Wednesday, December 31, 2008
There is a hip restaurant not far from us. It’s a place that would have been uber cool in New York circa 1992. Lots of exposed brick and not a drink under $12. Which means it is the height of cool in suburban Evanston 2008. Fortunately for us, they hosted an under 12 New Years Eve party tonight. $15 for unlimited pizza and balloons (cash bar). But Diana and I thought, what the heck?
We found ourselves surrounded by Evanston’s elite hip parents and their offspring. Every Jordan, Dylan, Emma and Eli north of Chicago was in attendance.
We immediately realized that the owners of said cool Evanston restaurant had no idea what they bought into. It was bedlam. The windows rattled at the screams of children. The tight jeans wearing staff stood wide eyed, frozen at the onslaught of anxious, overprotective moms. The line for free pizza was near riot level. And the owners actually attempted to cordon off a huge pile of balloons for the adult New Years Eve party set to begin several hours later. The poor guards were overrun within minutes.
I stood in the middle of the dance floor, with Elijah on my shoulders watching my beautiful wife rip a piece of gourmet pizza into Eli sized bites among a sea of screaming children and I thought to myself for the second year in a row, “This is the greatest night of my life.”
I immediately lowered Eli to eye level and tried to explain my love for him. “Eli. I love you so much. You are the greatest kid in the world. You make me so happy I can’t stand it…”
Eli began shouting, “Down! Down!”
So, like last year, I’m going to use the last blog entry of the year for a special message to my son. Don’t read it, jerks.
Every day I spend with you is the best day of my life. I am so very lucky you are my son. I am also very lucky to have your mom, who is the greatest, prettiest, coolest mom in the world.
And let us not forget the greatest dog in the world, Grover.
I’ll promise you this, my son. I will do everything in my power to make you happy. We’ll have lots of fun next year. Just you wait.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Long ago, before Elijahs and sippie cups and Exploratoriums, Diana and I honeymooned in Thailand. Where we rode elephants. Why? It’s the Thailand equivalent of drinking Margaritas in Mexico. You just have to. While Diana loved the adventure, I found our encounter with the elephants to be terrifying. Not one of them could fly with their giant ears and they seemed to always be on the lookout for opportunities to smash us to pieces. And they were covered with weird wiry pubic hair.
What does this have to do with Elijah who wasn’t even a concept 5 years ago? Well, he currently is obsessed with elephants. He can’t get enough Adahs. Oh yeah. He calls elephants “Adahs.”
There is a scene in “Jungle Book,” his current favorite movie, that involves a troop of Adahs stomping around. Eli stomps around the living room in time with the Adahs and it is just adorable. He kicks his little leg into the air and pounds the carpet while saying, “Adahhhh.”
He has also added Adahs to his current list of things he needs to know the location of. “Ah Mommy? Ah Finn? Ah Go Go? Ah Adah?” And so on.
Unfortunately for the rest of the animal kingdom, Eli could care less about anything that doesn’t have a long trunk and poos in gallon form. We went to the library today, like every other bored child in Evanston. I found a giant book about the zoo and tried to read it to him. But he refused to look at any page that didn’t contain valuable ivory.
He is currently upstairs napping, clutching the stuffed Adah he got for Christmas.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Last Night, Steve and Tom arrived at my house at exactly 8:00:01 for our Friday night beer drinking slash TV watching slash staring at each other fest. No matter how much we encouraged her to join us, Diana concluded jamming needles into her eyeballs sounded like more fun.
So she decided to sneak upstairs and observe Elijah as he drifted off into sleep. It started off as a mission to go read her book in bed, but when she got to the top of the stairs she realized Eli was still awake and had yet to notice her. So she dropped to her hands and knees and crawled over to Eli’s crib
Here’s what Diana saw:
8:01pm: Subject thrusts buttocks into the air. Possibly in an attempt to release noxious odor. But most likely to look cute.
8:03pm: Subject burrows head into corner of the crib. This maneuver is called the “Dan McNulty.” Don’t ask why.
8:05pm: Subject completely flips in the crib and attempts the “Dan McNulty” on the western side.
8:07pm: Subject sits upright in crib and calls out, “Daddy?” Observer considers going to get daddy but concludes daddy must be in an in depth conversation with brother about who can win an arm wrestling match between The Hulk and Thor and doesn’t want to be disturbed.
8:08pm: Subject drinks from sippie cub like a drunken sailor and flops back down. Buttocks in the air.
8:10pm Subject declared the Cutest Baby In The World and Observer goes to bed to read books.
Friday, December 26, 2008
If you can make it through seven years of college and manage to look at someone’s spleen without barfing, you get to be called “doctor.”
If you can make it through Iowa and Hillary and Joe the Plumber, you get to be called “president.”
And if you can make it through one slightly gross evening at the Evanston Hospital Maternity Ward, you get to be called “dada.”
So imagine my surprise when a certain twenty month old started calling me by my first name.
I arrived home from a trip to Atlanta last week and found Marianna and Elijah sitting on the couch. Eli was extremely excited to see me and said, “Rick! Rick! Rick!”
I said, “Whatchoo talkin’ about, Eli?”
Marianna said, “Oh, he call you ‘Rick’ now.”
I said, “I assume you spank him for this offense.” And Marianna just laughed the laugh that means she doesn’t understand what I’m saying.
Now, I’ll tolerate most everything with Eli. The poop. The occasional tantrum. The poop. But I will not accept being called anything but “father, dada, dad, pops, daddy” or “El Dadderino.” There’s a certain smug Liberal Arts major jerkness I find in calling your parents by their first names.
Thankfully, he doesn’t call me ‘Rick’ full time. He just seems to do it when I’m at my most vulnerable.
Like if I’m struggling to wipe Grover’s muddy feet after taking him on a sub zero walk.
“No. I’m dada.”
Or if I’m swearing while assembling the new treadmill we got for Christmas.
“No. No Ricks here. Only dadas.”
Diana thinks it’s hilarious. Grover, thankfully, still calls me “daddy.” But now that he’s 28 in dog years I think he’s being sarcastic.
I never really understood how family traditions were created. I figured it was a slow, glacial process where one day you looked up and said, “Oh, I guess we throw dishes at the wall every Thanksgiving.”
Well, this year my brother Steve decided to manufacture a tradition. He declared, “From now on we are all going to 3pm family mass on Christmas Eve.” Diana thought and said, “I’ll see your church and raise you Champaign and appetizers immediately after.” Diana and Steve then spit into their hands and shook on it. In my imagination.
I got pretty excited about family mass. Then Diana told me family mass does not, in fact, feature a puppet show and a balloon drop. All it is is a regular mass where they don’t mind when your kid screams. Thank goodness.
Di, Elijah and I settled down beside the other Evanston Hamanns and wedged Eli between us in the hopes he’d behave. It also gave him a chance to practice his favorite new word, “Stuck.” He boinged between Diana and my legs saying, “Stuck. Stuck. Stuck.” He made it through the first song at which he clapped enthusiastically.
But then he immediately remembered this was the place of head dunking and started howling.
Being that it was family mass, no one noticed or cared. But I have a pathological desire not to be the dad whose kid ruins Christmas mass, so I scooped Eli up and went looking for a hiding place. I’m not sure who designed our church, but they forgot to add a basement, closet or anything resembling a small cage. In fact, everywhere I went, the acoustics would send Eli’s cries up to the ceiling and down directly into the ears of the grade school Mary, Joseph, Sheppards and Wise People. But they were all pros.
After Eli slapped away the priest’s hand who was attempting to bless him, Diana said, “We’re outta here.”
We spent the rest of the evening sipping bubbly and watching Finn try to prevent Eli from destroying his new Star Wars stuff.
I haven’t been mushy in a while on the blog. But I am dumbfounded at how lucky I am. This child, for all his hilarious attacks of grouchiness at the worst possible minute, is the light of my life. I love him so much it physically hurts. And I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have the greatest wife in the world who I can share this little miracle.
I hope you all had a great Christmas/Chanukah filled with bubbly and cheese and crackers and non-destroyed Star Wars stuff.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
For years, my idol was Wilco’s lead singer, Jeff Tweedy. I concocted elaborate schemes to become his best friend. I tried desperately to shorten the six degrees of Kevin Bacon that separated us. I even contemplated converting to Judaism so I could just so happen to show up at his temple. I’m sure somewhere a lawyer is drafting a well-worded restraining order as I write this.
Luckily for Elijah, his idol is his cousin Finn. It’s much easier when the object of your obsession lives five minutes away. I’d say roughly 3,000 times a day Eli looks out the window and inquires, “Ah, Finn? Ah, Finn?”
Even more luckily for Eli, he got to spend two glorious days with his idol at my parents’ for a pre-Christmas spectacular. Eli shrieked with glee as Finn shoved him to the ground. He positively howled when Finn chased him through my dad’s living room and crashed into the glass French doors. He even attempted to mimic Finn’s sippie cup drinking style. Which involves sprawling across the arms of a recliner.
Unluckily for me and Diana, Eli wanted to spend quality time with Finn at 4am Saturday night. We bolted up in bed to the hysterical cries of Eli. We held him and he sobbed, “Whaaaaaaa. Ah Finn? Ah Finn?”
The combination of being in a strange darkened room and not being able to see Finn rendered him unable to go back to sleep. We tried rocking him and fetching him water, but he kept crying and inquiring. Crying and inquiring.
Finally, I put him on my chest, which calmed him down. He wriggled into a comfortable position and drifted off to sleep. However, his comfortable position included jamming his shoulder into my windpipe. I tried to reposition him, but that only served to wake him up.
“Whaaaaaa. Ah Finn?”
At which point he wriggled back to cutting off my air supply. I laid there, convincing myself that I only needed 20% of my usual oxygen intake and I drifted off (blacked out).
Thankfully, I woke up not dead the next morning and took Eli out to the kitchen for breakfast. He got headed off at the pass by his idol, who resumed chasing him for the next 12 hours.
p.s. The only photographic evidence I have of the two boys is this image from last April. The Wolfman in the background is Steve. I also think that’s Grover’s nose on the right.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Last night Chicago was hit by a rush hour snowstorm. Since slush turns commuters into idiots, I opted to stay at work and catch up on a few things. Just then the phone rang.
“Our power is out.” I heard both Elijah and Grover having conniptions in the background. Grover was particularly was upset that his lack of thumbs prevent him from using a flashlight.
I decided to rush home so I could sit in the dark with the rest of the clan. The details of my trip are too gruesome for a family blog. But those Chileans were asking to be eaten. By the time I entered the house our power was thankfully back on.
I took over Eli duty and Diana turned her attention to turkey tacos. I sat in the rocking chair and proclaimed it Story Time. I commanded Eli to fetch me a book. Preferably one that included Elmo, or explained where the wild things were.
But Eli handed me the rhyming toothbrush book. Curses! If you remember from a few months ago, this book features an overly cheery kid who explains the basics of cleaning your teeth by combining words like “paste” with “haste.”
“Are you sure you want this book? What about Elmo?”
“Ooh look the alphabet book. Which letter is this?”
“Fine. You better be a dentist when you grow up.”
I decided to spice up the rhyming toothbrush book by rapping it. I put on my best street voice and said, “yo” a lot and spit all over the back of Eli’s head in a attempt to mimic a drum machine. Eli loved it and helped me lay down a funky fresh beat and danced like a malfunctioning robot.
I was really getting into it and started freestyling about sinks and the dreaded gum disease Gingivitis.
Suddenly I turned to see Diana standing behind me on the steps. Her expression was that special combination of horror, pity and mocking that comes from discovering your whiter than white husband flashing tooth related gang signs to your toddler.
Monday, December 15, 2008
As I crawled into bed last night with my lovely wife, she looked up from her book and said, “Do you think Elijah is particularly special or does every parent think their kid is special?” I said, “Yes.”
To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure how to talk about Eli’s recent developmental leaps. Here’s the deal. He knows the alphabet. Every letter. He also, and this is very very unconfirmed, can recognize whole words like “Grandpa.” Now, keep in mind this child is 20 months old. TWENTY. Most children get their letters and numbers (I forgot to mention he can recognize 1-10) around 2 1/2 to 3 years old.
Diana proclaims our child is a bona fide genius. I like to remind her that he was so far behind in learning how to walk that we were afraid he’d be dragging himself, army style, into his college freshman seminar.
I’m a little worried at this rate of brain development that by the time he’s 3 he’ll be writing this blog and I’ll have to sleep on the floor with Grover. For the short term I’m not gonna put any pressure on the little guy and be pleased as punch when he builds a nuclear warhead in our basement.
In case you were wondering whether he got his brains from me or his mother, I had to look up how to spell both “bona fide” and “genius” on dictionary.com.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I’d rather not turn this blog into a constant advertisement for the Exploratorium. So let’s just say earlier today Elijah and I visited a certain place where he explored. In possibly an auditorium-like setting.
After depositing our coats, I let Eli loose to frolic in the germ factory that is any collection of children under the age of 18 and I did what I always do: make sure I’m the coolest dad in attendance.
There wasn’t much competition this morning. There were two dads carrying on a conversation about 401Ks and triceps exercises. Not cool.
There were also a few dads paying absolutely no attention to their kids. Definitely not cool. One of their kids, dressed as Batman, muttered to himself as he paced, “I just have to get this show started…we’re much behind schedule and the show simply MUST go on…”
And there was one dad in the center of the room trying to comfort a child who was so hysterical and out of control, Eli toddled over and gave the dad a hug. The dad thanked him as sincerely as I’ve ever seen an adult thank a 20 month old. Kind of cool. But not as cool as me.
Content in my superior coolness, I walked Eli over to the puzzle center. Eli enjoys the dumping of the puzzle pieces, but has yet to understand the concept of putting the puzzles back together, which he leaves to me.
And then I saw him. The Coolest Dad In the World.
The Coolest Dad In The World (TCDITW) was dressed in a red stocking cap with skulls on it. He also had on a matching red sweatshirt that had a deliciously ironic name on the back. “Beef” or something. He also wore skinny leg jeans and big, clunky skateboard shoes. TCDITW had tattoos on both arms which means he must have been in the arts. Or (gasp) in a band. I think he burned one in the parking lot before coming in.
I tried to distract Eli from TCDITW. I was afraid he’d ask to go home with TCDITW. I’m sure Diana would’ve understood.
TCDITW also had a superiorly cool parenting style. He called his son “Dude” a lot. Why didn’t I think of that?
Eventually, Eli toddled over to TCDITW. I said, “Goodbye son. It was nice knowing you.” But much to my surprise, Eli looked right through TCDITW and walked over to a nerd-dad at the computer center and sat in his lap.
p.s. I keep forgetting this little Eli tidbit. When he wants your attention, whether it be to fetch Grover or find his mother, he will hold out his little paw and solemnly say, “Come…” You are then required to hold his hand and faint from cuteness.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Elijah discovered the word “No.” He pronounces it “Nu.” But thankfully and cutefully, he doesn’t know how to use it correctly. It’s his go to answer for everything. Ask him if he wants breakfast and his response is, “Nu nu nu,” while he attempts to climb into his highchair.
“Eli, do you want to live with Elmo on Sesame Street AND have a million dollars?”
He also uses it to head us off at the pass when he’s in trouble. Elijah will be giving himself a birdbath in Grover’s water dish and while Diana runs over to scold him he’ll wag his finger and say, “Nu nu nu.” He uses this in combination with saying, “Hi!” in a gleefully happy voice when Diana is really angry with him. The cuteness instantly makes you forget his tomfoolery.
He got to use both weapons when we brought home our Christmas tree. I stumbled in the front door Sunday carrying the tree and I shouted to Eli, “Look! It’s a tree! But inside the house!” He shrugged his shoulders and went back to watching Elmo.
But as soon as Diana started unpacking our Mexican ornaments, Eli toddled over and said, “Cewl.”
“Did you just say, “‘Cool?’”
Steve and Pam and Rory and Finn entered for beers and tree trimming and Elijah said, “Finny!”
“Did you just say, “’Finny?’”
We were smart to attach all the breakable ornaments at 3+ feet and higher because Elijah’s favorite activity was removing low hanging fruit and hucking it across the living room.
“Elijah! Do not throw ornaments!”
(Hucks a new ornament into the kitchen) “Elijah Steven Hamann! No no no!”
(Wags his finger ridiculously cutely) “Nu nu nu.”
(Puts one ornament into his mouth while simultaneously throwing one at the dog) “Elijah! No no no! Not for babies!”
“Nu nu nu. Hi!”
It’s gonna be a long Christmas.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I blogged a little while ago about the cool Skokie Exploratorium. No, I am not being paid by them. But you know what the greatest place in the world is? The Exploratorium!
Anyhoo, after Diana woke up from her much deserved Saturday morning sleep, our options for entertaining Elijah was treat him for hypothermia or take him to the $4 scream fest.
Saturday morning must be Dad’s day, because the parking lot was filled with men yanking their kids by the mittens and pounding coffee. Di, Eli and I had a blast. Because it was 11 degrees, all the smart parents kept their kids at home, so the Exploratorium was relatively empty.
Diana, as always, was snapping photos so fast Annie Leibovitz called from San Francisco to ask that we give it a rest. So with more than a twinge of mischief, I decided to carry Eli up into the giant series of tubes that line the ceiling. The tubes are meant for older kids, but I still lugged Eli up there thinking, “Best. Photo moment. Ever.”
I shouted down to Diana, “Take my picture! Take my picture! No! Not Eli! Take MY picture!”
Once we got to the tubes I remembered my fear of heights. They were connected by a series of unstable nets and plastic catwalks that creaked under my considerable weight. The entire structure seemed to groan like the hull of the Titanic. I was petrified with terror. Elijah, on the other hand, scampered around with stunt man abandon. I begged him to stay still and let daddy have a heart attack in peace. But he did not share my desire to live past Saturday.
I realized the only way down off the tubes was to ascend to the next level of horror and then slide down a twisting slide that clearly wouldn’t fit both a fragile baby and his sweat-drenched father. But then I found we could descend the way we came, down a series of plastic steps.
Luckily, Eli didn’t mind carrying me as I hyperventilated with sobs.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Diana enrolled Elijah in a local dance class. She cleverly informed me of this on the day of, as I was walking out the door for work so I wouldn’t have enough time to slash her tires.
I pretended that the dance class was Capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian fighting dance. Or at minimum the Kevin Bacon dance moves from “Footloose.” Because Kevin Bacon is all man.
But the reality is the dance class featured an aging hippie playing a mandolin. Her instructions were to dance or not. Pay attention or not. Stick around or not. Smash each other in the head or not. The kids were free to express themselves any way they wanted. I certainly hope we paid a lot for this top-notch instruction.
According to Diana, Eli expressed himself by watching himself in the dance mirrors. He is his father’s son after all. She said he actually practiced wondering where mommy was. “Ah mama?” He’d say to his reflection while shrugging.
Later on, the hippie asked all the moms to corral their kids while she handed out drumsticks. Diana said this was the only part of the class where the kids had to do as instructed. Probably because they were all holding wooden weapons. We wouldn’t want it to turn into Capeoira, would we?
Diana said there was a woman wearing a berka off to the side who had an uncontrollable child. He ran around with the drumsticks swung them wildly. The hippie woman tried to get control of the crazy kid. Most likely by saying, “Oh, bummer man. Mellow”
Elijah dropped his weapons and approached the berka woman. He then crawled into her lap and gave her a hug. I’m not sure what her berka-religion says about getting hugged by a crazy-haired toddler wearing a robot t-shirt, but she was into it.
The hippie told Diana, “Your son has a lot of love to give.” He is his mother’s son, after all.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
It’s been a while since we’ve had any good scatological stories here at HamannEggs headquarters. Today’s isn’t terribly gross. It’s actually kind of cute. As cute as toilet humor can be.
Many of our friends with older kids tell horror stories about potty training. One unnamed friend has a five year old who still prefers the feeling of feces next to his skin than going in a toilet. No, it’s not cousin Finn. He’s three. Speaking of Finn, if it wasn’t for his deep obsession with Star Wars, he’d still be in diapers. Apparently, Jedi Knights go pee pee in the potty. Who knew?
From what Diana and I have read on the subject, potty training can take years and the worst thing you can do is rush the situation. A lot of experts say the first step is simply letting the little guy know that mommy and daddy go pee and poo in the toilet. No judgments, just the facts.
Well, you can imagine my delight in showing Elijah what happens behind closed doors. So I’ve adopted an open door peeing policy. When it’s time to go, I’ll shout, “Eli! Get in here! Daddy’s going pee pee in the potty!” Elijah will run across the house at full speed to see the action. He’s fascinated in the process.
His favorite part is the flush. Eli will wave bye bye to my urine and say, “Bye bye pee pee! Bye bye poop!”
No. I do not allow him to see me poop. I do enough mental damage by bathing with him. And no, Diana does not participate in the show and pee. The various equipment of men and woman will just confuse him.
Now Eli has taken to saying bye bye to his poop and pee when he’s on the changing table. So we’re on to something. But there is still a very good chance we’ll screw it up and have to send him to college with diapers.