja's birthday so we decided to surprise her by crashing her pre-planned museum visit with her parents. On the way, we stopped by to pick up Barbara.

A few years ago, we, as a family, handed over the 'late torch' to Barbara and she has never disappointed us. I'm pleased to announce that today was no exception. We were on time and Barbara had just gotten out of the shower. Angie was pissed, I was indifferent and my imagination was cracking up as it envisioned Barbara, snickering away as she blow-dried her hair, muttering over and over again 'yeah, take that for stealing my childhood sticker collection'.

When we got to the museum, we tried not to stand out. As I mentioned, we were there to surprise Sonja on her birthday. I won't say how old she was turning - that would just be embarrassing.

After waiting outside for ten minutes, we called them and asked them where they were. They explained that they had been there for almost an hour and were waiting in the restaurant which, oddly enough, is exactly where we had agreed to meet them. I thought about rethinking my thoughts on whether Angie's brain should be allowed to organize anything, but I looked up and got distracted by a flashy photographer.

The museum exhibition was called 'Diorama' and focused on optical illusions and three-dimensional miniature models. Outside the museum was a an open-air rotunda that boasted a mirrored ceiling. Every ten seconds, the lighting would dim, revealing a second mirror that created the illusion of an endless tunnel of mirrors, which is just what the world needs. One BILLION mini-me's!

With detective-like skills, we eventually found the birthday girl hiding in plain sight in the exact place where we had arranged to meet. Ha, ha - gotcha!

After brunch, we dumped our coats and bags in the lockers by the front entrance and made our way up the elaborate staircase to the exhibit entrance. Heidi had invited all of us so she had the tickets. She handed them to the uniformed lady at the entrance. She had a hand-held bar-code scanner and began to scan each ticket with a level of complete disinterest that I had not thought possible. Each scan registered a BEEP! which was the only sound echoing off the walls. Even the boys seemed to be quietly mesmerized by the robotic movements of the woman scanning our tickets.

As the woman scanned the second to last ticket, Heidi realized that she had reserved a ticket for Leif, who had opted for studying the optical illusion that his pillow makes when his face is planted in it.

'Sorry, sorry! I gave you ten tickets, but there's only nine of us - one person couldn't make it.'

Robot-lady gave Heidi a blank stare and replied without emotion.

'I'm sorry, I'm not the cashier. There's nothing I can do. I've already scanned the tickets.'

The woman then slowly moved the last ticket to her hand-held scanner.


She handed the tickets back to a rather flabbergasted Heidi and Barbara tried to make the best out of a bizarre situation.

'Oh well! There are worst things that could happen.'

Most normal people would have taken Barbara's statement as rhetorical, but Robot-lady apparently felt compelled to chime in.

'Yeah, there are worst things. I just read an article about a pregnant woman in her seventh month that just found out that the baby has a tumor and they could both die.'

Trust me, I have initiated my fair share of awkward silences, but this is probably the first one where I was the one to break it.

'Ok, boys, how about you go catch up with Mama and don't make any eye contact with the lady scanning tickets.'

Like Mama, the boys are crap at following orders. They did run away from Robot-lady, but instead of catching up to Angie, they chose to plop down on some white blocks and pose for an upcoming GAP ad.

The museum itself was a let down for several of us - just for different reasons. For me, it was simple - I thought we were going to be looking at a lot of optical illusions, but there were none. There were just a bunch of miniature models and most of them looked like some of the science projects that Angie and I have made for the kids over the years because they had forgotten about them until bedtime on the night before they were due.

Angie and Barbara got super interested in the exhibition boasting an Axolotl.

If you're a normal human like me, you probably don't know what an Axolotl is. Unlike me, you might actually care, so I'll tell you - it's a Mexican salamander. They then spent about an hour searching for it before Google informed them that the Axolotl is nocturnal. I found it funny that a museum that is only open during the day would have an exhibit of a creature that, by nature, hides all day long. Angie and Barbara were not equally as amused.

Klaus was not amused by any of the exhibits, but it was this one that put him over the top. At first glance, it looked like a Native American riding a Harley.

Klaus and I approached together, both of us wondering what the hell this had to do with optical illusions or three-dimensional miniatures. On closer examination, it was a transvestite Indian sporting neon nail polish and fishnet lingerie riding a Suzuki.

'Oh, this is just ridiculous!'

With that, Klaus exited stage left. On his way out he caught a glimpse of Tommy and David's review of the 'Diorama' adventure. 

Tommy was so happy to leave that he started doing cartwheels on the way out.

David also did a cartwheel. Kinda. Okay, it didn't resemble anything like a cartwheel. He basically threw his body at the ground and damn near broke his wrist.

Angie was glad to leave the museum without any broken bones. I was just glad to leave the museum. I think Klaus was on my side of the camp.

Outside, we herded everyone together for a group photo. Just before taking the shot, Angie suggested that we all go for a coffee.

Like Garth Brooks, Klaus is not big on social graces, so I initially assumed that his glance to the heavens was a call to be saved. Turns out he was just admiring the only interesting attraction that you could see, which, by the way, you could do without even purchasing a ticket.

We then thanked Heidi again. We don't get to see each other often enough, so it was nice to visit with them. In the end, though, we skipped the social caffeine rush, which meant that we were actually on time for turkey time.

The meal was, as always, great. By great, I of course mean that it made us all a bit fatter, but isn't that what Christmas is really all about? I mean come on - just take a look at Santa.

After dinner, the boys tried forcing everyone to join in a new role-playing game that involved werewolves. Horst was the only one that managed to escape that fun. Halfway through the game, as I had my head down on the table and was being tapped on the shoulder to indicate that I was a victim, I reflected on how Opa had actually managed to get out of it.

'Hey, Opa - do you want to play a new game with us where village people use clues to find out who is the werewolf?'


I've learned a lot from Opa over the years, but today confirmed for me that the fountain of wisdom is far from drying up.

After revealing and subsequently killing the pesky werewolf, the younger generation moved into the living room. Peter, David and Tom have been fine-tuning their lady skills and Sonja indulged them for hours as they played games and swapped jokes.

After a nice visit, we made our way home. On the ride back, the boys giddily talked about all the cool stuff they had gotten and how awesome this Christmas was. By the time we got back to the ranch, the cattle had worked themselves into a stampede of happiness.

Every day has a sunset, but it doesn't always end with your children power-hugging you and loudly whispering in your ear how much they love you. Unfortunately. 

Ladder Talk:  [No creatures were stirring, not even a mouse - so I could not get to Ladder Talk]
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: ZZZZZzzzzz....
David: ZZZZZzzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZZzzzzz....

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: ZZZZZzzzzz....
David: ZZZZZzzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZZzzzzz....

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: ZZZZZzzzzz....
David: ZZZZZzzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZZzzzzz....

Thursday, December 21, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

'Why are they taking so long?'

'Because it's Peter.'

'Oh, right.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Split Decision

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

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

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

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

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

'Just do what you did last week.'

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

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

1) What was the best part of your day?

2) What was the worst part of your day?

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

¿Cómo se dice "loud"?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'¡Muchas gracias!'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Wheels on the Bus

In case it's not obvious, the kid screaming frantically at the back of the bus is Tommy, but more on that fun later.

For the last two weeks, we have been experimenting with letting Tommy use public transportation to get to his gymnastics training. This has worked fine so far. He meets a friend of his at the main square and they know which bus to get on and where they should get off. Should.

Today, Angie walked with Tommy to get the bus. While waiting, she got a frantic call from the other kid's mom that he was late. My quick-thinking wife then shoved Tommy on the bus and waited for the other kid.

The other kid showed up, but because he had missed the bus, Angie raced home with him and drove him to practice. I know, I know, this kind of defeats the purpose of having Tommy ride the bus to practice, but I'd really prefer if the witty comments calling logic into question come from you and not me. Anyway, Angie showed up to practice with late boy and ran up to the coach, who can bit, mmhh... let's just call it direct. 

'Where's Tommy?'

'That's your job to know.'

Angie searched for Tommy inside, then raced outside and tried calling the public transportation office. 

'If you would like to access bus schedules, press 1...'

'If you would like to organize a private event, press 2...'

At this point, Angie was hyperventilating, and not in the funny way. 

'If you have lost a child on one of our buses, please press 3...'


Angie was pacing the sidewalk outside the gym and trying her damnedest not to scream at the first human that talked to her. Halfway though what I can only imagine was a mix between a death threat and a plea, Angie saw a tiny dot on the horizon. The dot grew bigger and bigger and as it came closer, Angie noticed that it was moving incredibly fast. When it came even closer, she saw that it was Tommy and hung up the phone.

See, up until now, Tommy has ridden the bus with his friend and everything worked out fine. The bus stopped in front of the gym and they got out. Easy, peasy. The problem, as it tends to be, is that we are in Germany. Buses only stop at a station if someone on the bus pushes a button that tells the driver that someone would like to exit the bus. Up until today, there has always been someone who needed to get off, so everything worked fine. Today, nobody apparently needed to get on or off at that bus station, so the driver simply drove on. Tommy, being the smart kid that he knows he is, picked up on this shortly after the bus flew past his gym. 

The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round,
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Madness

Mondays suck. Period. The fact that today was a holiday just means that Tuesday will suck. It also means that a simple plan to go to an art exhibition was a lot like allowing Angie into the kitchen - sounds innocent, but inevitably ends in disaster.

Our fun started at 11:30 when we were supposed to pick up Angie's aunt. I pointed out to my lovely wife when she got out of the shower at 11:15 that Heidi lives about an hour away and we still had to pick up her mom along the way. Angie has a real knack for ignoring problems that involve math, logic, or admitting guilt, so my subtle attempt at getting the show on the road was a problem that she ignored.

We eventually rounded up everyone and arrived in Frankfurt. Gramms has a thing for Mexican food, so she suggested going to Chipotle's for lunch. Chipotle's might be a dime a dozen in States, but in Germany, it's almost as rare a finding an honest politician. 

We parked at the Skyline Plaza and admired the skyline view as we took the emergency exit down to the street level.

If you're like me, you might question why we had to take the emergency exit down. You might also question why the parking garage was so empty on a holiday. The only question that David and Tom had was how could they possibly slow down our exit. It was at that point that we passed a massive ball made of steel wires that screamed 'climb me'. From experience, I know that David and Tom do not respond well to anyone screaming anything at them, so I was a bit surprised when they caved in.

We finally made it down to the street level and waited for our navigator to take over.

'Right. We need to go right.'

We followed Gramms' appetite around the corner. The good news was - we found Chipotle's. The bad news was - it was closed. The funny news was, depending on your point of view - the entire Skyline Plaza was closed because of the holiday. This explained the empty parking lot and the need to exit the garage via an emergency exit, but did little to fill our bellies. For that, we decided to try the restaurant at the top of the Skyline Plaza, which was open. 

The good news was - they had a table for seven people. The bad news was - it took another fifteen minutes to flag down a waiter. The funny news was delivered by the impatient waiter. 

'We only have the breakfast buffet. If you want lunch, you'll have to wait another hour.'

With that, we moved on to the museum. Before leaving the empty parking lot, I asked my lovely wife if she was SURE that the museum was open on a holiday. Blank look. Crickets.

The good news was - we all had Google on our phones. The bad news was - most of the sites stated that the museum was closed. The funny news was - Angie found one that said it was open.

At that point, I simply drove downtown with the sole mission of finding somewhere to eat. If we happened to also visit a museum that might or might not be open, then great. Gravy on top.

After parking for the second time, Peter started to get very agitated with David, who was pushing his button. This button was apparently on Peter's left shoulder as is evident here.  

We finally found the exhibition and I was relieved to find that other humans were walking in and out of the building.

Everyone took this to be a sign that the museum was open, but I was understandably reluctant. The coin dropped for me when I finally saw the front doors. Open.

I would most likely have paid closer attention to the long line inside if it wasn't for the restaurant across the hall, which is where we went first to have lunch. They had breakfast tacos on the menu, so Gramms was all set. We recently found out that David has a wheat allergy, so we ordered the corn tacos. When David's order came, though, it was clearly flour tortillas and not corn. The waitress looked confused and exasperated when we sent the order back, but we eventually got something that he could eat without turning his stomach into knots.

So, there we were. Three hours behind schedule, but ready to check out René Magritte's surreal exhibit. The good news was - the museum was open for another four hours. The bad news was - the museum was so insanely packed that they had a 'safety stop' for two hours, which meant that they were not letting anyone in for two hours and after that, they would only allow in some people and those people were already forming the long line that I had hinted at above. The funny news was - Angie tried to lift up everyone's spirits.

'Doesn't matter - they have an awesome gift shop here. Let's just go there! That's always the best part!'

For those non-Germans, the sign in front of the gift shop reads 'Closed due to sickness!'.

In her defense, Positive Angie did not let the clouds ruin her day in the sun. She spotted a small counter that sold postcards that impressed her and disgusting rubber replicas of a human thumb that impressed - surprise, surprise - David and Tom.

After buying enough postcards to choke a curator, we walked back to the car. Along the way, I asked David and Tom what they thought of our Monday Madness.

Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we had a wonderful lunch in Frankfurt with Gramms and Heidi.
David: That it was so much fun in the museum.
Tom: That we saw Gramms and Heidi.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That my head started hurting and I was tired all day.
David: That the museum was closed.
Tom: That we couldn't go to the museum and that my belly hurts.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: Play outside and hope for good weather. 
David: I want to meet and have fun with Luca.
Tom: I want to eat something yummy at gymnastics.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Odyssey

Easter morning normally starts out with the brotherly tradition of fighting over who gets which bucket for their stash.  Not this year, though. For unknown reasons, this year's bucket choices were based purely on logic. David was wearing a black shirt, so he picked black. Tom was wearing a purple shirt, so he picked purple. Peter was wearing a gray shirt and we even have a gray bucket, but he picked pink. Logically.

Also logical, I thought, was explaining that because it was so cold and wet outside, the Easter bunny had decided to hide the eggs and sweets inside. Luckily, nobody questioned the fact that bunnies live outdoors, even when it's cold and wet. They also didn't question how we knew that all of the stashed eggs and candy were restricted to the living room and the hallway.

No Easter is complete without a second round of egg hunting at Grams and Opa's. Gram's took a slightly different approach to explaining why the Easter Bunny had hidden the eggs indoors this year.

'I forgot to hide the eggs and it's too cold and wet to go outside. You guys go in the other room and I'll let you know when you can come out.'

So, yeah. That approach worked as well.

It was about that point that Tommy decided to turn Easter into an adventure.

'I can't breathe.'

He then started wheezing horribly and complaining that it hurt when he breathed in. We took him outside to see if some fresh air would help. It didn't.

Like most of us, I've always secretly wondered what the emergency clinic looks like on Easter, so I guess I can thank Tommy for that lovely experience. In the end, they deemed it to be a bronchial infection combined with a likely allergic reaction to pollen. They prescribed what looked like an asthma inhaler. Tommy took two puffs and then complained.

'That didn't help at all, it still...Oh! It's gone!'

It really took about three seconds and his wheezing was gone and we were back on track for devouring white asparagus topped with sliced ham and parmesan, another Easter tradition.

After an unplanned late lunch, Tommy and David gave me a glimpse of the swingers they are becoming.

As with any adventure, the trek home can be exhausting, and today's Easter Odyssey was certainly no different.

Ladder Talk:  [The boys' nap on the ride home must have tired them out - no Ladder Talk]
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: ZZZZZzzzzz....
David: ZZZZZzzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZZzzzzz....

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: ZZZZZzzzzz....
David: ZZZZZzzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZZzzzzz....

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: ZZZZZzzzzz....
David: ZZZZZzzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZZzzzzz....

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Going for Gold

When Tom was still in kindergarten, scouts from the local gymnastics club swooped in and inspected the new cadets. They looked for kids that had the right height, body mass and, most importantly, the ones that were stubborn and determined.

'Hi, Mrs. Johnson! We'd like to have Tommy for the next 13 years.'

'Yeah, you can forget that. With my work schedule, I'm lucky to get him to kindergarten on time. There's no way I can manage to get him to training twice a week.'

'Sure you can.'

They should have realized that the whole "stubbornly determined" trait they were seeking in Tommy must have come from somewhere. Hmmm, if only we could pinpoint the source.

Okay, flash forward to a year later, when Angie decided to take a year off of work to help Tommy start primary school and Peter to move to his new school.

'Hi, Mrs. Johnson! We'd like to have Tommy for the next 12 years.'

'Okay, fine! I'll chauffeur him to gymnastics for a year.'

Tommy started training with one of his best friends. They met twice a week. After the second training, his friend dropped out and after the third training, Tommy came home crying. He then tried turning to me for sympathy. Silly rabbit, tears are for kids.

'Papa, it hurts everywhere.'

'Sounds like any given Saturday morning. What's the problem?'

'It hurts. Everywhere. I want to quit.'

At that point, I was in a real dilemma. Did I want to take the easy way out and avoid getting up at the crack of dawn for the many tournaments and trainings that would inevitably prevail or did I want to teach my son a lesson in life?

'Tommy, I'll make you a deal. It's October now. You stick to the training until the end of the year and I will ask you again on New Year's Day if you want to quit. If you say 'yes', I will not question it at all. Until then, you just pop the snot bubble and deal with it. Deal?'


For the next weeks, I massaged his sore muscles and worked with Angie to juggle his pick up and drop off for his trainings twice a week. Unlike marriage, the constant complaining gradually decreased and he actually started to look forward to training.

January 1st came and I thought back to Tommy's initial revelation.

'Angie, everything hurts.'

'Sounds like any given year. What's the problem?'

I ignored my wife's complete lack of pity and decided to take my agony out on my third-born.

'So, Tommy - are you ready to quit gymnastics?'

Tom didn't answer. Instead, he cracked up laughing for fifteen minutes. I hadn't seen that much lack of control since Angie had almost peed herself after at my minor faux pas in church.

And that, my readers, is the story about how Tommy became addicted to bending his body in his positions that would make Play-Doh jealous.  

Since then, Tommy switched to training three times a week and, just recently, to training for two and half hours every day. Over the years, he's had his ups and downs. For shits and giggles, let's just start with the downs, which would be basically any tournament that he has been in for the last three years. Now that he's cried on that shoulder, let's ask Proud Tommy what he would look like if he had actually won gold at the Regional Championship. That's right, baby - 1st place!

Ladder Talk:  [No Ladder Talk - Tommy conked out after dinner]
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: zzzzZZZZ....
David: zzzzZZZZ....
Tom: zzzzZZZZ....

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter:  zzzzZZZZ....
David:  zzzzZZZZ....
Tom:  zzzzZZZZ....

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter:  zzzzZZZZ....
David:  zzzzZZZZ....
Tom:  zzzzZZZZ....

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sushi and Broken Bones

There are some typical questions that people ask when they are looking at moving into a new place. Is there a school nearby? Is public transportation easily accessible? How is the parking? Most people overlook the most important question. How close is the nearest emergency room? But more on that fun later.

The real fun started at 4:00 in the A.M. when we woke up to kick Peter out the door and off to his week-long ski trip with his class. I was in the kitchen making a pot of liquid caffeine when I heard a frantic muffle from the bedroom. Mmm..., intriguing.

Instead of asking Angie why she was wearing a diaper on her head, I whipped out my iPhone and started snapping pictures like a seasoned paparazzi. I shit you not, I only got off one shot. When she heard the camera shutter, she released a guttural roar that would have made the Predator blush and started twitching like a flipped beetle.

I finally realized that she had gotten stuck taking off her top. Now, there's no way in hell to make that whole ordeal less funny, but in her defense, she did recently break her right shoulder. I felt bad for the poor T-rex that couldn't lift one of her limbs over her head and of course came to her rescue. There's often no thanks for helping others and this was certainly no different.

Right, so back to kicking Peter out the door. It wasn't hard, actually. He is not normally a morning person, but today he was wearing a disguise that was also, well, not normal.

'I am Pedro, the ski master. Can I have a coffee to go?'

'No to the coffee, but yes, you can go.'

I almost told him to break a leg, but considering our recent luck and the rather clever foreshadowing at the beginning of this blog, I thought I would take Angie's advice for a change and keep my mouth shut.

In the evening, Angie announced to me that she needed some extra time to get ready because Götz and Isabel were coming over for dinner. I questioned the extra time and innocently asked if she needed any help getting 'changed'. She retorted with something that I'm sure she thought was witty but only came across as hostile and either provocative or vulgar. I wasn't exactly sure which, but I wasn't afforded the time to contemplate. Let me just say, for a one-armed woman, she packs a hell-of-a powerful left-push out of the bathroom.

Tonight, Götz and Isabel were coming over to cash in the first of six dinner vouchers that we had given them for Christmas. First on the list was Sushi and Gyoza. Hai! Arigato!

Unlike the Johnson's, they actually showed up on time. I wanted to make sure from the beginning that they didn't think these vouchers for dinner at the Zoo were free rides, so I put Isabel to work straight away. Unlike Angie, she knows her way around the kitchen and was rolling Sushi logs in no time at all. As if to rub it in Angie's face, she didn't even use the kitchen.

Feeling safe that Angie wouldn't set anything on fire (like a salad bowl or a  cast iron pan), I left the lady to her work and went to the kitchen to fry up a few hundred Gyozas.

After stuffing ourselves, Sumo-style, we let the kids run wild until we had room for dessert. As we were waiting for Asian food to wear off, we heard screaming from the boys' room.

Screaming kids generally just annoy the kidless, but those of us with ankle biters can confirm that those shrieks are like fingerprints. Within seconds, you immediately know exactly which kid it was, whether the pain is real, and, more importantly, whether it's one of yours or not. This was real and not one of ours.

Götz raced into the room first and scooped up Paul. I followed and scooped up Angie's kids.

'What did you guys do to Paul?'

Luckily for the Zoo Crew, they had nothing to do with it. Unluckily for Paul, he had been swinging from the rafters of David and Tom's new loft bed and had decided to test the crash landing pad that we unfortunately don't have.

When the noise levels returned to what we like to call normal, it seemed like an ice-pack and some Jell-O might actually work. Surprisingly, all of the kids immediately quieted down and came to the rescue. David whipped out one of his favorite books and started reading to Paul. Marie was in charge of pointing at and sometimes licking the pictures. Lisi was supervising the whole operation and Tommy was in the background making burping noises. Okay, Tommy wasn't really helping, but the gyozas did have a lot of garlic and he has a very short attention span.

Everything seemed to be working out until a tall and self-denying undercover cop decided to launch his own investigation.

'It's broken.'

'Ah, come on. Just give him some more Jell-O. He'll be fine.'

'Nope. It's broken.'

Götz has three kids as well, so I didn't need to give him directions to the emergency clinic. We both have earned permanent parking spots there unless you ask them.

A night with the Johnson's is never boring. I just hope that the next five dinners, if they dare to come back, will be less eventful.
Ladder Talk:  [Peter was on his ski trip and for some reason refused to call me from his room with all his friend and do ladder talk with me]
1) What was the best part of your day?
David: That we had a lot of friends over and we ate sushi.
Tom: That Lisi and her family came and that Elijah spend the night.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
David: That Paul broke his arm.
Tom: That Paul broke his arm and that Peter is gone.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
David: Meet with friends.
Tom: I want to do a challenge for the YouTube channel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

In my defense

In my defense, I drew the last cartoon when Angie and I both thought that her fall on Saturday was nothing more than a bruise. Had I known that she had ripped her tendon off of her broken shoulder, I probably still would have laughed, but I might have toned down the finger pointing and the belly clutching. And I definitely would have waited, like a day, maybe even two, before publishing the cartoon.

On Monday, we knew something was strange when she still couldn't raise her arm higher than her waist - and trust me, we know strange. Angie finally agreed to go to see a doctor, who gave her his highly professional medical opinion.

'Of course it hurts - you fell on it.'

Oh, if only the doctor had ever met Angie before. It didn't take long before the doctor reassessed his initial diagnosis and ordered an X-ray.

'Okay, there is a piece that's broken off and it's the part where your tendon is attached to the shoulder, so I can understand why it is so painful.'

After more than a decade of pure bliss, I can testify that Angie just loves to be right. Even with the immense pain, I'm quite sure that she was grinning like the village Trump as the doctor was busy back-pedaling. All that fun came to a halt, though, when he explained that she would need to have an MRI to see if she would need an operation. Until the MRI, she had to wrap herself like a mummy in an upper body brace.

And that brings us to today. Angie has problems driving with two hands and I value the lives of pedestrians, so I volunteered to drive her to the clinic. After four hours of tests and waiting rooms, we finally got to the see THE DOCTOR. Yes, I'm pretty sure after all the waiting that they only have one.

The doctor whisked in, picked up the chart and plopped down in his chair.

'So, does it still hurt?'


'Of course it hurts - you fell on it.'

I shit you not, I thought Angie was going to try her damnedest to beat the doctor with her left hand. Either the doctor has a sense of humor, which would be odd because he is German, or he saw 'the look' in Angie's eyes. Either way, he chimed in again before Angie could figure out how to unravel herself.

'Just kidding. Let's look at the MRI results.'

In the end, the news was, mmmhh... let's just call it mixed.
  • The tendon did not retract from the shoulder, so no surgery is needed. Yeah!
  • Angie can go back to work tomorrow. I had somehow chalked this up to the negative side, but apparently she's one of those people that actually enjoys working.
  • She cannot drive. For the sake of pedestrians everywhere, I saw this as a positive thing, but Angie has a 'thing' about using public transportation.
  • She gets to continue sporting the arm thong for the next 9 weeks. I think you know both my view and Angie's view on how to tally this one.
  • Starting next week, she starts physical therapy so that in 10 weeks she can start working out again. When the doctor explained this, Angie actually laughed out loud. So yeah, I think it's safer to say that in 10 weeks, Angie could theoretically start working out. Strike 'again' and emphasize 'start'.
When we got home, Angie was still feeling sorry for herself. Simba, our extremely bizarre cat, who  normally would have seized this opportunity to console her by peeing on her head or using her leg as a scratching post, decided for a change to afford Angie the distinct honor of snuggling with him.

Yes, fine - I was jealous. In my defense, though, I was able to control my green streak by reminding myself that this day was all about Angie falling out of a trashcan and not about me.
Ladder Talk: (I'm writing again, so back off on the fact that I forgot to do Ladder Talk tonight!)
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: ZZZZzzzz....
David: ZZZZzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZzzzz....

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: ZZZZzzzz....
David: ZZZZzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZzzzz....

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: ZZZZzzzz....
David: ZZZZzzzz....
Tom: ZZZZzzzz....

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Don't try this at home!

This morning, I asked David to take out the paper trash. He complained that it was so full that he couldn't possibly manage the task. That's when Mama threw on her cape and came to the rescue.

'Look, David, I'll show you a trick.'

She then put her foot in the paper trash and started crushing the papers down with one shoe. This freed up some space, so she began pushing even harder. This worked so well that she thought it would be beyond brilliance to put both feet in and start frantically jumping up and down. On about the third hop, our flimsy plastic container had apparently had enough fun and sent Angie on a 180 degree flip that ended with her shoulder and head getting a free but unwanted closeup of the floor.

I think I showed great restraint by neither bursting into laughter, nor running for my camera. I even helped her up and asked her if we should go to the clinic, despite the general rule that weekend trips to the emergency room are normally reserved for the kids. Angie has a high tolerance for pain, though, and can be more stubborn than our cat. So, instead of pushing the issue, I retreated to the kitchen, made sure she wasn't within earshot, and laughed my ass off.