Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Weird Dad

Luca had a pre-birthday party last Saturday with a few school chums.  Luca kept it pretty simple. Hibachi grill restaurant, sleep over, Nerf gun war, two kinds of Oreo cookies.

In the weeks leading up to the party, I’d been putting in some serious neglectful hours at the office. So much so, that Luca actually had to ask if I was planning on attending his party. Ouch.

Stress at work tends to shorten one’s fuse, so I was coming into Saturday with a few unreasonable yellings and snappy “get off the screens” in the minus column. I made an agreement with myself that once the party guests arrived I was going to be to be the nicest, coolest, most helpful dad in the universe.

Apparently, this meant delivering any and all communication in the loudest, weirdest way ever.


Luca’s friends reacted as if I threw a glass of ice water into their faces. They flinched averted their eyes and tried to get anywhere but my foyer.

To make things even creepier, I pulled each boy aside one by one and said, “Hey man. I’m the Fixit Guy for this sleep over. If you need anything, or you get scared or you go pee pee in your pants, just come to me and I’ll fix it.”

During my little speech, Luca’s friends would assume a defensive position, ready to race off in case I came in for a hug.

After we drove to the restaurant, I went back to the shouting. “WHOA! LOOK AT THIS COOL RESTAURANT, GUYS! REAL CHINESE LETTERS!”

Diana laughed at me and said, “Who are you supposed to be?”

Dinner was great and fun and the birthday crew loved it. Well, they loved everything but the actual food. We left the restaurant with 7 pounds of leftovers that I couldn’t eat because sodium hurts my blood pressure.

We got home and the boys ate cookies and opened presents and chased each other around. Eventually it was time for bed.

Which was when I turned from the nicest, coolest, most helpful dad in the universe to a guy who said, “If I even hear one of you so much as blink your eyes, I am going to pull you out of this room and make you sleep in the yard.”

But then I got donuts in the morning.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Toward the end of the evening, we Hamanns all acknowledge our sincere and passionate love for each other, and then move to parts of the house farthest away from any other member of the family.

For Diana and I, this is time to watch 80’s horror homages on our local streaming service. Or watch Rachel Maddow spend 17 minutes getting to the point.

For Eli, it’s watching “Friends” reruns. I recommended the show to him as an alternative to the horrifyingly awful Disney tween shows. This resulted in a, “Dad, what’s V.D.?” conversation.

Luca prefers to sit in our living room and make the loudest tongue clicking noise in the history of man. Remember “Luca Land?” Luca Land is the little imagination place Luca goes to for adventures involving Iron Man and Anthony Rizzo. He likes to make these little sound effects. He beeps and bops and makes shooting sounds. But over the last few months, he makes his super loud “CLICK” with his tongue. Try it right now. Luca’s is a thousand times louder than the sound you just made.


You can hear it all over the house. It’s the soundtrack to our lives.


It’s pretty annoying.


I looked up “Tourette’s” on Wikipedia just to make sure.


Kunal Jain (Canada) generated a sound level reading of 114.2 dBA by clicking his tongue at Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada on 6 August 2003. As a comparison, a lawnmower is on average 90dBA and a car horn is 110 dBA.


We asked Luca if he made the clicking sound at school and he said, “Oh yeah. All the time.” We said maybe he should cool it at school. He said, “My teacher doesn’t seem to mind.”


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wall Crawler

A few Saturdays ago, I was vaguely jetlagged. Which meant I was vaguely grouchy. Diana asked me to give her a ride to work (she left her car at work so as not to DUI after a wine thing), so I grumbled and groused and, um, graduated as we walked out to my garage. Oh, and it was raining.

Now, the previous owners of our house had split the garage into two. One section is a normal garage where cars and bikes and rakes and lawn mowers go.

The other section must have been for the previous owners’ special prized sports car. Or their meth making. It’s barely wide enough for my little Prius. And my meth. I have these little fantasies of really doing the place up one day. You know, vintage Porshce ads and bikini calendars and one of those big metal boxes with all my tools. But for now it’s just wood and dust and cobwebs.

We tiptoed around the 37 Grover poops in our yard and reached the Rick garage entrance. I turned the doorknob and, oddly, it was locked. I never lock that door. Have never locked that door. Will never lock that door.

As rain beat down on our heads, I did a little math. No key to the door + only garage door opener in car locked in garage = throwing a huge fit.

While Diana quietly ordered a Lyft, I yelled at any child in hearing distance. It must have been your friends who locked the door! Yes! It was your friends! The ones who eat all my chips when they come over! It’s their fault. And therefore your fault! Well, I guess we are calling a locksmith. And it’s coming out of your college funds!

Elijah, who is used to my idiotic tantrums, said, “Dad, there is a hole in the wall between your garage and Mommy’s garage. Do you think we could crawl through?”

I could kiss that beautiful face, if it wasn’t covered in egg sandwich.

Luca, Eli and I walked to Diana’s garage and, yes, behind the kyak Diana bought to explore the wilds of the North Shore Canal, there was a little hole in the plywood. Probably created by a friendly woodland creature and not a disgusting rat.

I shoved at the wood a little bit and expanded the hole to be Luca sized. I said, “Get in there, Luca!”

Luca looked at the cobweb ridden, filthy, jagged hole and said, “No way.”

I told him he was being a big baby and it was perfectly fine. As I bent down to brush away some filth, a spider jumped on me. That’s not a HamannEggs fib for comedic affect. A spider lept from the wall and onto me. Presumably to act as official guide to hell.

I screamed and ran around the garage.

It look a little while to convince Luca to crawl through the hole. And a bribe of a new Cubs hat purchased from Target. But eventually he did get through and opened up the door. But he came out covered in gunk and crying. Much like the day of his birth.

As we drove through the rain, I happily offered to buy Luca whatever lunch he wanted. He just silently stared out the window, a changed man.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Flag Man

I love Luca’s soccer games. I view it as my own personal HBO comedy hour. I spend the entire time working out my new sports related material. “Good job, kid whose name I don’t know!” is my bread and butter. I also do quite a bit of shouting out non-soccer cheers. “Touchdown!” is my favorite.

The other parents hate me.

A couple Sundays ago, we were setting up our lawn chairs and I was doing some light crowd work (“It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about not losing by 13 like last week, know what I’m saying?”) when our coach approached.

“I need a parent volunteer to be line judge.”

Everyone got really interested in their phones. I raised my hand enthusiastically and the coach gave me a yellow flag.

“Basically, you raise this whenever the ball goes out and you say which team gets to do the throw in.”

Cool. Cool. They whistled the start of the game and the kids commenced with kicking each other in the shins.

Suddenly, the ball whizzed out of bounds. I raised my flag and realized I had no idea which team had kicked the ball out.

I immediately and confidently gave the ball to Luca’s team. Both teams simultaneously said, “Really?”

The dads behind me said, “Really?”

The coaches said, “Really?”

I ignored everyone, acted all serious and said, “Silver ball! Let’s go.” I shoved the ball into the nearest Silver jersey and tried to move past my obvious mistake.

The game continued and every time the ball exited the field of play, one of the kids would let me off the hook and say, “I think it’s red’s ball.” I would nod like a judge sentencing a man to the electric chair and say, “Red ball. Red ball. Definitely Red.”

No one seemed to care that I was the worst line judge in the history of volunteer parents. Mostly because Luca’s team got absolutely creamed. But I was glad when the final whistle blew and I returned my flag.

After demonstrating my amazing marching band flag dancing moves for all the parents.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cool Work

When Elijah was little, he would say, “I want to be a sea animal helper when I grow up.” Over the years he’s stuck to this life goal with little variations like, “I want to be a ticket taker at the Shedd Aquarium.”

My career has given me a lot of awesome experiences (I’m writing this on a flight back from Dubai) and hilarious adventures and affords us a very Evanston lifestyle, but I lost sight of my own sea animal helper dream somewhere. I want Eli to hold onto his.

A few Sundays ago, I had to run into the office to check in on a hard working team who had burned the whole weekend trying to solve a particularly vexing advertising problem. Eli begged to come with. His number one reason was so he could get out of going to Luca’s soccer game. I tried to talk him out of it. He’d be bored and he’d have to sit in my office while I worked with the team in a conference room. But he preferred sitting in my office watching YouTube over giving his brother an ounce of morale support.

We got to the office in record time (the streets were free of idiots working on a Sunday) and checked Eli in at security. Seeing the look on his face, I remembered how easy it is to forget big office buildings are kind of cool. There were automatic doors and elevators that make your ears pop and giant windows overlooking Lake Michigan and absolutely massive bathrooms.

As I worked, Eli discovered the company’s free candy and the creative department games. He spun around in expensive office chairs and drew “Eli is great” on one of the many white boards.

The weekend team had done marvelous work and blessing it took far less time than I thought. I brought Eli to say hi to the team before we headed home. Eli was stunned. There was leftover Chipotle in the corner, and a bevy of other snacks and gum strewn about. The team itself was a collection of hip young twentysomethings. One of the guys had a ponytail! Oh, and get this. They had Nerf guns!

We walked to get a post work smoothie and Eli said, “Your job is the coolest.” I tried to explain that we were working on a Sunday, which was the opposite of cool. Eli nodded as he ate the free sucker from the 24th floor candy jar.

Maybe he can make ads about sea animals when he grows up.

Monday, October 2, 2017


A week or so ago, we attended another Luca soccer match (Game? Pitch?). Luca was coming off his nasty flu, but had accomplished 2 straight days of faking symptoms to get out of stuff. So we thought running in 90 degree heat for 60 minutes would be healthy.

During one of the breaks where the referees remind everyone to tie their shoes, Luca asked his coach to sit out. The team was getting pummeled, so the coach said sure, why not? Luca draped his piping hot, sweaty body over me and panted. Yuck.

I told him to go sit by his team.

“No. I don’t have to.”

I could barely breathe under this 7 year old ball of humidity. “Yes, in fact you do. Be a teammate.”

The idea of team didn’t register with Luca. I guess I can understand his confusion. Until this point, the concept of being part of team didn’t exist in his single player X-Box, single twin bed, single bathroom toilet world. When you are seven, the world revolves around you. Who cares about other people, let alone the other 8 kids sweating on the soccer field?

Rather than calmly explain the merits of being part of a team and rah rah, I totally yelled at him in front of the other parents. Luca told me I was mean and began crying as the other parents slowly scooched their beach chairs away.

My lecture must have had some effect beyond emotional abuse, because Luca suddenly and passionately became a Cubs fan. Last week he immersed himself into every televised game. He hid in our living room, headphones on, and stared at the streaming broadcast like it held some deep secret beyond Geico commercials.

One night, I found Luca perched on the edge of our bed watching the Cubs again. I told him this game was special because if they won, they’d be in the playoffs. I explained this was the best time to become a fan and not during the hundred other boring games.

As we watched the game, Luca peppered me with questions. What did “Clinch” mean? How many wildcard teams were there? How many divisions were there? What signal does the ump use for balls and strikes?

I told him I needed to check my computer for some work stuff and then suddenly became an expert in baseball. Thanks Google!

The Cubs won and Luca leapt up, screaming. He ran around the house shouting, “Cubs win! Cubs win!” For kid who had seen a grand total of 3 games, he was delightfully diehard.

We then went outside and played catch, like a father and son team.

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.”