Thursday, December 6, 2018

Unsleep Over

Instead of a big trampoline palace party or Benihana thing, Luca opted for having a few pals join him to see a movie and then sleep over and play Fortnite way too late. Luca hand selected his most ardent Fortnight fan friends. Three pretty nice, fun goofballs who combined to be an absolute nightmare.

The movie viewing itself was uneventful. Except one kid thought it would be funny to shout out random things periodically to make the rest of the crew laugh. I did not laugh.

While Diana went to sleep, I let the boys stay up way too late playing the game while I read the new Jeff Tweedy biography. This was my downfall. I missed my window of opportunity to get them to sleep and they turned into the most annoying zombies on the face of the earth.

I managed to get them into Luca’s room and gave my usual threats. My head wasn’t even on the pillow before Luca was at my door.

“We think there is someone inside the house. We heard footsteps.”

I explained that those were most likely my footsteps trying to get back to my room. And we had a fancy security system, so if someone did get in, they were a super spy and we should be honored to be robbed by them. I sent him off to bed.

12.5 seconds later, Luca was back.

“We heard someone trying to open up my door.”

I made a dramatic display of searching every room in the house for the super spy. No spy. Off to bed.

12.5 seconds later, Luca was back.

“(Name Redacted) is scared and he keeps making me scared and we’re all scared.”

Out of desperation, I offered to sleep in the room so I could take the first attack from the super spy, giving them time to escape.

I crawled into bed and was witness to late night 9 year old chatter:

I’m scared. You are a baby. No, you are a baby. I’m sleepy. I’m not sleepy. I’m going to stay up for 4 days. You can’t do that, you’ll die. You suck at Fortnite. No you suck. I totally head-shotted you. Who is the best at Fortnite? Me. Me. Me. What’s your favorite Fortnite dance? Ew (Name Redacted) farted! I farted. Me too. That smells like pepperoni pizza. I want to go play Fortnite.

I sprang out of bed. “Enough! No more talking! No more farting! No more fun! Only sleep!”

I quietly slammed the door and stomped off to bed. I heard giggling farting through the wall.

12.5 seconds later Luca was back.

Monday, November 26, 2018

We Bought A Cabin

I was folding underwear in our bedroom, watching NFL football and enjoying the one place in our house where you can’t hear Elijah and Luca screaming over Fortnite. It was, dare I say, peaceful?

I was suddenly called from my underwear peace to our office, where Diana showed me the cabin she wanted to buy. Diana then explained her reasons as I curled up in a ball on our hardwood floor.

We had a little money in the bank for a down payment. Plus, the wine store was doing well enough to cover mortgage payments, etc. We only have a few more years with the boys before they turn into teenager jerks and don’t want to hang out with us anymore. It would be great to build some memories and traditions. I wasn’t able to get away this summer due to my insane work schedule, so a weekend place would be practical. And most importantly, it would be a place where the boys would actually see nature instead of play Fornite every minute of every day.

“Guh,” I said. Followed by, “Guh.”

Over the next few days, our family split into two distinct groups: Eli was all for it. He loves buying things. Luca, on the other hand, felt it was too much money and recommended several annuities and IRAs, or investing our money in Fortnite.

In the end, Luca and I acquiesced because taking away a blind lady’s cabin was a real jerk move.

We spent a few days in our new cabin putting together new furniture and speaking with the resident handyman. His answer to every one of our questions was, “This is a cabin in the middle of a forest. What do you expect?” I forced the boys to go outside several times and allowed them to carry a football as a tether to the civilized world. We visited the local Italian restaurant and immediately fell in love with its amazingly dated d├ęcor and menu. Luca and I went hunting for the rumored hunting stand on our property and worried about becoming the hunted. We even installed a wonderfully spotty Wifi connection.

The morning we left for Evanston, I paused on the little bridge overlooking our creek while taking the trash to the street. Rain ratatataded the leaves. The air was just cool enough for a jacket. I couldn’t see our neighbors through the trees.

Suddenly, I felt a strange sensation. My blood pressure was no longer in the “Immediate Heat Attack” range. Was I actually…relaxed?

We all piled in the car and hit the post Thanksgiving traffic on the way home and my blood pressure went right back where it belonged.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Better Mousetrap

I’ve written before about Elijah and my secret late night TV watching. I don’t care that he’s grouchy all day or that his grades are slipping or that he has dark circles under his eyes. We’re bonding!

Last week, we were sitting in the dark, making our way unto our third episode of “Parks and Rec” when Eli cocked his head.

“What was that?”

Skritch skritch skritch. A mouse.

I was not in a mental state to see a mouse. So I said, “I don’t hear anything. Besides, if we stay really still maybe the nothing thing will go away.”

Skritch skritch skritch.

“Dad. Turn the light on. I’m scared.”

I walked over to the light switch, which gave me a chance to pray that it was homicidal maniac and not a mouse. But when the light went on, we saw a little mouse darting around our stovetop.

Diana has requisitioned our humane mousetraps for the wine store, so we had no humane way to deal with this fury, frightened fella.

Eli shouted, “Burn him!” Burn him? That could work, but I wondered what a flaming, panicked mouse would do to our kitchen. Most likely run up my pantleg.

I grabbed a large bowl and Eli did the same. I wasn’t sure what we were gonna do with the bowls, but I was kind of hoping the mouse would do us the favor of hopping into one and saying, “Cheerio, chaps! Just drop me at the nearest leaf pile and I’ll be one my way!”

The mouse took one look at the big bowls and raced to our big spoon holder thingy. There were little holes in the big spoon holder thingy, so he squeezed inside and hid among the things that touch our food.

I ordered Eli to open our side door and I grabbed the big spoon holder thingy. I ran outside squealing, “Don’t run up my sleeve! Don’t run up my sleeve!” The mouse leapt from the big spoon holder thingy and raced outside.

I slumped onto the couch with Eli and we decided to celebrate by watching another three episodes of our show.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Double Barrels

The “Who Can Leave The Best Dad Note” competition started suddenly. Elijah crept into my room in the middle of the night and left a giant heart on my bedside table with the words, “I love you Dad!” 

Not to be beaten, Luca left me a note with a Snickers bar that read, Dear Dad, eat this in the morning. Happy Halloween. Love, Luca.”

And then there was the Eli classic, “I am sorry for flicking you off” note.

Yes, my life is now broken into two parts: Pre flick-off and post.

I was a little grouchier than usual last Saturday, so my patience wasn’t great. Leaving food on the floor, whining about flu shots, not eating your dinner were all met with outsized reactions. Mostly the yelling kind.

Diana and I had just settled in for some gross salmon and Netflix. It’s our chance to have a little adult time and re-connect after a long and stressful week by staring at the TV. It’s how marriages have been kept alive for decades.

It also happens to be the time the boys like to test how annoying they can be before getting yelled at. Eli had stolen some of Luca’s gross homemade goo and was doing that thing where you wave the contraband with one hand and use the other to stiff arm your brother, who screams bloody murder.

I snatched the goo out of Eli’s hand and said, “You are banished. Get out. Go upstairs.” Eli sulked his way down our house-long hallway.

I turned to make sure he was heading to his room when I saw it: Two middle finger barrels pointed right at me.

His aim was true, because each middle finger ruptured my heart. My little guy who used to laugh at everything I said, who used to play firetrucks and build Legos and have massive tickle fights was now giving me a literal F-YOU.

I reacted how anyone who just got their heart broken would: I ran down the hall yelling my head off. No screens! No screens! Bed immediately! Luca and Diana and Grover sat on the couch, holding each other and witnessing my wrath.

I immediately felt bad about flying off the handle. Eli didn’t know what the double barrels really meant. And he is at an age where he is trying out different personalities and seeing what sticks. He’s a deeply sensitive kid and the kindest eleven year old I’ve met. But he did flick me off.

Twenty or so minutes later he handed me his apology note. I said I was sorry for getting so angry, but we needed to keep his punishment of no screens. But it would take effect in the morning and we watched some inappropriate TV while Diana put Luca to bed, who made a mental note to not do whatever hand gesture it was that got dad so pissed.

The next day, Eli didn’t watch any screens. Except for when I made him watch me play Fortnite as extra punishment.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Daddy’s First Fortnite Victory

Remember Fortnite? It’s the violent video game obsession of millions and millions of kids across the globe. We attempted to ban it at the Hamann household, but we’re weak.

For those of you who aren’t in 4th grade, Fortnite is a game where 100 avatars get dropped on a digital island packed with weapons. The last man/woman/skeleton/lama standing wins.

Luca is fantastic at the game. Watching him is like watching Michelangelo play Fortnite. Elijah is also quite good, but it makes his temper explode. He’s had to replace 2 controllers with his own money due to rage. I’ve had to establish a no screaming rule because if often sounds like cats being tortured in our basement.

Hmm. Reading those last couple paragraphs make me reconsider the Fortnite ban again. But the truth is, I love playing the game with the boys. There are modes where we can play as a team, and I act as a gigantic albatross. The boys often have to warn online players that their dad is currently playing and things are going to go poorly.

My favorite mode is when I play solo and the boys act as my coach. There’s a hilarious role reversal where they become the dad and I act as a petulant 9 year old. They’ll gently tell me I’m doing terrible and I’ll snap at them for bad coaching. Elijah has written me off as a lost cause when I was zero for 4,000 games. Luca hangs in there, encouraging me with one eye while staring at YouTube with the other.

Sunday, I had an hour of free time while the flavors of my spaghetti sauce got to know each other and I asked Luca for a Fortnite coaching sesh. As I fumbled through the first few minutes of the game, Luca had his nose in a tablet and would occasionally mumble, “Don’t take that gun,” or, “Don’t go there.”

By pure luck, I managed to get into the top ten and the game intensified. Luca finally took notice of my play. He stood behind me, giving me instructions on how to maneuver, how to build little forts to avoid getting killed and where to hide from the good players.

Suddenly, I was in the top three. A personal best for me. Luca started screaming at me to hide. For the love of God, hide.

Right outside of my crude fort, the two remaining good players duked it out. Luca’s hands gripped the back of my chair. He whispered, “Don’t. Move.”

The two good players finished their battle and one remained. By some miracle, he or she had their back to me, trying to figure out why their remaining opponent was such a chicken. I made my move. Luca screamed, “Shoot! Shoot!”

I aimed and fired my weapon. Into my opponent’s butt.

The screen froze and the words “Victory Royale” flashed.

I am a 46 year old man. I have a mortgage. Two cars. A wife, two kids. I am an executive with an office and a parking space. But winning that game was the greatest success of my life.

Luca and I jumped up and down and screamed. We hugged. We kissed each other. If there was champagne handy we would have poured it over ourselves.

I looked into Luca’s eyes and there was real, honest pride in them. His son had won.

I think I will retire while I’m at the top.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Parent Teacher Conferences

Elijah’s parent teacher conferences represented the combination of my best anxieties: meeting new people, authority figures, talking, the potential for conflict, school urinals.

Diana smartly let me handle this one solo.

My meetings were scheduled for 6pm, so naturally I left work at 3pm. I stopped by Diana’s store to say hi and she suggested I have a glass of wine. I anxiously wondered aloud if it was a good idea to go to parent teacher conferences with wine on your breath and Diana said maybe I should have two.

I arrived at school a nice, Hamannly 30 minutes early and stood anxiously in front of Eli’s math classroom. I ran through all the possible worst case scenarios in my head. What if she yelled at me? What if she said Eli was a moron? What if she pants me? Were swirlies still a thing? Maybe she’d make me take a math test as some kind of DNA test.

Eli’s teacher appeared at the doorway and looked exactly like my teacher brother Steve: tired of everyone’s b.s.

We sat down and she said, “Eli is a wonderful kid. He’s kind, conscientious, engaged and smart. Any questions?”


Next, I visited Eli’s English teacher. This lady was notoriously mean. According to parental rumor, this lady doesn’t hold punches and likes to accuse people of letting their kids watch too many screens. According to my spying, he was doing worst in English, a B+. I sat down and prepared for the worst.

She said, “Eli is a wonderful kid. He’s kind, conscientious, engaged and smart. Any questions?”


I finished with Eli’s music teacher. Eli texted me that she was his absolute favorite. I believe his exact words were, “My music teacher is lit.”

Hi lit teacher sat me down and said, “Eli is a wonderful kid. He’s kind, conscientious, engaged and smart. Any questions?”

The whole thing lasted 20 minutes. I came home and told Eli how proud I was. He was clearly trying in school and, more importantly, he was being kind. And in our house, being kind is better than straight A’s.

He said, “How much money is that worth?”

Monday, October 15, 2018

Whisper Scream

Luca and our Alexa machine are in the middle of a passionate love affair. He seems to be the only one who talks to her, asking her forty times a day who won what game that day. He’s very nice about it, unlike my snapping at her to stop playing whatever Grateful Dead son Diana played before leaving the room. Alexa will surely spare Luca when the machines rise up.

Luca’s fandom came to a head when the Cubs had a one game playoff to get into the post season. By the time I got home that night, he was in a fever pitch. His voice was unable to lower under scream level.

Unfortunately, Diana had her eyeball shots earlier that day, which really knocked her out. She didn’t see on the calendar it was National Clumsy Technician Day, so her eyes were pretty beat up. The best plan of action was to sleep.

Our bedroom happens to be directly over our little TV area, so any and all sports screaming travels up our walls and air conditioning ducts and into our bed.

I made Luca a deal: If he could resist screaming, he could watch the entire game, even if went past his bedtime. Elijah asked if he could have the same deal, but without watching the game. Nope. So he suddenly became a Cubs fan.

Within the first 10 minutes of the game, Luca screamed his head off. Strike One. He got to Strike Two after seeing one of our clients were advertising in the game.

I suggested he try a technique I like to call “Whisper Screaming.” This worked surprisingly well. But for some reason the boys had to also move in slow motion. They would slowly leap from their chairs, slow motion strut across the room and whisper, “Whooooohooooo!”

This seemed to disturb Grover the Dog more than if the boys were legit screaming.

The game ended up tied at the end of the 9th and I was tired. I canceled our stay up past bedtime deal. But I agreed to buy them some Fortnite crap so they still got to Whisper Scream in delight.