Tuesday, December 10, 2019

PARTAY


My mother’s version of a birthday party was to stick my friends in our unfinished basement and hand us a real potato in which to play hot potato. 

Nowadays (hikes up pants and peers down bifocals), parents feel obligated to spend hundreds of dollars to outdo last week’s birthday celebration. Diana and I have largely dismissed this trend and just invited kids over for some cake, a little light chasing and screaming and the occasional potato. Gift bags? Bah. Jump Zones? Bah. These kids should feel honored to be invited to our house.

Luca just wanted to have a couple dudes for a sleep over. His plan was to hide out in the basement and place Xbox. Sounded like a great birthday party to me! The invite list was originally 3 kids. Which turned to 4. And then word got out that Luca was having a sleepover extravaganza and the attendees ballooned up to 10.

Ten boys. Ten stinky, boogery, screaming, destructive boys. Crammed into our basement. I began to seriously worry about the structural integrity of our home. 

I also began to understand why parents spend hundreds of dollars to have parties offsite.

We decided to have the party at a video game bar. Because video games. And bar! The booking guy must have been one party short of his yearly bonus because he was all over me. On Thanksgiving I received four hundred emails from this guy. After some shrewd negotiation, I agreed to pay full price. 

On the day of the party, I conscripted my brother to help cart kids to the bar at 7pm. The bar was filled with people whose mothers had yelled at them to get out of the basement for one night of their lives. There was also a large contingency of Manga cross dressers. I was in heaven.

Per an earlier agreement, I allowed Elijah to pick my one drink of the night. It was a highly alcoholic red flavored base topped with a syringe filled with a bright green gin. I decided the drink was better used as decoration and just ordered a bourbon.

After two hours, five pizzas, one bourbon and three spilled sodas, the party came to an end. We all arrived back home, and the boys were so tired they fell fast asleep at 4am.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TEN


And just like that, I have no more single digit children. Eli is 12. Grover is 98. And now Luca is 10.

Sigh.

In the weeks leading up to his big day, Luca painfully curated his list: One NFL regulation whistle. One NFL regulation referee flag. One NFL regulation football tee. 

I asked Luca about maybe loosening up his list a bit so he could actually be surprised by his gifts. “But then I might not get exactly what I want,” was his reply. Once a Hamann. Always a Hamann.

Elijah, on the other hand, likes to give his gift givers a thousand options, each more expensive than the last.

Soon, Amazon.com boxes arrived containing the exact things Luca asked for. Eli took it upon himself to open every single box to make sure the knowledge of the contents could be used to torture his brother. 

As punishment for said torture, I forced Eli to help me wrap. But anyone who reads the blog knows wrapping presents gives me great, obsessive compulsive joy. Measuring. Folding. Taping. These are almost erotic activities for me. Once Eli started in on his style of wrapping (balling paper around a present like a used tissue) I banished him to watch whatever he wanted on TV.

We agreed to allow Luca to open his presents on his birthday morning, ignoring Eli’s fact-finding efforts’ revelation that Luca didn’t, in fact, leave his mother’s body until 4:44pm ten years ago. 

This posed a few problems. First, it eliminated any chance that Luca would sleep. Diana’s approach to Luca’s sleeplessness was, “Tough Tinker Toys. Get yer butt in bed and stay there.” I, being the official pushover of the house, offered to stay with him until he fell asleep. I embarked on a long journey of watching Luca devolve into a blubbering monster. Shifting from bouts of rage to weeping to total spaz-outs. 

I tried everything to get him to calm down from rage to weeping to total spaz-outs of my own. Finally, I gave up and went to my own bed at 3am. What I failed to remember was Luca knows how to work a door knob and moved his sleepless fits to our bed. Diana wordlessly took her pillow and dog and moved to our guestroom.

Which leads to the second problem. No one told Luca when morning technically starts. He raced around our house at o-dark o’clock, waking everyone, his body oblivious to the previous night. Diana and I melted down the stairs and onto the couch. Eli flat out refused to participate since he already knew what was inside all the presents. 

Luca tore in. One NFL regulation whistle. One NFL regulation referee flag. One NFL regulation football tee. 

I have never seen a child run around a house shouting, “I got a football tee! I got a football tee!”

But then he got to Grandma Connie’s presents. She…gasp…went rogue. No presents from the list. A Bears jersey. A Bears game. Bears books. Cubs books. Bears gloves. Everywhere Luca’s gaze fell, Bears Bears Bears. He was elated. And actually surprised.

After I got ready for work, I found Luca reading his Bears book while sitting on a catatonic Diana, who was laying prone on the couch.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

New Job


Sorry I’ve been negligent about the old blog lately. I had a kinda weird couple weeks. Mostly because I changed jobs. 

Bam! HamannEggs plot twist!

I won’t bore you with the myriad of reasons I switched. I am excited about the new move and hope this will be the last time you hear of me switching jobs for a long, long time. Because the little crystal in my hand is going to light up any day now and I’ll have to be Renewed from advertising (“Logan’s Run” – 1976).

I don’t love switching jobs. Figuring out the coffee situation, followed closely by figuring out the bathroom situation.  Plus I have to go through the whole process of selecting and viciously beating a weak inmate in the yard.

As much as I dislike changing jobs, Luca hates it a thousand times more. As we were discussing this move as a family, Luca was the lone dissenter. Often bursting into tears at the mere mention of me moving literally 3 blocks down Lake street to do the exact same job.

At night, I would lay with him in his bunk and try to both calm his nerves and figure out the core of his beef with the move. After several hundred “I just don’t like it” responses, I came to discover his real issue boiled down to…

Interior design.

He liked the way my previous agency looked. It was a cool place with bean bags and nerf guns and wacky junk on people’s desks. As a result, it made his father seem cool. 

I assured him my new office would have just as much curated whimsy. I promised him a whole world of knickknacks and funky posters and inside jokes taped to cubicles. But he wasn’t convinced.

In the days leading up to my new gig, Luca did his best to be supportive. By asking me if I was nervous every seven minutes. “Are you nervous, Daddy? Are you nervous? Are you more excited or more nervous? Daddy? Are you feeling nervous?”

“I am now!” I snapped. 

On my first day, I took several digital photos of our super cool office to ease Luca’s anxiety. And my own. The giant eight ball that looks like it crashed into a wall. The “F*ck Yeah” spelled in balloon letters in the kitchen. The inspirational/scary messages painted in huge black letters everywhere.

But then I saw it: The Coke machine. One of those things you find at the movies where you can choose from a million different flavors and fill your cup and fill it again and again until you have the most glorious Diabetes ever.

When I showed this to Luca, his eyes lit up. “You. Have. The. Greatest. Job. EVER!”

Instead of the constant “Are you nervous?” refrain, Luca now asks, “When can I see the Coke machine?”

Monday, November 4, 2019

Baby’s First Humiliating Defeat


I woke up extra early last Sunday to surprise Luca with Bears tickets. One of Diana’s customers hooked us up with two seats and we all know Luca’s stance on sports. I found Luca on the blue couch that serves as his Youtube nest and showed him the digital surprise.

Luca tried his best to feign shock, but he totally knew. On their best day, the CIA can’t come close to our sons’ ability to surveil every pixel that enters our house. “Wow! I totally did not know you had purchased two 200 level tickets in the north end zone approximately three and a half weeks ago, father.”

Whatever, he was still excited. Because we are Hamanns, we left the house at 9:45am for the noon kick off. The day was simply glorious. Sunny, crisp, portending no last second coaching gaffs. We enjoyed a couple ice cold hot dogs before the fans started streaming in.

I’d forgotten the, uh, special disposition of most Bears fans. Luca and I had been to a few Cubs games, where the atmosphere is decidedly more country club-esc. Bears fans seem to communicate exclusively through primal screams. We were also seated among hard core season ticket holders who had been using the section as their personal VFW hall for decades.

After explaining to me he had missed only two games over the last 25 years, one man shouted across Luca to some fellow season ticket holders, “Remember when I stuck that hot dog down your coat? Watch out, ‘cause I am hot dogging you again today. You sonofabitch! You watch!”

The hot dog victim was an unironic cast member of the Saturday Night Live “Da’ Bears” skit. He was double fisting vodka tonics, surrounded by three generations of family. He looked wistfully at Luca, who was wearing a brand-new Bears ski hat.

“I think it’s great that you brought your daughter to the game. We need more daughters here. I’ve been bringing my girl to the games for thirty years. And now she’s getting married to this sonofabitch here. Maybe you will find your husband at the game, little lady.”

Luca immediately began to cry.

I tried to explain that these people were harmless and were going to make the game super fun.

Luca said, “I’m scared.”

I said, “Me too. But the good kind of scared.”

The game started and Luca settled down. And even returned a few fist bumps from the “Da’ Bears” man.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about my absolute favorite person in attendance, who sat directly to my right. He was the spitting image of my second SNL reference of the post, Chris Farley. Red haired and jolly, this man reacted to every positive play by either lifting me into his arms like an infant or sending me sprawling across three or four rows of seats. At one point, he removed a sack of hot meat from one pocket and several tortillas from the other. “Do you mind if I eat some pocket tacos, Richard?” No, I did not. Because I loved him.

If you recall the game from two weeks ago, the whole thing ended with a smattering of coaching snafus mixed with a game losing field goal miss. The whole disaster unfolded at our end of the field, which was exciting. The apoplectic reaction of our new friends was terrifying. Sixty year old women around us were hurling buckets of obscenities onto the field. Luca and I spent the last two minutes of the game exchanging exaggerated, “Oooo, did you hear that swear?” looks.

In the end, Luca loved the game. Almost as much as he loves the stupidly expensive jersey he conned me into buying on the way out.   



Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Apples


I love our cabin. It’s beautiful, peaceful and allows us to watch TV in a completely different state. TV feels so naughty when surrounded by countless things to do outside. Even Grover, who by all accounts is an animal, prefers to spend his cabin time watching us watch TV from the comfort of our big couch.

Occasionally, though, we do like to at least attempt to visit the surrounding area to justify the drive.

Diana and Luca selected apple picking as opposed to our usual activity: admiring the junk people throw into the creek.

I had never been apple picking, so I was rather excited to get dressed up in my best Autumn Man outfit and do Autumn things. I was a little confused about the whole process. Do they let you just grab apples off the bushes or trees or wherever apples come from? What about worms? Do you get to keep those? Would there be a charming fire? And what about the whole hayride business?

Diana selected an orchard near a town with a restaurant she hoped was worthy of us leaving our TV (it was not). It seemed charming enough. Lots of barns and cinnamon smells and people wearing plaid. However, the entrance featured a giant “for sale” sign. Did that mean seasonal fruit picking isn’t a Fortune 500 business?

We skipped down the road, arm in arm, and were met at the entrance by a man in a gigantic, bushy white walrus mustache. He gave us the basics. Buy a two cent bag for three dollars, pick some apples, take your Christmas card photo and be on your way. Cool. Seemed simple enough.

Before we left him, he smiled brightly. “Now. I want to make a few things clear.” He bent down to Luca and said, “I noticed you threw a rock on your way down here. If I see you throw another rock, I’ll kick you out. If you throw an apple, I’ll throw you out. If you climb a tree, I’ll throw you out. If you do anything I don’t like, I’ll throw you out.”

Was he joking? His smile was so bright. But his words were so dickish. The “For Sale” sign was starting to make sense.

We shuffled past him, confused. It definitely darkened out picking. I, ever the rule follower, spent the entire time agitated. I barked at Eli and Luca not to touch that. Don’t eat that! You’re gonna get us kicked out! Stop that.

Luckily, the family ignored me and had a great time. They picked many apples, took many photos. We even visited the big barn to explore their antique rest rooms.

All in all, it was a successful trip outside our cabin’s walls. As a bonus, we saw a couple doing a naked photo shoot just off I-94 on our way home.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Competition


When my brother and I used to play tennis, our games would last hours and hours. We’re both so anti-competitive that we’d each try to let the other twin win. All lobs. No kill shots. I mean, what if there were hurt feelings? How could we survive?

In fact, I’ve gone most of my life not really caring if I won or lost. I’m a people pleaser. I get more joy out of Diana’s brother destroying me at Trivial Pursuit than if I had collected all the little pie thingies myself.

Which brings me to football. Digital football. As you recall, Luca and I negotiated the purchase of the Madden 2020 game a few weeks ago. Luca held up his side of the bargain: picking up Grover’s yard leavings. I’ll admit, I’ve secretly picked up some poop here and there because Luca likes to wait until the yard is brimming with doo doo before he does his job. But it’s working out.

However, I’ve found that this game has released a demon in me. A competitive, obnoxious, jerkface who wants nothing more than to destroy his children.

At the beginning, it was pretty easy. The boys were a little slow on the strategic side of the game, so I would beat them handily. During one game, Elijah accidentally used all his time outs and I let time expire while never losing eye contact. When Luca raged at his losses, I would lecture him about sportsmanship and dared him to get good enough to beat the old man.

Which took about six hours.

Luca now absolutely demolishes me in the game. The scores are embarrassing. 14-48. 7-602. And because I am an adult who knows losing a video game is meaningless, I act like a total baby. I throw controllers. I scream at the screen. I accuse Luca of cheating. I threaten to never play the game again and throw the X-box into the Lake Michigan.

At first, this used to scare/bum Luca out. After my rages, I explained to him that I’m not mad at him, I am mad at myself. And Carson Wentz’s terrible accuracy when scrambling.

Now Luca takes sick pleasure in making his mild mannered, placid father into a raving lunatic. He taunts me. He screams, “Let’s GO!” when he scores, which he knows I hate because it’s what Tom Brady shouts. And worst of all, he patronizingly pats me on the head and murmurs, “Good job, Daddy” when he runs up a 0-364 final.

In order to keep me from having a heart attack, we’ve agreed to adjust our match ups. I always play the best teams in the league and Luca happily chooses the Dolphins to disembowel his old man. But at least the games are close.

I can still beat Eli, though. And that makes me half happy.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

F


When I was a kid, my dad used to say, “I don’t care what grades you get, just so long as you try your hardest.” I took this as instruction to stress myself into a decades long panic attack. With the boys, Diana and I are attempting to reduce the Hamann inclination to make mountains out of scholastic mole hills.

We may have been a bit too successful with Elijah.

The other night, he and I were playing video games and Eli casually said, “So, Dad. I’m doing pretty well in my classes. All A’s and B’s. But I missed one measly assignment in LA (Language Arts) and I have an F. But I’m turning it in tomorrow, so I’ll be fine.”

This was genius, because he knew I wouldn’t have the brain power to pay attention while I was trying to destroy him in the digital Super Bowl.

I believe my response was, “Yeah yeah yeah. I don’t care something something just so long as you try hard or something. Damn it! What button is for tackling?”

The next day, when my brain was firing on all cylinders, I received an email from his LA teacher that said Eli was, in fact, getting an F because he had “several” missing assignments. Several? Several? What does “several” mean?

At the same moment, Diana texted me, “Ooh. Eli is in trouuuuuuble.”

I emailed the teacher back in my best Dad Voice. I used words like “unacceptable” and “post haste.”  

When I arrived home later, I simply held out my hand for Eli’s phone. He knew he was busted. No screens until I had written confirmation from his teacher that all his assignments were in. Plus, a punishment to be determined once I conferred with his mother.

Eli is such a sweet kid. I felt bad for being so hard on him. But I worried if we didn’t discipline him, he won’t eventually become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Ref: “The Simpsons” season 4, ep 6).

Eli went to his room to sulk, not even coming down for delicious calzones made by our amazing babysitter, Vince.

He later showed me electronic evidence that all his assignments were in, but I held to my demand that his teacher confirm everything in writing. Apparently, his teacher isn’t addicted to her phone like the other 99.999999% of the planet, because we didn’t hear back from her most of the weekend.

Non-screen hands are the devil’s workshop. Eli spent the weekend requiring our undivided attention. But not in a cute “I wuv you” kind of way. His attentions were more punitive. And poor Luca was on the receiving end of almost constant brotherly abuse. At one point, Eli ran up from the basement demanding as many towels as he could carry.

Eventually, his teacher emailed me back assuring me that Eli was back in her good graces, with the subtext that maybe I should lighten up a bit. He got his phone back and gobbled it up like a man who hadn’t eaten in months.

His other, longer punishment is to clean the dishes every night for the foreseeable future. He does this with much clanging and banging, disturbing Diana and my obsession with the show “Succession.” So, I usually end up telling him to leave the dishes for me.