Monday, May 22, 2017

The Concert Laugh

I played Baritone horn all through grade school and high school. I’m sure my parents went to quite a few of my performances, but in my edited memory, they never came to a single one. In the totally fictional version, I look out into the auditorium, only to find two empty chairs with “reserved” scrawled across in children’s handwriting.

Again, I’m sure parents went to a ton of band stuff, but my screwy memories give me plenty of anxiety over showing up to Elijah’s stuff.

Last week I raced home to attend Eli’s first band concert. A concert that had been rescheduled due to a kidney stone issue the music teacher was all too ready to describe in graphic detail in a recent note home.

Eli plays the French Horn. Well, a French Horn occupies space in our front room. I’ve never actually heard him play because he never, ever practices. The French Horn basically plays itself, as any maestro will tell you, so I wasn’t worried. Plus, it was 4th grade band, so I was already expecting a sonic horror show.

The Earth decided to be super hot that day (thanks Obama) and the school auditorium wasn’t air conditioned, so we decided to sit as high up in the balcony as we could. Just to make sure we captured all the heat.

Unlike the more austere audience on the main floor, the balcony took on a decidedly Jimmy Buffet vibe. Moms and Dads shouted down at their kids on stage. A lot of neighborhood gossip was loudly aired. I even brought out my rarely used “shush” for a couple loudmouths.

Things quieted down just as Diana snuck in from work to take her seat and the show began.

The music teacher (straight out of Central Casting) gave us a brief update on his kidneys and referred us to the Xeroxed programs. There were two groups: “Fourth Grade Band” and “Advanced.” Way to beat around the bush. Why not call the first group “Sucky at Band?”

Each group had about 10 songs. Group 1 was on first and the collective audience thought to themselves, “As soon as they are done I am OUT OF HERE.” But the band teacher, evil genius, informed is that we would be listening to 8 songs from “Fourth Grade Band,” then the ten “Advanced” songs and then back to “Fourth Grade Band.” Essentially trapping us into listening to all 20 songs. I couldn’t even be angry.

The concert sounded exactly how you’d think for 30 kids who had just picked up their instruments 3 months ago. But here and there you could pick out the melody of “Hot Cross Buns.”

As the music teacher raised his baton to begin another song, a student prematurely ejaculated a note from his trombone.

Diana burst out laughing. Now, Diana has a lovely laugh. Simply lovely. But it is a laugh that travels. And it bounced off every wall in the auditorium. I bugged my eyes out at her and mouthed, “Cut it out!”

But “Laughing In Church” disease struck Diana and tears began streaming down her face. Her body heaving with laugh spasms.

Luckily, her laughs were quickly drowned out by what I can only assume was “Hot Cross Buns” again.

Friday, May 12, 2017


Last Saturday, Elijah stood before the Nerf gun arsenal at Target, clutching his newly acquired gift card.

“Dad. Do you think I will get in trouble if I buy a Nerf gun?”

“Yes. Yes you will.”

And that was that. Shortest Hamann Eggs story ever.

But the gears were already turning. Eli, the greatest 10 year old lawyer in the world, began to build a case for a Nerf. In January, Diana did allow the purchase of a Star Wars gun WITH PROJECTILES. On another occasion, Diana was heard to say that Nerf guns in the house were sadly “inevitable.” She also has never said “no” to this exact gun in his hand. Also, Nerf guns are totally cool. Just look at them.

I was at the point in every Target run where I needed to get out of there in a physical, chemical way.

I made a brief speech about consequences to one’s actions and he’d have to live with Diana’s wrath. I also told him the gun he was holding was junky and the one next to it was way cooler.

Eli loved his new symbol of horrifying violence. He asked if he could bring it to the movies (no) and to Andy’s Frozen Custard (maybe). He was so proud of it that he actually allowed Luca to touch it for three whole seconds.

When Diana got home, Eli wondered if he should just own up to the gun. However, Diana had a look that she gets when our president Tweets from the toilet. I advised him against it. Not the best parenting move, I’ll agree. But I was making risotto. Yes, that is the reason.

A couple nights ago, I was getting the boys ready for bed and asked Eli where his gun was. Like an assassin from a Bourne movie, Eli scurried around his room extracting the stock from his sock drawer, the scope from behind his bookshelf and the little foam bullets from under his bed.

Hmm. This didn’t feel right. If Eli was hiding toy gun parts now, what would he be hiding two years from now? Five years from now? I had visions of weed and porno stashed in the same drawers and bookshelves.

I said it was time for him to tell his mom. Honesty is the best policy. Plus, I didn’t think she’d be that mad.

I then slipped into Luca’s bed for be-withs. Luca sleepily debated who was a bigger Cubs fan, him or me. It was tough considering neither of us had seen a minute of a game this year.
Eli came in and buried his head under one of Luca’s pillows. He was hot from crying. Diana was not pleased with the gun news.

I told him I was sorry. I totally forgot Trump had fired the head of the FBI earlier in the day.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Evil Dust Baby

Luca pounced on me as soon as I entered the house.

“Dad! Dad! I have something to show you! Come quick!”

We crossed the kitchen, pausing only to fight with Elijah about who was going to show me whatever was 12 feet away. I figured it was an ant cluster. Or a rat king. Or something else attracted to crumbs. Maybe a raccoon?

Nothing could have prepared me for the horrible beauty of Evil Dust Baby.

Evil Dust Baby’s origin story goes like this: Luca dropped a Darth Vader Lego behind his radiator. He and Schuyler poked around with a Harry Potter wand and out popped a pound of dust and a 4 inch tall baby doll. Schuyler, in a moment of perfect inspiration, named it “Evil Dust Baby.”

Covered in filth, the poor thing had received a one time haircut from its previous owner. I say “its” because there is some debate on EDB’s sex. Like all plastic babies, it doesn’t have genitals. I say that makes it a girl because there are no hanging bits. Luca says that just makes EDB a nothing. There was also some debate on Whether or not EDB was a baby at all. EDB has these magnificent gorilla feet that are clubbed and weird and include way more sculpting detail than its genitals.

Diana did some quick math and determined there has been no girl occupying our house for 20 years, so Evil Dusty Baby had to be from the early 1900s (don’t think too hard about it).

Luca was concerned Evil Dust Baby would reanimate in the middle of the night and kill us all. I was fairly sure of the same thing, but I assured him EDB was just a piece of plastic and there was no way it could become alive in the middle of the night.

That is, until I moved EDB. In some late night inspiration, I crept downstairs and moved Evil Dust Baby from the kitchen to our living room mantle. This evil Elf on a Shelf game was something I was prepared to continue until the boys went to college.

I congratulated myself all the way to the office and waited for the freak out phone call. Which never came.

I texted Diana a few times asking, “Have you seen Evil Dust Baby?” And, “I think I heard an evil baby crawling around in the middle of the night. Did you get murdered?”

No response.

That night, I came home demanding why no one was sufficiently freaked out by the reanimated evil baby. They just shrugged and went back to their screens.

The good news is Evil Dust Baby is still where I left him/her. Waiting to hatch his/her evil.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Don & Besters

In a fit of boredom last winter break, we carted the kids and my pal John to a huge arcade/bar downtown. Since naming real places can get me fired from my fancy advertising job, let’s just call it “Don & Besters.” I’m not 100% sure why we decided on D&B. I think it was because they don’t let kids into off track betting facilities.

For those of you who have never been to a Don & Besters, consider yourself lucky. According to its website, you can “Play the newest arcade games, enjoy chef-crafted creations, sip innovative cocktails & watch your team in the sports bar that crushes the competition!” However, I think the description is missing the edgy, recycled air and vague threat of violence of a Las Vegas casino without the prostitutes.

The kids loved it.

Our pal John, who is a video game savant, won 5,000 tickets at a single video game and gave them all to Elijah, who turned them into a pair of shiny disco headphones and probably some gum.

Needless to say, Eli chose Don & Besters for his birthday party.

Because D&B is prohibitively expensive, we limited the guests to a handful of cousins and pals. Eli briefly considered inviting John, in hopes the ringer would deliver another 5,000 ticket bounty, but ultimately went with this friend Gabe.

We arrived mid-afternoon on Sunday and the clientele was decidedly rougher than our winter trip. I think some customers were there as part of community service.

I laid down the rules. You must have a buddy at all times. No one goes to the bathroom, billiards area or Champagne Room by themselves. The kids immediately launched into an insane ritual of picking who would be buddy to whom and it devolved into fighting and hurt feelings. Diana canceled the rule and said, “Just don’t get kidnapped,” and that was that.

We ordered a giant pile of food and 6 drinks with battery powered ice cubes. I inquired about their largest beer and the kids raced off to play screaming games. Our completely lovely, yet utterly overworked server tried to juggle her duties of busboy, server, bartender, host, TV repair, bouncer, fry cook and bomb disposal. She was the recipient of a massive tip.

Games were played. Plastic things were won, saturated fat was consumed. Each child walked away with a few nice trinkets, some nice memories and probably hepatitis. I walked away with swollen fingers from all the chicken fingers.

We will never do this again.

Thanks Don & Besters!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter Ants

In the weeks leading up to Easter, Elijah and Luca contemplated the big religious questions like “What are you getting us?”

Diana threatened to buy children’s bibles and that shut them right up.

Unlike Santa, The Easter Bunny is a little harder for the boys to wrap their heads around. Luca even went so far as to ask what a rabbit had to do with Jesus. He said, “I guess it’s just like a mascot. Like advertising for Jesus.”


I didn’t have a ton to do for Easter Eve since the Easter Bunny is totally real and handled all of the egg hiding and Lego purchasing.

Our neighbor Lexa, on the other hand, was hard at work. Because she is the greatest neighbor in the history of the world, Lexa decided to throw an inter-yard egg hunt. She even went so far as to purchase enough different kinds of plastic eggs that each child could have their own color, eliminating any hard feelings. She even woke up at 6am on Easter morning to personally hide all the eggs and apparently clean up the 4 pounds of Grover poop in our backyard.

Did I mention she is the greatest neighbor in the history of the world?

Easter morning came early. So early that Eli spun our bedroom clock around so we wouldn’t see the godawful time they were bouncing on our heads.

Legos discovered, candy devoured, coffee consumed, we all adjourned to the yard for the hunt. We discussed the rules (No pushing. No fighting. No pointing out the horrible state of our sod) and then they were off!

There were immediate shrieks of joy upon finding the little plastic eggs. Followed closely by shrieks of horror.

In the short time between Lexa hiding all the candy filled plastic eggs and the actual hunt, the eggs had become infested with millions of ants. So instead of colorful delights, the children found black, writhing terror.

Luca simply brushed off the insects and chowed down. The other kids were a little more grossed out.

We rinsed off the eggs and tried it again later inside, which resulted in slightly fewer candy and ants. But in the end we rested assured we had done our part for childhood obesity.