Tuesday, February 20, 2018

What Do You Do?

“What do you do if a bad guy comes to your school with a gun?”

Welcome to the worst question I’ve ever had to ask Elijah and Luca. A sick and lost kid opened fire in Florida and killed 17 of his classmates and teachers. This, coming out of the deadliest year for mass shootings in America.

Oh, it could never happen in Evanston. We’re too liberal. We’ve got good parents. We’re an anti-gun community. Our kids are smart and healthy and have good support.

And yet, I had to ask.

I knew their school runs “Code Red” drills, which is so sad I can barely keep from barfing. But I wondered if the boys gave the subject any more thought than putting a book on their head during a tornado drill.

“I would run,” Luca said, “We have a door to the outside in our room.” I explained that running wasn’t always the best answer. He should listen to his teacher and do whatever he said. Sometimes hiding is better. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be debating active shooter strategies with my 8 year old.

Luca nodded with eyes that said, “I am going to run.”

Eli said they have a whole plan. Lock the door, hide, get in the closet if you can.

Luca said, “I am going to run.”

Eli looked genuinely hurt. “I’m on the third floor. You would just leave me and run?” And my heart broke again for the umpteenth time.

The night of the shooting, I sat in shock like most of America, unable to turn off the cable news. Eli came in and sat with me. We watched in silence as pundits tried to find blame, as the same clips of children racing on the sidewalk with their hands raised played over and over.

I wondered if this was bad parenting. Shouldn’t I be protecting my little boy from this kind of reality? Should I be building a Disney Star Wars utopia for him to live in? Shielded from the horror of, well, life?

Eli simply said, “This is sad.”

I said, “Yep. Let’s go read books.”

And then we read comics and talked about zits.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Underwear and Pigs

A few weeks ago, Diana went to New York to see a man about her blindness. Long story short, the trip was super successful, and she learned her good eye will most likely stay good for the next ten years or so, as long as she keeps getting injections.

Diana brought along our neighbor Lexa to act as seeing eye friend in case they needed to take her eyes out to wash them or something. It ended up being a mini NYC vacation for the ladies, which was just as good.

That left neighbor Chris and I to kid duty for a few days. It felt like a plot for a bad 90’s movie, but it mostly ended up being a series scheduling mishaps and near abandonment.

Chris had to work late one of the nights, so I took charge of all four kids. Whenever Callie and Lydie come over, I continue my efforts to make up for that time I yelled at everyone when they were six.

We ate pizza and played board games and generally made a mess of the house. An hour or so before bedtime, I suggested we play “Pig.” Pig is a card game taught by my step mom that involves a lot of yelling and the crowing of a loser each round.

In order to keep interest in the activity, I suggested a series of punishments for the loser. This involved a teaspoon of hot sauce, standing in the snow for 5 seconds, and a teaspoon of vinegar. Come to think of it, most of the punishments involved a teaspoon.

The grand punishment, devised by me, was the loser of said round had to spend the rest of the game wearing one article of Diana’s wardrobe. This was gleefully accepted by the kids. After the round, the loser was crowned: Lydie.

The kids erupted and went upstairs to pick out her punishment. I stayed downstairs and cleaned up a few dishes.

It dawned on me that there were articles of clothing that weren’t appropriate for a 10 year old to be forced to wear. I did not want game night to devolved into an underwear party.

I called upstairs, “Hey! No Diana underwear!”

Luca began chanting, “Underwear! Underwear! Underwear!”

I called again, “No underwear!”

A few minutes later, Lydie came down in a perfect choice for her punishment: a tasteful Diana robe (that was technically my robe).

We got back to the game and I realized Luca was still upstairs. I called upstairs, “Luca! Get Diana’s underwear off!”

“Fine,” he said. And we finished the game with me losing a round and having to run through the Grover poop graveyard.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Super Barf

On Super Bowl Sunday, we cleaned the house top to bottom. We drew Eagles and Patriots logos. We bought every kind of Dorito under the sun and stocked our freezer with organic cheese pizzas.

And then Diana and I got the hell out of the house.

In a convenient scheduling snafu, Diana made reservations at a super fancy restaurant for us and her friends who didn’t seem to care about the most important American sporting event of the year.

But that didn’t stop Luca from having a huge rager with every kid under ten in Evanston. We left the insanity to our unflappable sitter, Schuyler, who has the superpower of extreme calmness. We bid her good luck and walked out the front door with Doritos crunching under our nicest shoes. 

We arrived hours and hours later, our livers taking a beating from the friendly fancy restaurant sommelier, wanting nothing more than to sleep. When we entered the house, we were greeted by a giant pile of bedding.

Elijah popped up from our couch and said, “I barfed.”

Based on the smell of the sheets, the diagnosis was too many Doritos. A million too many Doritos. Eli’s vomit had soaked every inch of his bed, so we allowed him to sleep in our bed so long as he promised there weren’t any other Doritos hiding in the corner of his stomach.

I slept in the guest room because I need to have my foot off the bed at all times. Also, I don’t want to be barfed on.

I woke up hours later to Luca at the side of my bed.

“I barfed.”

“That’s a bummer,” I said and promptly went back to sleep. Luca found a more receptive audience in Diana, who stripped Dorito barf bed #2 and made another pile of bedding at the bottom of our stairs. The next day, She marveled at just how many Doritos one 8 year old could hold inside himself.

Feeling guilty for not helping, I woke up early and did the laundry. Which involved having to scrape several pounds of partially digested Doritos from the folds of the boys’ sheets. I’m not sure if you’ve ever experienced the odor of partially digested Doritos, but I firmly believe it’s what Satan’s jockstrap smells like.

The boys did a nice job of trying to convince us they had the flu the next morning, but I forced the Dorito monsters to go to school.

One quick story about the game. According to Schuyler, all the kids had abandoned the game in the 4th quarter except Luca and our friend Kitty’s daughter Gigi. They were both enthralled by Patriot comeback.

As the clock ticked down, Luca turned to Gigi and said, “If the Eagles win, I am going to hug you.” And when the game ended, Luca made good on his promise.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Women’s March

In preparation for the Women’s March, Diana joyfully sat at our dining room table making posters. One read, “Hey America. Who wants to lose 239 lbs?” I later learned she “borrowed” line from the internet, but it was still great.

Meanwhile, Luca and Elijah sat on our couch with expressions of children who were being forced to go to a Women’s March.

I sat down with them and said, “Sometimes you have to do stuff you don’t want to do to make the world better.” That, plus a promise of McDonald’s got their spirits up.

We grabbed our pals Patrick, Leah, their amazing kid JB, and drove downtown to the route.

Unfortunately, we made the miscalculation of not bringing any money or water, plus Luca had to urgently pee.

I took him on a little walk and discovered there are no good places to find a pee pee corner. We decided it just didn’t feel right to whip out your wang in a place with half a million women fighting for their rights. So, he held it.

The march itself was great and wonderful and I hope meaningful for the boys. They got to see peaceful protest, strong women, and our friend Leah completely lose her mind on a weird religious counter protester. It was worth the price of admission to see her scare this dude so much a Chicago police officer had to give her a warning.

We didn’t stay for the post march speeches, because Diana had to work and Luca really needed a pee pee corner. Plus, I felt like I deserved a vanilla shake for my efforts.

As we walked out of McDonald’s a giant white SUV pulled up. Whatever kind is four times larger than an Escalade. The windows rolled down and the teen boys inside began shouting, “Trump! Trump! Four more years!”

The teens were exactly what you’d expect: White. Blonde. Tall. Handsome. A-Holes. They shouted at a group of women, “Hey. Go make me a sandwich!”

I prayed a little prayer that my sons would never turn out like them. I then looked down at Luca, who carried a little sign that said, “Make America Kind Again” and breathed a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


The place we visited in Mexico was this little beachside town Diana suggests we move to every time I have a bad meeting at work. It has everything I need: No movie theatre, no wifi, no Xbox, no comic book stores.

Every morning we would walk down the hill from our rental house and say hi to Bubby, this little mutt who didn’t seem to realize his name was Bubby. We’d then cruise past the dapper Mexican folks and dusty hippies and end up on the beach.

Diana would park on a blanket and entertain the parade of beach salesmen and women with her chipper “No gracias.” The boys and I would head to the water where I would slowly, every so slowly enter the cold water, which feels like needles on my pampered skin. The boys would already be engaged in their favorite game of getting pummeled by waves while was only up to my shins.

Eventually I would reach the boys and we’d watch the surfers while I sucked in my gut. We’d pick out the ones we thought were cutest and then scream, “Wipe out!” when they fell. They hated us.

On the last day, Luca asked if he could rent a boogie board and go surfing. We got one from a stoned surf shop owner who didn’t seem to care if or when we ever brought it back.

Once in the water, Luca got this was a serious, smooshed face mixed with utter joy. He would stand with the board and wait until a wave crashed over him, at which point he would jump on the board and get immediately thrown off.

He did this roughly 34 thousand times.

Since I’ve seen “Point Break” 14 times, I felt like I could instruct Luca how to boogie board. But I decided the best way to teach him was to think the lecture in my head, and then not say anything.

It went like this, in my head I would say, “Okay Luca. Now listen. You want to wait until just the right moment. Not when the wave is too high, but also not when its’ too low. Then wait until the perfectly right moment to jump on. No, you’re doing it wrong. No, wait. Not like that. Come on. You aren’t listening.”

But then out of my mouth I would say, “Yay Luca!”

Suddenly, every star aligned in the universe and Luca caught a wave, riding it all the way to the shore. He screamed and laughed the whole way in. I shrieked with dad-joy. It was the greatest moment in either one of our lives.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Thank you, HamannEggs readers, for the outpouring of support for Diana’s eyeballs. She was genuinely touched by your kind words and offers to help. She is flying to New York next week to meet with a PXE expert and then to the Mayo Clinic in March to meet with other smart people. She has a fantastic outlook on her situation and almost never makes me fetch her snacks because “I’m blind.”

Now back to your regularly scheduled documentation of my failures as a parent.

After the diagnosis, we decided it was extra important for Diana’s one good eye to see some beaches, so we took the kids out of school and flew down to Mexico.

In the days leading up to our flight, Elijah was complaining he wasn’t feeling well. Like all terrible parents, we said he was a big fat faker and if he was so sick, maybe he shouldn’t watch screens.

The morning we left, our cab was set to pick us up at 5am. At 4:30am, I busied myself yelling at everyone to get their clothes on and give me your bags because what if we offended the cab driver by being 5 minutes late?

Luca, my anxiety clone, raced around checking and rechecking his bags. I popped my head into Eli’s room and Diana holding his head and looking at a thermometer.

“One oh one,” She said.

“Is that the thermometer we used to check Grover’s temp rectally?”

Eli tried to be a trooper. He put his t-shirt on grasping his bunkbed for support. I asked him if he thought he was okay enough to travel.

“I don’t think so,” he said through scratchy voice.

What to do? This trip was important. Defeatist things like “Maybe the last time she’ll see a beach” went over and over through my head. Then again, taking a sick kid on an airplane felt like a recipe for disaster. It also felt like the beginning of the movie “Outbreak.” I imagined that map of the world going red and Dustin Hoffman saying, “If only they had kept that child home!” through a bio hazard mask.

But whatevs, the beach is fun so we made him go.

Eli rallied and has enjoyed his time here in Mexico. He frolicked in the surf and ate 14 hamburgers and watched countless hours of Youtube on the AirBnB Wifi. His condition only seems to flare up when Diana and I want to eat at restaurants without hamburgers.

Plus, Diana got to see some beaches.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018



In my weepy New Year’s Eve post to Diana, I casually mentioned some vague eyeball woes. There was an immediate outpouring of concern from my (2) loyal readers, wondering just what these woes were. Did she see something horrible, like “Justice League?” Or something kind of disappointing like “The Last Jedi?” Unfortunately, the situation is worse than too much CGI.

When we first started dating 15 years ago, Diana told me she had a disorder called Pseudoxanthoma Elasticum (PXE). I totally ignored it and went back to trying to convince her to marry me, move to Evanston, have two kids, one dog and purchase an ugly Hybrid car.

For those of you reading this on parchment and not near an internet search engine, the National Library of Medicine says “Pseudoxanthoma Elasticum (PXE) is a progressive disorder that is characterized by the accumulation of deposits of calcium and other minerals (mineralization) in elastic fibers. Elastic fibers are a component of connective tissue, which provides strength and flexibility to structures throughout the body.”

For the last decade and a half, PXE caused a few little bumps on Diana’s skin. Diana barely noticed and paid it no mind. Just little bumps. No big deal. This evidently angered PXE, because it decided to escalate to the nuclear option: Diana’s eyes.

PXE attacks the eyes in two ways. First, it causes angiod streaks, which are too complicated for my advertising brain to understand. The results are bleeding and scaring, which leads to blindness. Yes, I wrote the B-word. The only way to treat this is to get repeated injections directly into your eyeballs. Let that sink in a little bit. To keep from going blind, Diana has to get a needle poked directly into her eye. Often. It’s as painful and uncomfortable as you think it is. It totally knocks Diana out for days and leaves big red bloody splotches in her eye.

If you thought that was bad, let me introduce you to atrophy of the eye. PXE can atrophy the retina (or the goop around the retina) and this also causes blindness. Blindness that can’t be prevented by painful shots in the eyeball. This is the bad one. Can’t be stopped. Can’t be slowed down. It’s The Terminator of PXE.

Unfortunately, it’s what got Diana’s left eye. Diana has permanent loss of her central vision in her left eye. The best way I explain it is make a fist in front of your eye. That’s what Diana sees. Nothing in the center, but kinda clear around the outside.

Now, punch that fist into your face and you’ll feel what Diana feels emotionally when the eye doctors say it might happen in her other eye as well.

Diana is taking it far better than any human should. She took one day to cry and drink wine. Now she is fighting back by darkening every PXE experts’ doorstep on planet earth. As of this writing, she is booking a trip to New York to see about some clinical trials.

The boys have taken the news well. It’s hard to understand partial blindness in your mom. I did use it to yell at them a few times when they were being jerks over break. Pulling the “your mom is going blind” card when trying to get them to put on their PJs is dirty, but I am more than willing to do it.

I’ll let you all know how things go. Send any spare good vibes Diana’s way when you get a moment