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.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mice Brothers

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As the crisp Winter air turns to Spring, the call of the Songbird is joined by my yelling of, “Don’t leave food out! That’s how we get ants!”

Ooooo I hate ants. I write that while shaking my fist in the air. The ground underneath Evanston is 99 percent ant and every home we’ve had was overrun come Springtime. Over the last decade, I’ve developed a strict regimen for ant apocalypse. First, I deliver ant sized fliers warning ant villagers to leave my house immediately or feel my wrath. Then I spray enough ant killer around the outside of our house to kill every living thing within a half mile. I like to do this without any protection to prove what a big man I am. I spend the next several months screaming every time I see a live ant. “How? How can you be alive? Our house is a toxic waste dump!”

A month ago, I received a text from Diana that read, “Our cleaning lady found mice poop under the oven.” Diana was smart to send this message via text because I hit the roof of my office with rage.

“See what happens when you leave cereal out?” I shouted at a junior copywriter.

Instead of murder, which was my suggestion, Diana purchased a few humane mice traps. These things are basically a little tube with a little door that springs closed when the mice enters, attracted by the smell of peanut butter.

Our neighbor Lexa told us a while ago she used the same kind and left for a long weekend. She came home to discover three mice had gotten stuck in one trap and were reduced to cannibalism to survive. Gross.

The first night we left the trap out, we caught a tiny little mouse. Which left the question, what to do with the mouse? I couldn’t feed it to the dogs, because they wouldn’t eat it. I also didn’t want to just pitch it out into the neighborhood. I like most of my neighbors. Plus, you already know what Lexa does to mice.

So I drove the little guy out to a park in Chicago. There is a little Par 3 course attached, so he can still be tied to his North Shore roots. Plus tons of garbage. I opened the trap and attempted to free him. But, he refused to leave. I had to shake him out like the last Pringle in the can. Eventually he let go and scurried off. I called to him, “I love you! Don’t come back or I’ll break your neck!”

The next morning, we caught another one. I planned on just tossing into the yard of our neighbor who is a real jerk about recycling cans. But Diana was concerned about this new mouse being separated from his mouse brother. I reminded her this mouse had the brain the size of a garbanzo bean and was most likely riddled with rabies.

But then I began to anthropomorphize them. I imagined a little Eli mouse, scared and alone on the 9th green. His only desire was to be reunited with his little Luca mouse brother.

So I drove back out to the golf course and dropped off Luca Mouse. I shouted, “Hey Eli Mouse! Here is your brother. Come and get him!”

Luca Mouse darted off to find his brother. And I’m sure didn’t get eaten by a hawk.



Monday, May 14, 2018

GOAL!


I really enjoy Luca’s Sunday soccer games. They’re late enough in the day that you can get some stuff done. They coincide with Diana’s day off from the wine store. Plus, they have very low stakes.

The team is not good. They’ve been clobbered by 6 or 7 goals every game. There as a pretty big stretch where our team didn’t score a single goal. This, coupled with the fact Luca is two years younger than almost everyone else in the league, means it’s just great that Luca shows up.

The stress is low. Diana and I simply sit in the sun, hold hands and watch the team get dismantled every week. We always keep an eye on the proceedings, as there is nothing worse than parents who spend the game on their phone. But we don’t get all crazy about it. Sometimes we’ll shout out the name of Luca’s teammate to prove we know the name of his teammates. And you know I love me some AYSO based comedy.

A few Sundays ago, we set up our canvas foldy chairs and waited for the extermination of The Silver Fire by The Other Team Whose Name Is The Color Of Their Jerseys and An Animal Or Fire Based Noun. I noticed the TOTWNITCOTJAAAOFBNs were coached by a co-worker of mine. My normal social anxiety was coupled by a desire not to have to have an awkward conversation with a fellow dad about how crappy our team is. So I tightened my sweatshirt hood over my head, real slick like.

The game started as they always do, with children crashing into each other and the two kids who are actually good completely taking over. Luca was on defense. What Luca lacks in size and experience, he more than makes up for in speed and enthusiasm. The little guy races all over the field.

His enthusiasm caused him to be woefully out of position for a defensive player. He was standing right in front of the opposite team’s goal when his teammate passed him the ball. He turned and shot the ball. Into. The. Goal.

Words cannot describe what came over me. I am normally a painfully reserved person. A lifelong effort not to be noticed has neutered my ability to show enthusiasm about anything. When Luca scored that goal, I became an insane person. I leapt out of my canvas foldy chair, sending it toppling backwards. I screamed a string of unintelligible words, like I was speaking in tongues. Diana and I did that thing where you hug and jump at the same time. Remember when Howard Dean ruined his presidential chances by making that weird “Yehaw” noise on stage? The noises I made would make Howard Dean say, “Take it down a notch.”

For the rest of the game, Luca attempted not to make eye contact with us out of utter embarrassment. But that didn’t stop Diana and me from shouting, “You are getting an ice cream cone, mister!” whenever he ran by.

The Silver Fire ended up winning their first game of the season. Okay, technically I know you aren’t supposed to keep score. But everyone does and they won. So there.

Luca spent the rest of the day eating ice cream and acting kind of grouchy. Most likely due to exhaustion. Or ego.



Sunday, May 6, 2018

Baseball



When I was a kid, I was on a baseball team for exactly 1 week. In that time, I was encouraged to find another extra-curricular activity after beaning a pick-up truck with an errant throw during practice. So off to band camp I went.

Luca, on the other hand, combed through the deep recesses of his genetic pool to find the one active baseball gene in his system. He is the happiest member of the Valley Produce “Bombing Potatoes.”

Yes. The Bombing Potatoes. This is what happens when coaches let teams name themselves. I am proud to say Luca was the author. In one recent practice, his coach gathered the ream and said, “Okay. Last chance to rename the team. Any takers? Anyone at all? Anyone want to name the team something other than ‘Bombing Potatoes?’ Anyone?”

No casting agent could construct a more perfect collection of cuteness. Every one is more adorable than the last, with their little cleats and oversized mitts and their perfectly cowlicked hair.

Luca upped the cuteness ante by adding a black eye to his wardrobe.

According to Hamann Legend, Luca was playing pitcher in one of the countless games organized in our back yard. Grover poop is first base. Trouper poop is second. Grover poop is third. Also Grover poop is home. He gave his friend some helpful advice on batting and was rewarded for his instruction by a baseball in the eye.

He actually had the gall to be embarrassed by the giant purple and green and black splotch around his socket. We told him he was now the most intimidating and cutest player on the Bombing Potatoes.

My role on the Potatoes is official Social Anxiety Sufferer.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Trouper

The producers of HamannEggs were concerned our plot was getting a little stale. The kids are getting older, there are less poop and pee stories to tell, and we aren’t planning on moving to Denver again. So they decided to pull a “Cousin Oliver” and add a few, fun character.

Namely, Trouper the dog!

Trouper the dog is a little white animal of indeterminate breed who comes to us by way of my brother Luke. Trouper is friendly, funny and only growls when you try to remove him from Luca’s bed.

He’s also a world class people food thief. He snatched a sandwich off Luca’s plate using a series of wires and lasers and a hang glider.

Luca declared Trouper to be officially “his” dog. This does not mean he feeds or cleans up after Trouper. Luca’s ownership duties include letting the dog on his bed and occasionally joining me for evening walks around the block.

Don’t get me wrong, my walks with Luca have been the highlight of my year. Even though Trouper weighs about 7 pounds, he still manages to drag Luca over every yard in the neighborhood. This is because Luca loves a good sight gag.

The real reason I love the walks is Luca forgets the rule about never telling your dad anything about your life and opens up about his fears, his desires and his deep feelings. Plus we get to look into our neighbor’s windows and see what shows they watch.

Now you may be asking yourself, “How is Grover the dog taking this?” Not well.

Grover does not like to compete for attention. Or food. And he’s taken to sulking like a 14 year old who had his Snapchat privileges taken away. I think. I’ve tried to get back into his good graces by giving him lots of treats and we give him 100% reign of our bed. But he mostly just sighs.

I’m hoping the warm weather will brighten his spirits since he can now lie around and sigh outside as well.

If all else fails we’ll write in a musical episode to boost ratings.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Case For Guns


As you can guess, the whole gun video game thing simply didn’t go away once Diana banned them from our dank basement. Whenever the three males of the house were together, the topic eventually moved to how we could get more digital firearms into our lives.

We debated whether it was ok to simply sneak them without Diana knowing. But I said this wasn’t such a great idea because lying is almost as bad as shooting people. Kind of.

Luca eventually abandoned his blood lust and spent his screen time on his new baseball game or watching videos or other people playing non gun games. The Cubs season was also starting so that will occupy his mind until October.

But Elijah couldn’t let it go. His favorite game is technically a shooter, but it does dip a toe into the gray area. It’s a space/fantasy game that does involve futuristic guns, but it also has magic and swords and throwing stars and big hammers. It’s certainly violent, but doesn’t simulate what would happen if you used an AR-15 to its full potential.

Eli asked me for advice. How could he convince mom to let him play his beloved game? I told him when I was trying to convince someone to buy an idea, I put together a presentation. This intrigued the boy. What is a presentation?

I explained I put down arguments for why the people should do what I want. With one argument on each page, plus some visuals to keep things interesting. What I didn’t tell him is I usually ask one of the people who works for me to do it. And then they ask people who work for them to do it.

A week ago, Diana and I were enjoying some after dinner peace and quiet when we were summoned to the living room by Eli. He had his presentation locked and loaded. He was rehearsed and ready to do battle.

I have to admit, for a ten year old, it was a solid presentation. He had pretty compelling points, like “You can turn off the blood” and showed us the difference between the cartoony characters in his game versus a real soldier. He ended his presentation with a sad dog who said, “So mom, please let me play (game redacted) again please?”

It melted Diana’s Second Amendment hating heart and she relented. On the conditions that he turn off the blood and he never bought another gun game ever again.

We then his favorite game was still on the banned list. Because his presentation sucked.