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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Monday, July 16, 2018

Ball Foul



In the weeks leading up to Father’s Day, Luca and I would be watching a Cubs game and he’d say, “Dad. I wish I could tell you what we got you for Father’s Day.” Or we’d be talking about the Cubs and he’d say, “By the way, your Father’s Day present is sooo great.” Or he’d be wearing a Cubs shirt and he’d say, “My shirt sure wants to tell you something about Father’s Day.”

They got me Cubs tickets.

The morning of the game, we all put on our favorite Cubs stuff and headed down to Wrigley. Our seats were fantastic, right behind the dugout. Which is what happens when Diana is put in charge of tickets. We were close enough that the players could hear Luca shrieking out their names. We had to do that thing where you need to duck when you are going up the aisle to get food or else people will yell at you.

After we had hot dogs and I had a bottle of water to see if baseball is enjoyable without beer (it isn’t), the Cubs players all headed to the dugout for last minute coaching and chewing tobacco application. A few of them started throwing baseballs into the stands. Souvenirs for happy kids, attractive people and people drunk enough to elbow out happy kids and attractive people.

Suddenly, a Cub locked eyes with Diana, who was aggressively pointing at Elijah and Luca. Her expression said, “Come on. Look at these kids. They’re genetically engineered for cuteness. If you give them a ball, their heads may literally explode like the movie “Scanners.”

The player, whose name Luca has told me no less than 7 times, will hereby be known as Carl Yastrzemski, 1980’s left fielder and Simpsons reference.

Carl threw a ball right at Diana. No one else could be the target. Mr. Yastrzemski’s form was perfect and hit Diana’s outstretched hand with pinpoint accuracy. Carl threw it so Diana didn’t even have to rise from her seat to catch the ball.

The ball careened off her hand and into the stands three rows behind us.

Now, before we all start making fun of Diana’s terrible catch, remember she is technically blind in one eye. And she was holding a Pepsi in her other hand. Plus, her catching hand is made from concrete.

The boys were apoplectic. “How you could miss that? That was for us! You blew it! How hard is it to catch a ball?” Diana and I decided maybe beers weren’t such a bad idea after all. In order to restore peace, Diana promised to buy Eli and Luca a jersey from the Cubs store.

The game itself was awesome and the Cubs won simply because we were in attendance. Our day ended with Luca and Eli being invited to run the bases by a generous usher.

Later, when we brought the jerseys to the cashier, the price caused Diana to make that rare sound of someone swearing and laughing at the same time.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

"I Call The Big One ‘Bitey’"


Remember our newest HamannEgg, Trouper? The white fluffy mutt we got from my brother? It’s been a rough couple months for the little guy. First off, he spent a week ejecting the most horrifying sludge ever to see the inside of a dog after we made the mistake of feeding him some Grover food. The stuff’s intensity of smell was only matched by its viscosity.  

Secondly, we’ve found that Trouper has a little bit of a rage issue. I don’t think he was prepared for living with a giant black food competitor and two screaming children. Plus Elijah and Luca (rim shot).

If Trouper thinks he’s about to get stepped on or thinks you’re going to eat his food or thinks you’re looking at him side eyed, he’ll hiss like a cat and lunge at your feet. This move turned our neighbor Paul into a tap dancer the likes of which would make Gregory Hines jealous.

Trouper has officially bitten every member of our family except me. What’s this scar on my foot? Oh, I got that running into a wall. I deserved it. Actually, he did nip me early in our relationship, but I put such a fear of God into him that I can now carry him around like a little baby, to which Diana says, “He’s going to bite your face off.” And then I reply, “You’re still legally obligated to love my face scars.”

But the family enemy number one is Eli. I don’t know what it is about that kid. Trouper HATES him. Any time Eli walks near Trouper or speaks to Trouper or thinks about Trouper, the dog bites him. Thankfully, he’s never really broken the skin. But it still sucks to live in fear of a little sharp tooth-ed fluff ball every day. Trouper trapped Eli in our pantry the other day for the offense of eating a turkey sandwich.

This hasn’t helped Diana and Trouper’s relationship. Aside from getting bitten herself, she has the prerequisite motherly instinct to protect her young. I just say things like, “You gotta just dominate him!” Luca says helpful things like, “I love getting bitten by Trouper.”

Luckily for us, our contractor is in the market for a dog and he has a great kid who loves animals. We think the combination of less people and less dogs will be better for Trouper. We are going to officially hand him off next week for a trail run. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll take him back and buy Eli some steel toed boots.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Walk


All of my anxiety, all of my panic and skittishness and social awkwardness can be traced back to one event in my life: The day our mom forgot to pick us up after school.

Through some miscommunication (pantomimes smoking weed), my brother and stood out in front of our school dressed in matching yellow rain slickers for hours. Crying. Granted, we lived less than a mile from the building. And in retrospect, it may not have been hours and was more likely minutes. But it scarred me for life and causes behavior like hiding in the bushes around the corner from a Elijah and Luca’s recent sleepover to guarantee I arrived at precisely 7 minutes early.

Luca is the proud recipient of my abandonment genes and requested we arrive at a recent Cubs game two hours early. Much to my delight.

Eli, on the other hand, is built a little differently. As evidenced by his reaction to getting totally abandoned at camp.

Everyone who cares for our son simultaneously thought someone else was picking him up and he found himself standing in front of his “Stage Combat” camp all alone. Not crying. Not in a yellow rain slicker. Rather than embark in a lifelong struggle with panic attacks, he decided to walk home across town.

This involved convincing his camp counselors that walking home was not only ok, but specifically requested by his absent parents. The counselors, who by nature are easily charmed by Eli, simply shook his hand and wished him well on his adventure.

When he told me about this, I thought, “Well, he had his fancy phone so if things went weird he could call for help.” But, no. He went on his trek phoneless.

I know a lot of you are thinking, “Kids today are too coddled. In the 1980’s, I hitchhiked across Utah when I was 8.” Yeah, I get that. But it’s 2018 and things are different and weird and this probably wasn’t the time to completely change a generation of child rearing.

Anyway, Eli made his way across the mean streets of Evanston. Dodging clusters of protesting college students and Priuses and the 60 pound raccoon that terrorizes Ridge Ave.

He says he only got semi lost a couple times and arrived home safe and sound. To the surprise of all who thought he was with someone else.

Since then, we require him to bring his phone to camp to avoid any other confusion and/or growth opportunities. But I also allowed him to go see a movie with some pals on Saturday, sans parents.

Which gave me the opportunity to smother Luca with overprotection.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Phone

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Elijah graduated from grade school a week ago. It’s one of those milestones I choose not to attend. Not because of some anti “everyone gets a trophy” philosophy. I was simply 100% sure I would cry heaving, snot-filled tears.

When Eli was 9, he asked when he’d be able to get a new phone. We absentmindedly said, “Uh…when you graduate from grade school or something,” thinking in the future he’d either forget or there would be an apocalypse started by an egomaniacal president with bad hair.

Graduation day came and Eli wanted his phone. He did us the favor of picking out a lovely $1,000 Apple model.

I ran out over lunch to buy a phone at the local store. Because I am 46. I was treated to the sight of an insane woman picking up every phone on the display wall and shouting in it, “Hello? I am on the phone!” The salesman told me she did this every single day at the same time and I was utterly jealous of his job.

We got him a white phone with buttons and a camera and, much to my delight, a parental spy app.

This app is amazing. It opened up my world to the wonders of monitoring your child 24 hours a day. It shows me how many minutes Eli has spent on the internet, or on Netflix, or any of the 4,000 games he immediately downloaded.

I found myself obsessively staring at my phone to check if Eli was staring at his phone. I also ruined his life by texting him constantly.

“Eli. It is 75 degrees outside and you are on Spotify. Go outside.”

“Eli. You have been on your phone for 2 hours. Get off now or I will lock you out of your phone.”

And occasionally I would laugh an evil little laugh and lock him out. I could feel his pout all the way from Evanston. After the third or fourth lock out, he told me, “You know. If I get abducted there is no way for me to text you when I’m locked out of my phone.”

Touché.

Eli has taken to retaliating by sending me hundreds and hundreds of texts over the course of the day. All hilariously nonsensical. My very important meetings are constantly interrupted by gifs of rabbits or hearts or “Family Guy” characters he doesn’t know the names of because we won’t let him watch it.

I do get the occasional “I love you,” which is worth a hundred phones.

Friday, June 1, 2018

*First Cubs Game




Luca can recite the middle name of every Cubs player. Plus their favorite pizza toppings. He even knows the names of their secret road families.

It would be high dad crimes not to take him to his *first Cubs game. I asterisk it because we technically took Luca to his first game years ago. But he doesn’t remember it. I remember it as when a bunch of old timer Cubs fans wanted to murder me for bringing a two year old into their hallowed row.

I bought three tickets, assuming both boys would be up for missing a day of school. Surprisingly, Elijah said no. After I shouted, “NERD!” I realized these were his last weeks at grade school and Eli wanted to relish the last few moments of youth before he becomes a jaded middle schooler.

Luckily, my pal Patrick loves playing hooky and snapped up the extra ticket. Plus, I wouldn’t feel weird about drinking beer by myself. Give or take 40,000 other beer guzzlers.

Because Luca is a Hamann through and through, he asked if we could go to the game 2 hours early. Mmmm…early. So delicious.

We sat in the bleachers section because Luca was 100% certain he would catch a home run. I explained to him that if the opposing team hit one out, the tradition was to throw it back. Luca said he would not be planning on giving up a well-earned ball. I explained the concept of getting a beer poured on your head and he reconsidered.

Batting practice began and baseballs started raining down into the bleachers. Luca prayed aloud one would reach our seats. He was drowned out by my prayers of the opposite. A few balls came close, but we weren’t in any real danger of humiliating ourselves in front of our sons.

The temperature was in the mid 90’s so the beer tasted delicious. But the pleasure I felt after 2 cold ones was nothing compared to the utter joy Luca felt being in the stands. I was almost brought to tears watching his face light up every time a Cub player so much as adjusted his jock strap. He was convinced the outfielder nearest us liked him best of all and not the lady in the t-shirt behind us.

We stayed until the very last out and sang the Cub victory song. Luca and I then experienced the time honored tradition of cramming on the El with thousands of drunk fans.

 I distinctly heard Luca whisper, “Best day ever,” to himself. And I could die a happy man.