Wednesday, August 24, 2016

First and Fourth

Last night, I scooped up Luca and sat him on my lap. “You know. It’s perfectly ok to be scared about going to school. Everyone gets scared. Your teacher is scared. Your principal is scared. I was scared every first day of school of my life.”

This did not have the comforting effect I had hoped.

Elijah shouted from the other room, “Not everyone is scared about school!” and I muttered a swear that would be repeated over and over again by the boys throughout the night.

I could not sleep. What is wrong with me? Why do I tie myself into knots about my kid’s first day of school? It’s not my first day of school. I would totally kill it as a first grader. I can write in cursive!

This morning, I channeled all of my anxiety into Grover the dog, who I was convinced was dying.

“If he dies, I am moving to New Mexico to live in the desert,” I proclaimed.

“Why New Mexico and are you planning for us to live with you?” Diana asked.

We made it to school, but not before blocking someone’s driveway with my car and almost slamming into an SUV while parallel parking.

It was raining, so the painful drop off was inside. Eli ejected himself from his family with shocking enthusiasm. But that was fine by me. I needed to concentrate all my efforts on freaking Luca out. “It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok,” I mumbled to him while squeezing his hand way too hard.

We made it to the gym where kids with emotionally stable parents were waving goodbye and joining their classes.  As we guided Luca to his line, he stopped short and said, “I’m scared.”

He then looked up at me while chocking back tears, looking for some kind of support. This was my chance to set him off on the right track. To give him a speech about manning up and facing your fears and that this will be the best year of his life.

I just stared back at him with my eyes also brimming with tears.

Diana swooped in and grabbed him by the hand. She comforted him in a way that only a normal human can. She also hailed the teacher over for a little chat about first day jitters. His teacher was great and peppy and got everyone out the door, but not before Luca looked back at me with an expression that could level a town.

We drove home in silence. I considered just going back to bed for the day, but I could tell Diana needed a little Rickless time.

After moping around the office for a few hours I got this email from Luca’s teacher, by way of Diana:

“He is doing just great!  He really jumped right in as we left the gym and he helped out a friend who couldn't find their locker.  He's been smiling and participating and looks like a different person than the one you said good-bye to.  

I hope that helps!  I'll keep an eye on him, too, for the rest of the day, and I hope you get a good report after school…”

I felt much better, happy with the knowledge I had a full year before having to go through this again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Bro’s Nest Is On The Air

The boys watch an awful lot of Youtube videos. Mostly they watch other people play videogames, but they spend an amazing amount of time watching Family Vloggers. These are regular dopes, from Florida mostly, who point a camera at themselves and share it with the world.

Nothing drives me crazier than when Elijah and Luca watch these things. I find it disturbing that people will reveal the inner workings of their private lives, their most embarrassing moments, for the entertainment of others. There is a little siren going off in my head screaming “Irony Alert! Irony Alert!” Yeah, I get it. I’ve been blogging about E and L and their poops for almost 10 years. Maybe it’s the blatant money grab from some of them, “Ooh. Our family just received an anonymous box of toys and French fries.” Or maybe it’s the fact that they have literally millions and millions of fans.

I like to bellow, “No fake families!” whenever they boys watch.

So imagine my delight when Luca asked me to set up their own Youtube channel. I moaned and moaned about it, but when Luca gets his heart set on something, the human race is simply better off just to do it. The fact they wanted to call it “The Bro’s Nest” in homage to a silly little joke I made sealed the deal.

In an effort to take nearly all of the fun out of it, I declared the following rules:

1.     Never say your name.
2.     Never say where you live.
3.     No comments section.
4.     Tasteful nudity only.
5.     No Dads on camera.

They wanted to do this thing called a Baby Food Challenge. Completely ripped off from a hundred other Family Vloggers. Basically it entails eating baby food and going, “Ew!”

I pointed my phone at them and they said, “Hi! This is Eli and Luca Hamann!” CUT!

Take 2. “Welcome to Evanston Illinois!” CUT!

This went on for a while until we ticked off all of the no-nos. In the end it was utterly cute and funny and they had a blast doing it. The video took 4 hours to upload and currently has 3 views. So they are fast on their way to becoming Youtube millionaires. Let the free French fries commence.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Treasure of Wasps

For a minute I was worried there wouldn’t be enough reasons for Elijah and Luca to stare at screens. Thankfully, Pokémon Go hit the scene. If you aren’t a 9 year old or a jackass hipster, Pokémon Go is a phone game where you locate little digital animals in your neighborhood using your GPS and camera.

As much as I hate it, the game actually gets the boys out of the house and has enabled us to explore more of our hometown than the well-worn trail between our house and Chipotle. I’ve had to grab their collars here and there to keep them from strolling into a busy street like little nearsighted Mr. Magoos, but it has been 99% fun.

On Saturday, we were walking around catching Gooblesnarks or Poopledoodles and I remembered my friend Josh telling me about another game called Geocaching. Geocaching is like Pokémon Go, except instead of digital monsters, real people hide real treasures in the real world. You use your phone like a treasure map and get a little prize like a sticker or the satisfaction of existing in reality.

Eli was totally into it. He may have mistakenly thought the treasure would include gold Doubloons. I didn’t exactly discourage that line of thinking. But there was a treasure located in our neighboring park, so I thought it would be a nice, easy start to a lifetime of adventure.

It was Saturday so the cousins were with us. Eli used my phone to triangulate the thing and I had taken this opportunity to sit by the basketball court and pretend I had next game.

Suddenly, I heard screams coming from a nearby shrubbery. Eli was red-faced and howling. Stupidly I thought his screams were of delight.

“Ooh what is it? Stickers? I bet it’s stickers!”

“Wasps!” he screamed.

As he writhed in pain, I examined his knee, which had a nasty welt. Oh yeah, something got him.

“Are you sure it was a wasp?” I asked, way too calm for the situation.

“It’s in my shirt! He screamed.

“Oh my,” I said. Oh my? Why was I so calm? Shouldn’t I be freaking out? Isn’t this how the kid died in the movie “My Girl?”

The wasp exited his shirt after biting (Stinging? Pinching?) him several more times. It also decided to sting cousin Rory’s nose before it was done.

I bent to ask if he could walk, but Eli wasn’t there. He had already run three quarters of the distance home. I scooped up his flip flops and started across the field.

But then I realized I didn’t have my phone. Eli had tossed it in his attack. That’s when I panicked.

We arrived home a little later and applied ice to Eli’s wounds. Diana recalled the story of when she stepped in a wasp nest as a kid and Eli somehow convinced us this brush with death deserved a strip to Great America.

Where we played Pokémon Go.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Great, America

A few weeks ago, Luca and Elijah returned home from an amusement park with friends and said breathlessly, “Great America changed me.”

And then began a relentless campaign of badgering me to take them to Duff Gardens, I mean Great America. It just so happened that Diana had an upcomming trip planned to watch a band she followed around in her youth. So I agreed to take the day off and conscripted Tom and Steve and their kids to join us.

Because God likes a good joke, a massive heat wave hit the week we were going to go. I tried to explain it might be too hot to safely visit Great America. But the only words they heard were “Visit Great America.” There was no getting out of it.

Last Saturday, we plowed our car through the humidity and ignored the radio DJs pleas to stay indoors. As we waited for the gates to open, I realized if you want to beat the long lines at the amusement park, a dangerously hot day was just the ticket.

Eli and I peeled off from the group and went to his number one target: The Superman Rollercoaster. This is that ride where you dangle, Superman style, from the coaster instead of sitting like a human being.

As we inched closer to the front, I noticed kid after kid getting bounced from the line for being too short. I instructed Eli to measure himself against the little Red/Green stick. He was in the red by about an inch or two. I could tell from his expression that he really, really wanted to do this. So I told him to stand on his tiptoes as we approached the ride.

I shoved him to an inside position and with a static-y garble, the safety arm swung down over our heads. Eli said, “Daddy?” and I regretted my decision to skirt the rules. He was absolutely swimming in the apparatus. He seemed secure. But was he really? I almost raised my hands to the operator to get us out of there. I remained silent because causing a scene was way worse than my son’s safety.

As we clicked our way up the first hill, I instructed Eli to hold my hand. I was pretty sure I could hold into him through the 9 Gs we’d be experiencing if he fell out.

I screamed, “I love you!”

Eli screamed, “This is great!” Those are some pretty fine last words.

After the ride, Eli begged me to go again but I refused, saying it would never be as good the second time around.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Last Ride

On most Saturday mornings, Elijah, Luca and I go on little bike riding adventures down to the lakefront. We ride around looking at all the old women who stake their claims to picnic tables for family reunions hours later. I let the boys leap on the graffiti rocks and give them the choice of any restaurant they want for lunch. They always choose Potbelly's. Always.

We have a pretty good safety routine. At every intersection, I will shout, “Straight!” or, “Left!” as loud as I can. Then Eli will shout, “What?” I’ll shout back the answer and Luca will shout, “What?” This goes on until we are through the intersection.

It’s all very fun and I’m 50% sure I am giving the boys some great, sepia toned memories that will compete with all the memories where I yell at them for something dumb.

But I felt like we were missing something. A certain wine-goddess something. Ever since she saw a young Asian girl get hit by a bike on the lakefront path and her bone stuck out of her leg, Diana has been anti-bike. She simply thinks bike riding is too dangerous. 

A couple Sundays ago, it was gorgeous outside and the path was calling to us (me). I shoved the boys at Diana with their cutest faces on and made them beg Diana to join us.

Diana was unconvinced. “I think my tires are flat.”

“Nope. Just filled them.”

“I think my brakes are broken.”

“Nope. We fixed them.”

After 30 or 40 minutes looking for the same helmets and bike locks we misplace every single week, we hit the road. I went very, very slowly so Diana would get comfortable with our system.

We rode downtown and stuck to the big green bike lane. Nothing too nutso. I think I even heard Diana say, “Whee.”

I led us to a stop at Davis street, single file and waited for the light to turn. Diana said, “Eli, you can go up by dad.”

But what Eli heard was, “Eli, you can go.”

Eli darted out into traffic. I shouted, “Stop!” over and over with increasing volume in the hopes that would make a difference. Luckily, the only car on the road saw this debacle a half mile away and slowed to a stop.

I took this opportunity to scream at Eli about looking both ways. Our family clustered in the intersection and the car waited patiently for the terrible father to finish yelling.

I ushered us to the other side and we rode in silence. At the next intersection, Eli lost control of his bike and he slid into the street, where a giant white SUV turned right. I screamed again and Eli slunk his head into his shoulders.

Diana mouthed the words, “Never again,” to me.

Eventually we made it home and I apologized to everyone for losing my temper. We put our bikes in the garage and leaded Diana’s up against the wall, where it will remain forever.