Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Tooth Fairy Game

Luca lost his first tooth! There is nothing that can drag you out of thinking the world is going to hell in a hand basket like a six year old showing you a tiny, off white little tusk and telling you the tale.

"I thought I threw up some pretzel with no goopy part so I decided to just eat it but when I bit into the pretzel it was hard. It was my tooth!"

And then we began the game. Luca knows there is no Tooth Fairy. We know he knows there is no Tooth Fairy. But if you want to receive, you have to believe. And when Luca wants to convince us he believes in something to get money, he adopts a little baby voice.

“Can I wite a wedder to da Toof Fairy to see if she’ll wet me haf my toof?”

I swallowed a tiny bit of irritation and said of course. Luca also suggested that since this was his first lost tooth, he should get $10. Before I could stop myself, I loudly informed everyone that we got twenty five cents for teeth when I was a kid. My old man dadness hung in the air like humidity.

Eli laid it on thick, telling Luca that he had to go to bed early so the tooth fairy wouldn’t pass our house by. He then theatrically winked at me to let me know that he knew I knew he knew and Luca knew.

We sent Luca to take a bath and then went about the process of trying to find paper money in 2016. Miraculously, I found a crumpled $10 bill in my backpack. Luca called from the other room, “Did you say you had five dollars or ten dollars?”

The next morning, I was taking a shower and Luca burst in. He held a tiny little white piece of paper that was folded into tiny little envelope. Inside was a $10 bill and a little note written in tiny letters that looked a lot like my handwriting.

“What does it say, da-da?” Luca said in his little baby voice.

Dear Luca,

Magic is real.


The Tooth Fairy

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pokemon Adventures

I know I’ve mentioned Pokemon Go in the past. But I think it deserves another go. Above all else, this blog is meant to be a little time capsule of Elijah and Luca’s lives. And I want them to truly understand just how important this little mobile game is to our lives in 2016.

Our house currently runs on a Pokemon Go based economy. Do your piano practice? Play Pokemon Go. Leave a wet towel on your bedroom floor? I taketh Pokemon Go away. I cannot believe I am writing these words, but the boys don’t even really play Xbox in favor of the game. I don’t even know who they are anymore.

I’ve stopped feeling conflicted about it. Yes, it involves a screen. But the boys have had more fresh air this summer than their entire lives up to this point. We’ve discovered more of our hometown on foot or on bikes than the original white, middle class explorers of Evanston in 1830.

And we’ve had close to honest to goodness adventures on our hunts.

A few Sundays ago, Luca and I trekked out on our bikes to find some Dickerdos or Flubbywubs. He had heard rumor that Pokemon spawned like rabbits over by his grade school. 

Despite having 3 different apps on my phone that tell me the weather, it began to pour rain ten minutes into our ride. This was the first time Luca had ever gotten caught in the rain and it was glorious.  I buried my guilt at having this moment happen almost 6 full years into his life and concentrated on the joy in his eyes as he realized there was simply nothing we could do but get soaked on the street. He also learned that one’s underpants are the best place to put your phone during a downpour.

The other night, we were walking a giant loop in our neighborhood and were flush with excitement over catching that one Pokemon with a big tongue and we came across a bunch of pre-teens doing pre-teen stuff (succumbing to the horrors of hormones).

Luca was highly intimidated by the big kids. As was I. I encouraged him to talk Pokemon with them. “Tell them about the Flobbyjoe you caught.” Luca inched towards them and in a small voice mentioned his get. The boys reacted like real middle schoolers and not like movie middle schoolers. They simply said, “Oh. Cool.” And then ignored us. But we both felt the victory.

As we strolled home, one of the boys warned us that there were scary murder clowns in the area. We did not want to catch them.

Monday, October 3, 2016


A couple weeks ago, we rented a little cabin in Wisconsin near one of those towns that have equal amounts art galleries and dingy taverns. The place itself was lovely. Elijah and Luca got to see what life would be like if they discovered they were gay and fell into a lot of disposable income. Luca was particularly interested in their collection of antique top hats. I’m not sure if he was feeling any sexual preference or if he simply liked ridiculous things.

On our first night, we drove down their winding driveway past the cabin’s farm neighbors and we found ourselves surrounded by 20 or so cows, curious about who would pay the outrageous rent Air BNB was suggesting. Luca became obsessed with the animals and their sad lowing. It’s all he would talk about at dinner and throughout the next day.

It was refreshing to see a child who seemed to only exist to catch digital Pokemon actually take an interest in flesh and blood animals. Especially animals who provide us flesh and blood as food.

We asked the landlords if it was ok if we petted the cows. They gave us just enough permission not to be liable for damages if a bovine stepped on our throats. Satified, we strolled down the lane and leaned over the white picket fence overlooking a beautiful meadow.

Luca and Eli began shouting at the cows, aggressively. I explained that no cow would want to come visit two screaming children. Suddenly, we were surrounded by cows that were curious about two screaming children.

The first thing I noticed is cows are dis… They were covered in flies and boils and warts. Luca loved this and desperately wanted to pet them. The cows ducked from his hands because they think humans are dis…gust…ing.

But after a few minutes, they warmed up to us. They particularly liked it when Diana spoke to them like they were puppies. I channeled my farm bred youth and remembered cows like to lick humans. So I gave up my forearm for some sandpaper cow tongue. Luca immediately gave them names, against all rules of animal husbandry. The names included Brownie, Black and Whitey, Crazy Pants and Pikachu. The names also seemed to change from one minute to the next, which I’m sure confused them and will make for difficult trips to the DMV.

Eli, who was not interested in touching, smelling, or looking at cows, asked to go home. So Diana obliged, leaving Luca and I to hang for a few minutes more with the animals.

Suddenly, the cows put on a glorious show for us. Their bowels and bladders opened up and rained down some of the most horrifying things I have ever witnessed.

Luca was in near hysterics. “THEY! ARE! POOPING!”

Later at dinner, Luca described in great detail how a cow’s body works. I explained that this was pretty much how his body works, but in the end we agreed to disagree.

Friday, September 23, 2016

French Horn

There should never be an open book policy in parenting. You need to cultivate your brand carefully with your children so they will view you as a strong, virile man who can play all sports well and knows Karate and is very possibly a spy when he leaves for work every day.

So I have taken great pains to hide my marching band past from Elijah and Luca. I was the poster child for “band nerd” from age 10-18. Undersized, acne prone, lugging around a silver mouthpiece in his mom’s velvet Chivas Regal bag. In our basement, I’ve buried a pile of Normal Illinois “Pantagraph” newspaper clippings featuring my feathered blonde hair under a  marching band helmet. I prefer my sons believe I played bass guitar for “Pavement” in the 1990’s.

Imagine my surprise when Eli suddenly and passionately took an interest in band at school. I arrived home late from a recent New York trip and was ambushed by Eli and Luca, literally screaming my name (Dad) from upstairs. I figured they had a new Lego set to show me or wanted me to marvel at the massive amount of mold our tile guy found in our bathroom.

When I climbed the steps, I was greeted by a wary looking Diana. “They’re really excited to see you,” she said with the enthusiasm of a mom whose son just discovered the French Horn. In fact, her son had just discovered the French Horn.

“Look! Look! Dad! I got a French Horn! Just like the one you used to play!”

First off, I did NOT play the French Horn. French Horns are for pale, skinny men who wear all black and are usually named Marcel. I played Baritone Horn. The beautiful love child of the Tuba and Trombone. Second, how in the world did he know I played in band? Yes, I do give off a certain “hiding a secret about band camp” vibe. But I was shocked he knew.

As Eli farted out a few notes and I instantly felt so, so sorry for my parents when I was growing up, Luca began to describe the instrument he wanted. “It’s long and gold and has those buttons and sounds like this…fert fert fert.”

“A trumpet?” I asked.


We decided then and there to start a little jazz trio and Diana started looking at Michigan cabin real estate listings.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Actor

Elijah is a fantastic actor. The hysterics he falls into if Luca so much as brushes against him would make Brando quit the biz forever. And you have never seen a more convincing Monday morning illness in your life. That kid does the best "kind-of-flu, kind-of-cold, but maybe allergies, can I watch TV all morning-itis" ever

So Diana has been after him to get into acting. Diana, as we all know, famously starred as “Elbow” in the 1993 movie “Rudy.” She also starred in the cheese commercial where the office worker eats cheese after work clearly laid out for tomorrow’s big business meeting. 

She enrolled him in an after school acting club put on by the local theatre. He was game because he no other choice. But also because the alternative was sports. He seemed to like it. 

As it turns out, the club is also a feeder system for their plays and everyone is encouraged to try out. Diana was totally jazzed about it. Eli was neutral. I was neutral to negative. So it was off to the audition we went.

As we climbed the steps to the church that served as their audition space, I decided to cast myself in the role of “Super Enthusiastic Dad.” I told Eli it was going to be great and win, lose or draw this was going to be fun and cool and if they were making their decision based on handsomeness he would be a shoo-in.

They immediately scooped Eli up for auditions and I was left to sit on a lumpy, fetid couch. I cast myself as “Slightly Less Enthusiastic Dad.” There was an air of desperation among the budding stage moms/dads I found kind of gross. I also remembered feeling awful for every kid I ever auditioned in my old advertising days. There were also a couple teens running lines nearby in exaggerated, horrible British accents that I wanted to slap.

Our neighbor Chris plopped down next to me to wait for his daughters. He was clearly cast as “Unenthusiastic Dad.”

“I remember when I was a kid, we used to just play. We would leave in the morning and then if we didn’t come home by dinner our parents would become mildly concerned. We didn’t have any of these clubs or plays or whatever these things are.”

“Well,” I said, “We live in Evanston. If we don’t put our kids in clubs and plays they make us go live in Rogers Park.”

Eli emerged from the audition and I resumed my role as “Super Enthusiastic Dad.” I told him I was proud of him and I loved him. He seemed enthusiastic as well, and for the first time in his life seemed as though he might be into something. Not in a detached, ironic for a 9 year old way. Maybe acting would be his thing. Maybe he would follow in his mother’s footsteps and do cheese commercials and be an elbow in a movie and get hit on by Jon Favreau.

Of course he didn’t get the part.

It didn’t crush him or anything, but I could tell he was bummed and I felt strangely like a failure as a father. But he got over it and went back to his true passion: watching Youtube videos.

Yesterday, Diana told him she heard from the theatre that no 9 year olds ever get into those plays and if you keep doing the club, you have a much better chance of getting in next time.


“Great. We’ll sign you up again.”

“No. I meant, ‘okay that makes sense,’ not, ‘okay I am going to do acting club ever again.’”