Monday, September 18, 2017

Bad Sick


For our anniversary, I was a big boy and made reservations for Diana and me and fetched a babysitter and actually made real plans. This is a fairly monumental deal for a man who hasn’t ordered his own wine in 13 years. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and looking forward to a rare night out with the missus.

Then Luca got sick.

He had some vague complaints about a stomachache and was a little grouchier than usual. But Luca has this habit of fabricating stomach issues when he’s bored or nervous or hungry or has a raging case of the flu.

On Saturday, Luca complained about a stomachache on the way to our weekly kid dinner at the Firehouse. I was dubious since he had just spent the last 3 hours racing around with his cousins, on top of earlier running around and eating cotton candy at the school Fall Fest. I said just suck it up and eat chicken fingers like a man.

I looked in the rearview mirror and he was slumped over in the back seat. Rather than respond like a human being by being concerned and caring, I lost my temper and said I didn’t believe him.

I grouchily drove home and said if he was sooooo sick, he had to go to bed immediately. I also made him some cruddy, tepid soup and scowled while he poked around the bowl. I called the restaurant and the babysitter and canceled our plans and stomped around like a big baby.

I looked over at Luca, who had begun to cry.

A little voice inside me tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey Rick,” it said. “You’re acting like a total a-hole to your little son. Do you want Luca’s lasting memory of you to be that time when you didn’t believe when he had the flu? Do you want him to recount the famous story of ‘The Unbelieving Flu Dad’ at his wedding and your eventual funeral?”

I raced across the kitchen and held Luca as he wailed. I apologized over and over for being a bad dad.

I then took him to his room and laid beside him for the next 12 hours, while he thrashed and cried and moaned and occasionally threw up. Diana came in from time to time and offered to take over, but I was determined to prove to Luca I believed in his flu so much that I wanted to bathe in his flu germs and get zero hours of sleep.

It was pretty awful. But I took every sweaty, shrieking moment as retribution for my jerky dadness.

The next morning, Luca was exhausted and sick and moan-y and I said, “Hey Luca. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you last night about being sick. Sometimes I make mistakes. I try to be a good dad, but I screw up every once and a while. I’ll try to be a better dad. And I’ll stay with you all day to make you feel better. Is that ok? Do you forgive me?”

Luca said, “I want my mommy.”


Friday, September 15, 2017

Soccer?



One of the great mistakes I’ve made in the Fathering Arts is assuming my sons are just miniature versions of me. I made ½ of them, so of course they will only like Star Wars and video games and engage in a lifelong struggle with hair that sticks up in the back. Why would they be independent and unique kids when I can simply think of them as tiny Ricks?

Imagine my surprise when Luca wanted to play soccer this year. What? No. Hamanns don’t play soccer. One of my defining jokes around the office is, “Hamanns have yet to meet a ball they couldn’t drop.” We don’t play sports. We’re brainy. We’re funny. We’re nerds. Sports. Sports are for doofuses.

In the weeks leading up to the first practice and game, I could see the appeal. There were cool, European style uniforms to wear. There were cool, brightly colored cleats to clomp around in. Luca went so far as to learn how to tie his shoes on his own to capitalize on the new shoes. There were also cool weird socks and shin guards. But no jockstraps. Yet.

When it finally came to the first practice and first game, we ran into the Luca nerves. Luca hates not knowing what to do. He needs to know every single detail and get it straight in his head before he can participate in anything, including board games, school, eating and especially sports.

It didn’t help that, through some weird soccer birthday math, Luca was on a team with a bunch of kids who were two years older. These 9 year olds had been playing for years and walked around with that easy gait of David Beckham.

Diana tried to explain Luca’s situation to his coach. “Hey. Luca has never done this. So he needs a little extra help.”

The coach, not looking up from his phone, simply told Luca, “Get on out there.”

On the day of his first game, Luca was not happy. What was he supposed to do? Where does he go? What’s defense? What’s off sides? Do you dump Gatorade on the coach’s head before or after the game?

By the time we got to the field, Luca was in full anxiety mode. It didn’t help that the opposing team was filled with glandular giants they bussed in from the nearby penitentiary.

Diana again approached the coach. “Hey Coach, I think you gotta, you know, coach Luca.”

The coach said, “Get on out there.”

Luca burst into tears and Diana wanted to strangle the coach with his lanyard. The coach finally understood his job and knelt down to explain to Luca what he needed to do. Exactly. Which was basically, “Get on out there and kick the ball.”

And that is what he did. Luca ran harder than anyone on the field. It didn’t help that he was half the size of everyone. But it was amazing to see him race around, flopping on the ground and bouncing off the giants. He had this wonderful look on his face. Determined joy.

Diana and I screamed our support. “Go Silver Lightening! Go Silver Lightening!”

One of the nearby moms said, “Um. The team name is Silver Fire.”

“Go Silver Fire!”

Luca’s team got crushed. Even though you don’t keep score in AYSO, it was 13-0. But Luca didn’t care. He had fun and was so exhausted when he got home he was an absolute nightmare the rest of the evening.

I am proud of my little jock.

Monday, September 4, 2017

God’s Bladder


Like every family, we look towards the end of summer with a fond sense of, “Waaaaait! We have stuff we wanted to dooooooo!” One of which was suckle off the teat of all our friends with lakeside cabins.

One such cabin belonging to friends at the end of the block featured, among other things, a pontoon boat, a speed boat, kayaks, and hundreds of beers that magically appeared in coolers everywhere.

Eli proclaimed it the best vacation of his life. I reminded him that we just paid for he and Luca to visit castles in France. He looked at me with an expression that said, “Did I stutter?”

I had to agree it was pretty great.

At the far end of the lake sat a gigantic Christian summer camp. Families gather throughout the summer to connect with each other and God. I was not about to make fun of them using my Ned Flanders voice because the camp also lets heathens play on their incredible collection of floating structures, seemingly designed by God himself. There were inflatable towers, inflatable rafts, inflatable trampolines, and other odds and ends. It was amazing.

But the centerpiece was this massive floating bladder. Next to the bladder was this huge wooden ladder tower. The purpose of which was to leap from the top and onto the bladder. And then the next Christian leaps onto the bladder, shooting you high into the sky and I think into God’s arms.

Eli and Luca were overcome with that combination of really wanting to jump on the thing and utter terror. I appealed to their manhood. “Come on you big babies. Jump on it. Sheesh. What a bunch of babies. Babies.”

Luca and Eli, who are definitely NOT babies, eventually climbed the ladder and leapt onto the bladder. I shouted my congratulations and proclaimed them not babies.

“Dad, now you jump on!”

Come again? Oh no. That was a kid activity. Dads just stand nearby peeing in the lake. Dads don’t climb wet, slimy wooden ladders.

After a cavalcade of “Please????” I found myself standing on top of the wooden God structure. Luca was waiting on the God bladder below (Eli had bailed, tired of my wishywashing). I suddenly remembered I was deathly afraid of heights.  

But I sensed this was a defining moment in my dadness. I needed to prove that I was no baby too. We Hamanss may be slightly nervous neurotics who hate change and aren’t great at sports, but we are not babies.

So I reminded God that technically I am a Christian and I do go to church sometimes and I leapt. I landed awkwardly on the bladder and I twisted my ankle, but I sent Luca soaring into the sky and into the lake with the splash.

 The expression of pure joy on his face reminded me that maybe the Christians might be on to something.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Coaster



Santa bought the boys season passes to a local amusement park for Christmas. Because Santa discovered local amusement parks are desperate for money in winter. Santa thought Elijah and Luca would go once, maybe twice, over the summer and pretty much break even.

Santa didn’t anticipate Steve.

My brother has taken it upon himself to break the record for most bologna sandwiches eaten in an amusement park parking lot over the course of a summer. The boys are well into double digits on visits.

But when your roller coaster anxiety is high, combined with an aversion to baby rides, that kind of limits the amount of stuff to do. The kids found themselves riding the same 4 things over and over, and that introduced the dreaded word “bored” to their weekly trip.

As a result, the kids began dipping their toes into roller coasters. They’d ride the kiddie coasters, which are only slightly scary due to the fact they were built in the 80’s and are more rust than coaster.

I am a wooden coaster man, myself. Mostly because of “Smokey and the Bandit II.” So, I’ve been pushing the boys to ride the big old ancient wooden coaster in the back of the park. I have fond memories of holding hands with Kristina Liu in 7th grade on that old rickety, creaking pile of wood and screws. Every time we walked by the entrance, I would say, “Huh? Huh? Anyone want relive 7th grade?”

I was always met with a firm “Nope.”

Last time we were at the park, we walked past the ride entrance and saw the wait time was a glorious 15 minutes. Mostly because no one cares about big old wooden coasters anymore. When I was met with the kids’ usual refusal, I kind of lost my temper.

“Come on, you babies. This is the least scary ‘coaster in the world. You have to face your fears. You know what? I am going on this coaster. If you don’t want to go, you can wait here at the exit. Just don’t talk to any kidnappers.”

Eli, who had already ridden several other scary rides on a previous visit with the neighbor girls, was on board. Luca was terrified. But he was more terrified of kidnappers, so he clutched my hand and we walked the ¼ mile to the ride entrance.

By the time we made it through the turnstile, Luca was in near hysterics. I stooped down and told him we didn’t have to go. I was kidding about the kidnappers. We could go back to the kiddie coasters.

Luca cried even harder. “I…want…to…face…my…fears.”

Once the attendant locked us into the ride, Luca knew there was no turning back. Tears streamed down his face and he silently sobbed. He crawled into himself and I realized I had made a huge mistake.

As we climbed the first impossibly long hill, Luca found his voice and began screaming in terror. Oh man. I  made a huge mistake. I thought I broke him. I held his hand, which was clammy and wet, not like Kristina Liu’s, and assured him everything was ok.

Once we hit the first drop, Luca’s screams of horror could be heard all over the park. Tears filled my eyes as I realized I would always look back at this moment as the time I turned my son into a vegetable. I imagined trying to explain what happened to my son at future family gatherings.

We immediately hit a second drop and Luca screamed, “You didn’t tell me there were two drops!” Oh yeah, this was bad. Years from now, people will ask me, “When did Luca stop speaking?”

Once we hit the tight turns, Luca’s screams changed. He began screaming, “This is the greatest day of my life!”

Luca had come out the other side of his horror. He loved the ride and begged us to ride it again. Which we did three more times.

Now all Luca can talk about is his love of the big ‘coasters.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vive La Illustration



“Okay, okay. I get it. Paris is beautiful. Do they have to keep rubbing our noses in it?” These are the thoughts of an exhausted dad at the end of an impossibly beautiful vacation. We’d been up and down the Sein, raced by priceless works of art to squint at the Mona Lisa, shushed each other at Notre Dame and ate frog’s legs enveloped in second hand smoke from real Parisians.

When Diana suggested we check out a new Paris neighborhood, I balked. Ehh…Is it just going to be another charming street lined with picturesque houses and restaurants? Can’t we just lie in bed and watch that movie about the dog dying over and over Luca downloaded from Itunes?

Diana sealed the deal by saying this neighborhood, Montmarte, featured street artists who would do your portrait for a small fee. Vanity overruled my exhaustion. We cabbed up the big hill and, sure enough, found ourselves immediately accosted by (mostly) men with chalk and rolls of paper.

After some shrewd negotiation where we agreed to the first price the artist suggested, Diana and I, and Luca and Elijah paired off for our sittings. Our artist was just perfect. Rumpled shirt, floppy hat, cigarette stained fingers. Eli and Luca’s looked more like an investment banker on the run from the law, which had its own charm.

I was pleasantly surprised at how serious they were. The artist and the boys. Eli and Luca stood perfectly still, so as not to ruin the artist’s concentration. The boys wanted to present the best possible subject. I was more in the mugging for camera camp. I’m not terribly photogenic, so I didn’t have high hopes for our illustrator.

When our artist was done, he presented a drawing that was definitely of two people. While not exactly Diana and Rick, he had done a marvelous depiction of Obi Wan Kenobi and Twiggy. Later that evening, Diana “accidentally” lost our drawing at a cafĂ©.

Eli and Luca were presented a perfect illustration of two 1970s girls. Much to my utter delight. The boys weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but decided to be flattered and happy. Luca held on to the drawing for the rest of the trip and it now resides in our dining room.

And hopefully it will remain in the family for generations.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Vive La Pee


When we arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport, we realized we had too many people for one rental car with Di’s Dad and his new wife. For a brief moment, we contemplated driving a massive tour bus the rental agency had no problem offering up. Despite Elijah and Luca’s fierce begging, I wasn’t confident in the strange European stick shift. I think it involved the metric system and ravens.

We decided to rent these two little sporty French cars. They weren’t Renault, but they were some kind of brand the makers knew would never make it in the United States. Mostly because the drink holders wouldn’t accept a 14 liter Big Gulp. They were so French they smoked and drank coffee and kind of hated me.

But I simply adored buzzing around the French countryside. The roads near our little farmhouse were built for a single horse, or maybe a single girl on a bicycle carrying a baguette, so they made driving a thrill and a terror.

Paris roads, on the other hand, were designed to welcome invading armies. Huge, sprawling, impossible to navigate. Our little GPS voice (British accent, not Pepe Le Pew) would simply inform us we blew right past our round about over and over. But since it was the most beautiful city in the world, I was enjoying the heck out being lost.

Eli and Luca, on the other hand, needed very much to pee.

As we concentrically circled our hotel, Eli became more and more agitated. “I have to pee. Now!” But there was nothing we could do. Downtown Paris is absent of McDonald’s you could justify peeing in because that’s why they make McDonald’s.

Finally, Diana just suggested Eli go in one of our water bottles. I’m fairly sure this was what he was angling at the whole time. Because there is nothing more freeing than whizzing in a foreign country in a foreign water bottle.

The European bottle opening was elegant, but not conducive to effective waste management. So while I was trying to locate the impossibly narrow alley where our hotel was located, Eli literally peed over every inch of our cool little French car’s backseat.

I shouted, “Not on the wine!” and Luca’s screams are still echoing off the walls of Notre Dame.

However, this pee incident pales in comparison to my own brush with bladder issues a mere 24 hours later. But because I am the writer and editor of this blog, you will never know my embarrassment.




Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vive La Bee



We rented this impossibly French little farmhouse when we were in the Loire Valley. Next door to the hilariously small beds and showers with impossible controls, there was a little enclosure with two goats, a handful of chickens, and a donkey who would love nothing better than to eat you. When we were checking in, the owner of the house pantomimed losing a finger when referring to the animal. The boys loved it and took every opportunity to pet “Mr. Donk.”

Because of the barn, our farmhouse was also home to 400,000,000 flies. They were everywhere. In our baguettes, our Chenin Blank, our frogs’ legs, and our berets. We didn’t care because we were in friggin’ France and it was beautiful.  So we learned to live with our insect friends.

Except for the bee.

On the second to last night we were there, the families had all gathered at the outdoor big wooden table to eat cheese and drink whatever treasure Diana had found on her daily wine exploration. As is custom, right hand was for wine glasses, left hand was for fly shooing. Luca, who had recently become addicted to stinky cheese, came running up for another fist full of funk.

He grabbed onto my chair and very matter of factly said, “Oh. I just got stung by a bee.”

And for nearly half a second, everything seemed fine. After that half a second, the pain started. His eyes became huge saucers of agony and he grabbed his finger in a death grip. The sound that came out of him was pure horror.

I scooped him up and ran into the house so as not to disturb everyone else with Luca’s screaming. But the farmhouse was seemingly built to amplify children’s wails and I turned and ran out into the field with him.

My heart broke as Luca hyperventilated and screamed, “JE-SUS! JE-SUS! I can’t live! I can’t live! JE-SUS!”

I wondered for a moment if we would be spending the evening searching for a hospital among the tiny little towns called “Blou” and Blu,” but Luca didn’t seem to have any allergic reaction a la “My Girl.”

We treated his wound like we do every Hamann injury: unlimited screen time. My French brother in law also assured Luca that the bee was murdered for his offense. By beheading.

Luca was fine and now carried a healthy, and I’m sure lifelong fear of bees. But not donkeys.