Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Lost Bike


My mother used to have a “Saturday Box.” If she found a toy or article of clothing or sandwich on the ground, she would pop it into a little cardboard box, which we could not access until Saturday morning.

It was meant to teach us how to clean up after ourselves. All it really taught us was how to wait until Mom had her nightly bottle of wine and go raid the Saturday Box after she went night night.

We do not have a Saturday coffer at our house. And as such, our floors are littered with child detritus. Shoes and socks being the greatest offenders. Kid gets home. Kid removes shoes and socks. Shoes and socks get chucked. Child asks parent later where his shoes went. Parent yells at child.

Yelling at them about it has ceased all meaning. I’ve taken to just pointing at items until they get removed. I like this method because it’s so passive aggressive.

As you can read from the title of this blog, Elijah lost his bike a couple weeks ago. We rode by our little park after a nice long bike adventure and Eli spotted some of his friends. Excited by the prospect of him doing something in the actual sunlight, I bid him a farewell and went home to practice Fortnite. Eli came home after dark, which made me very happy.

The next morning, we were climbing in the car to attend Luca’s soccer game when Eli became ashen faced. “I left my bike at the park,” he breathed, eyes wide with fear.

Fear of getting yelled at by me. And boy did he get yelled at. Responsibility. Carelessness. Kids who aren’t as lucky as you. Petty larceny. Spoiled children. These were just some of the topics of my lecture.

Diana, who is a much better parent than I am, suggested we drive to the park on the way to the game, in the hopes no one wanted a nice bike that was left under a gazebo all night.

The bike was not there. See? See? People suck!

There was, however, a note taped to the gazebo. The note read, “Found bike. Call if it’s yours.” Oh wait. People may not suck after all.

After a few panicked attempts, a nice man answered. He asked us to describe the bike just to make sure. We immediately forgot what Eli’s bike looked like. It’s blue? Maybe? Has at least one wheel. It’s either a Mongoose or literally any other bike brand.

Luckily, the man believed us and said he’d meet us at the park. I forced Eli to come with me and bring a bottle of wine as a reward. I continued my lecture explaining how much I hated meeting new people and he was making my social anxiety flair up big time.

The very nice man approached and we shouted, “Hooray!” Eli slid forward and offered the wine and a rehearsed mumbled thank you. The very nice man tried to refuse the wine but we convinced him to take it. Neither party knowing it was a super expensive bottle Diana was saving for a special occasion.

We happily walked home and I let up on the lecture. And as soon as Eli got in the door he chucked his shoes across the room.
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Thursday, September 20, 2018

Curriculum Nights


The summer tends to be pretty brutal at my ad agency, and the last three months I've been particularly swamped. Imagine my delight when last week turned out to be pretty light. Like, sneak out at 4:30 light.

So how did I spend my stolen free time? Curriculum Night baby! Sittin’ still. Listening. Trying not to look bored. Everything an overworked man could want.

My first stop, Elijah’s school. I was particularly interested in this one because it’s his new middle school and, quite frankly, Eli refuses to give us any details. He won’t allow us to even drop him off at school. I’m fairly sure he just jumps on a boxcar the minute he leaves the house and has non racist Huckleberry Finn style adventures every day.

The Curriculum Night was opened by Eli’s massive Principal, Mr. Gigantor. Principal Gigantor is not a man you’d want catching you sneaking smokes in the boys’ bathroom. Huge. Intimidating. The minute he started speaking, I sat ramrod straight, with my hands folded in my lap. My friend Lexa, who sat next to me, tried to offer me a snack and raised my hand to tell on her. Luckily for Lexa, Principal G. didn’t see me.

His presentation included things he expects from us, as parents. I vigorously took notes on my iPhone, but then I was afraid Principal G. might think I was messing around, so I just tried to memorize everything he said.

The best news was Principal Gigantor doesn’t want parents helping kids with homework. Homework is meant to be a challenge and a way for kids to learn how to problem solve and rely on themselves.

Yes! I was already totally outmatched for Eli’s math homework and had fallen into awful sitcom dad clichés. “New math? What’s wrong with old math?” From now on, he’s on his own.

Luca’s Curriculum was a few days later. Eli had the same teacher years ago and we loved her, so I was crestfallen when she totally didn’t recognize me. But I managed not to pout through her presentation.

She gave us a well thought out Powerpoint, but the entire time my mind was screaming, “Go to presentation mode! You’re in slide sorter. SLIDE SORTER!”

She ended her talk by asking us to write a little note for our kid, which we could put in their desk. I wrote to Luca how proud I was of him and how much I loved him. And then debated writing “I farted in your chair” for a very long time.

In the end, I decided not to write the fart joke and it haunted me. After polling all my friends, they unanimously supported not writing the fart joke. It was inappropriate and could have gotten Luca into trouble.

I should have written the fart joke.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Rats and Texts


Last Sunday, Elijah had the choice between spending an hour in the beautiful sunshine attending Luca’s soccer game and coming to the office with me to sit quietly in a darkened, airless room while I rehearsed a new business pitch.

He chose the airless room with zero hesitation.

I was secretly pleased. I can feel my special little boy sliding away from me, with school and friends and other junior high obsessions. I relished the chance to spend a little forced quality time with him. Plus, I wanted to show off his insane hair to my co-workers.

The trip to the office was uneventful, except for our ongoing battle of whose music is worse. Kids today. You can’t tell the boys from the girls, I tells ya (shakes rolled up newspaper in the air).

Eli loves to visit my office. He loves the huge glass buildings, the fancy cars, the exotic animals. Like the giant dead rat oozing blood from every orifice we almost stepped on. This thing was gnarly. Even I, a seasoned dead rat observer, was grossed out.

I plopped Eli down at my desk with directions to the bathroom, snack area and the conference room downstairs where me and seven of my co-workers were interpreting “Sunday office wear.” I preferred a sweatshirt and jeans. My CEO wore a beautiful sport coat and loafers to spite me.

While I didn’t threaten Eli, I told him to think hard about how urgently he would need to barge into our rehearsal. Interrupting with an anecdote about something funny a Youtuber did on Fortnite was not good for my career.

Midway through our meeting, I got a mystery text from Diana that read, “Dadcomeupstairsrightnow.”

My first thought was Luca was texting me from our home, wanting to tell me an anecdote about something funny a Youtuber did on Fortnite. But then it quickly dawned on me it was Eli, who had hacked Diana’s text app with his iPad to send me a message. Was he being attacked? Was he lost? Did he find my secret whisky?

I excused myself from the meeting with a smooth excuse like, “I have to poop!” and raced upstairs. I immediately saw Eli had locked himself out of the floor and was pacing around the elevators. I thought about leaving him out there as a practical joke, but he was doing that little hand shaking thing that signifies a rapidly coming panic attack.

I let him in and he told me a harrowing tale of cutting through glass doors on his way to the snack area. I returned him to my desk and finished my meeting. Afterwards, we ate al fresco at a restaurant under the Trump building.

On our way back to my car, where the dead bloody rat was mysteriously gone, I tricked Eli into standing under the Trump sign and snapped his picture. I now have liberal Evanston blackmail in case he ever wants to refuse hanging out with me.



Monday, September 3, 2018

Baby’s First Rainout


I skipped the weepy first day of school post this year because there wasn’t any HamannEggs worthy tomfoolery. Eli walked to school. Luca repeated “I’m nervous” over and over and I died inside a little.

I had an especially busy week, so I was reduced to sitting on each boy before and demanding they tell me something about school. They would squirm out of my grasp and yell “Math!” before running off.

Around Wednesday, Luca started to realize he could use my work situation to his advantage. As he gave me the bare minimum information about school, he would pepper in information about Friday’s White Sox game. “I did reading. Did you know you can get tickets for $8?”

I was not above purchasing their affection and snatched up three seats in the outfield. If we  grabbed a home run ball, I could work late for the rest of the year.

We arrived early (Hamanns rule!) and found our seats among the cheerful, tattooed, working class south siders. We bought hot dogs and waters and I had one glorious beer and we irritated our row mates by going to the bathroom six times in the first three innings.

Elijah looked up in the sky and said, “Those clouds look really dark.” I looked at my phone’s weather app, which was reporting 20 miles north in Evanston and said, “There’s a zero percent chance of rain. Those clouds are just being jerks.”

Totally bored, Eli asked if he could go to the bathroom again. I told him to go by himself. Right when he got to the top of the stairs it started raining. As he finished his business, it started pouring. As he exited the men’s room, lightening flashed and 5,000 fans raced for shelter.

Luca and I made our way up the stairs to covered concourse in our overly polite Hamann way. After a good 10 soaking minutes, we made our way to the top and found Eli standing near a bar (he knows his father), looking petrified.

We tried to find a little pocket in the streams of soaking, drunk fans. Both Eli and Luca suggested we wait out the storm in the bathroom. I suggested we go to the ice cream stand where there was slightly less pee.

We walked to the ice cream stand and a gust of wind picked up and turned one of the umbrellas into a weapon, impaling a guy in a tank top (I think).

I knelt down and broke it to the boys that we were gonna have to leave. Eli looked absolutely relieved. Luca fought back tears. I promised him we would come back before the season ends. I also promised him he could play Fortnite when he got home.

Eventually made it back to Evanston, where the skies were clear. And the skies are always blue in Fortnite.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Camp



The night before Elijah went to camp, I crawled into bed with him and asked if he was nervous about anything. Pooping your pants on a hike? Homesickness? What to do in a Jason Voorhees situation?

After a beat, Eli said, “I’m worried that when you die there is no heaven and there is just nothing.”

That was a lot harder to answer than “ball your underwear up and stick it under a bush.”

Existential crisis solved, we woke up early the next morning only to realize we didn’t wake up remotely early enough. While Eli and Diana argued and jammed last minute provisions into his overstuffed bag, I rocked back and forth by the back door, muttering, “So late…so very very late.”

We raced to drop off and weaved our way through the Evanston parents standing cult like, remembering their own underwear balling memories from thirty years ago. Social anxiety mixed with a fear of busses rendered me useless. Diana handed me Eli’s bags and said, “Stick these somewhere.”

Diana checked Eli in only to be informed that we had not filled out any of the 400 documents needed to attend camp.

Let’s all climb into the Wayback machine to 6 months ago. It was a cold Sunday afternoon. Diana, sick of literally doing everything for our sons, put me in charge of camp. I dutifully signed Eli up and then promptly ignored all future correspondence with subject lines like “Urgent” and “400 Documents needed to go to camp.”

I know it’s a dad cliché to be clueless and dumb. But entire eleven years blogs are built on it. I volunteered to fill out the forms. Diana shoved me out of the way when I biffed Eli’s birth date.

We got Eli on the bus and waved vigorously at his mop top through the tinted window. He slinked down to dodge our love.

Camp went well and we received lots of letters with terrible handwriting. Eli explored and grew and got close to nature and made lots of friends for life.  

And he was the last kid to get picked up from drop off because we missed the email.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Night Watching

With the thousands of hours of screens Elijah watches, it’s difficult to monitor everything he sees. Luckily, I’ve put age limits on his Youtube content, which enrages him. But he figured out all he has to do is watch on Diana’s devices to unlock all the disgusting contraband the internet has to offer.

He also likes to linger in the kitchen while Diana and I watch movies or TV, in the hopes he’ll see something off limits. I’ve never seen a kid take longer with popsicle wrapper. We have to physically remove him when “The Handmaid’s Tale” gets too juicy.

But he’s recently found a loophole: me.

A few nights a week, Eli waits patiently in his room after lights out until he’s sure Diana’s asleep. He then creeps into my room and taps me on the shoulder saying, “Do you want to watch TV?”

You bet I do.

We quietly retire to our TV room and watch late night, semi off limits movies and shows. We watched the Wes Anderson masterpiece “Rushmore,” the disappointing “Ready Player One,” my favorite show of all time, “Rick and Morty” and countless hours of “The Office.” These have all been pre-vetted by me to make sure he isn’t exposed to anything too scarring. But they do give him enough naughtiness to feel like he’s getting away with something.

The real entertainment for me is how scared Eli is of getting busted. I do lay it on a little thick, saying things like, “If mom catches us you won’t be able to play Fortnite for a month.” If Grover pads into the room, we both freeze, not even daring to breathe. “It’s HER!”

The truth is, Diana knows we do this. She’s no dummy. Besides, Diana takes her hearing aids out when she sleeps so we could be starting a punk band in the basement and she wouldn’t notice. She also does us the favor of clomping to the bathroom every half hour right above us, which adds to the drama.

Eli’s white whale is the animated show “Family Guy,” the crass, one time funny “Simpsons” rip off that made Seth McFarland and FOX millions. Eli believed this must be the funniest show in the history of the world because I wouldn’t let him watch it.

But like all banned things in our house, like gun video games and Coke and rules about wearing underwear, Eli eventually broke me down and I allowed him to watch one episode.

There was a rape joke within the first five minutes. Best dad ever.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Grill


Every summer, Diana’s store holds a “Pink Wine and Swine” event, which features chicken and piping hot coffee. Nope. Strike that. They serve Rose and pork. In order to make the whole thing profitable, they team up with a local butcher and cook the Babe’s and Porky’s on site.

Which means we have to haul our grill from our yard to the store. Getting the thing into our car is an amazingly messy pain in the butt. The manufacturers also did us the favor of making all the edges of the grill razor sharp. Last year, we snapped off one of the wheels dragging it across the parking lot. It’s one of the three times a year Diana and I fight.

This year, as we were swearing and smearing a year’s worth of grill juice on our pants, Diana suggested we just leave the old junky grill at the store and I go buy a new grill. My frustration outweighed my frugality, so I agreed.

Elijah, sensing I was about to spend a lot of money, appeared out of nowhere and asked to tag along to the hardware store.

We went to the big old orange building and found ourselves in front of the gleaming fire makers. I was immediately at a loss for which one to buy. My plan was just to get the third most expensive one. Eli simply wanted one with a little side burner. “You know, so you don’t have to go all the way inside to make baked beans.”

Seemed like a reasonable request for an item we make 1.5 times a year.

Eventually, we flagged down a worker guy and asked if he knew anything about grills. “Sure, why not?” he said. He told us that the third most expensive one was a real disaster and if we wanted to have perfectly cooked food we should go with the second most expensive one. Oh, and look. It had a little side burner. Eli nodded so hard I thought his head was going to fly off into the lighting fixtures section.

Fine. I asked if they had any already built or if they could come set it up today.

“Well, we could get out to your house in 2075. Or we can just give you a box with a billion pieces in it and you put it together.”

“How long does something like this take to put together?” I asked.

“It takes our guys about fifteen minutes.”

That sounded easy enough. I made Eli promise to help me put it together. For bonding purposes. Eyeing the little side burner, he said, “Yeah yeah, bonding.”

We got the giant grill box home and I spread out the billion pieces on our deck. After 15 minutes of intense building, I realized I was roughly 1/928547567th of the way done. Eli backed away and said, “I feel like this is one of those times when you might yell at me and I think it’s best if I leave you alone.”

“Yes. You are correct.”

Just then, Diana’s Dad, Stepmom and sister from France arrived. Oh yeah, did I mention the grill was supposed to be done for dinner with Diana’s Dad, Stepmom, and sister from France? They kept handing me white wine and saying, “Yay Rick!”

The encouragement was helpful. The white wine was not.

As the sun set, I finished my project and connected the propane. With a click and a tick it whooshed to life and we had delicious burgers a half hour later.

Come on. How many of you were thinking I was never going to get the thing together? How many of you were thinking I was going to set myself on fire? Shame on you.
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