Friday, July 30, 2010
Imagine our relief to find Elijah actually has an imagination. We were beginning to wonder if the actual act of playing was permanently erased by too much TV. But now that he is living his life in all things Star Wars, he is using more and more of his brain for things other than thinking of ways to manipulate us into watching more TV.
Now that he actually likes to play, he wants playmates. Specifically, me. He begs me constantly to get on the floor and make believe with him.
But here’s the thing: I forgot how.
Now, when I was a lad, Steve and I almost lived our entire lives in make believe land. We filled hours, days, years with fantasies so elaborate, J.R.R. Tolkien would’ve said, “Huh?” Like Tolkien, we used to chronicle our elaborate fantasy lives in a rambling, hand-written book called “Fabulous Faces.” I have no idea what the title means. Or who the characters were. Or what happened. The book , as well as the part of my brain that makes stuff up, somehow got lost on the way to adulthood.
So when Eli asked me to sit and play Star Wars guys with him, I had a hard time getting going. I found myself creating scenarios where Han Solo and Chewbacca had to give a big presentation to German clients. Or Darth Vader got chastised by Princess Leia for not rinsing off his dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Elijah would look at me, dumbfounded, before aiming an imaginary laser gun at me and shouting, “Pew pew pew!”
After weeks of continuous playing, the muscle in my brain that thinks of cool stuff started working again. It’s been slow work. Occasionally I slip into situations where Luke Skywalker has to stop off that the convenience store for a pack of gum before heading to the subway .
But a week or so ago, Eli and I played and played and I created a story about Han and Chewie that would’ve made George Lucas proud. I became so engrossed in my story that I kept playing even after Eli lost interest.
And then I realized Diana was standing in the kitchen, taping me with the video camera.
Monday, July 26, 2010
I had to go into the office Saturday. Luckily, it wasn’t until late morning, so Diana was able to get 3 hours of sleep rather than her usual 1.5. I spent the morning shift watching Luca scoot himself backwards around our living room and explaining to Elijah why we don’t watch Star Wars before noon. He had to suffer through the indignity of watching hours of non-Star Wars cartoons.
As soon as Diana arrived downstairs to take over, I sprang into action. Brushing teeth, combing hair, changing from one pair of ratty shorts to another pair of ratty shorts. I then commenced my pre-work ritual of forcing every member of my family to kiss me and proclaim their love for me. Yes, even Grover.
As I headed to the front door, Diana asked if I had seen Luca’s new tooth. New tooth? New tooth? I had my face two inches from the kid’s face all morning and he didn’t let me in on his secret. He’s so private. So I crammed my fingers into his mouth and pried his jaws apart. There is was. A little sliver of white in his slimy gums. It was so cute.
I stood up and declared this tooth needed a name. I turned to Elijah and said, “What should we call Luca’s new tooth?”
I turned and saw that Eli was staring at his current favorite non-Star Wars show, “Angelina Ballerina.” I loath this show. It’s a computer animated show featuring mice (or as I like to refer to them, rats) who dance and stuff. I’m sure there are lots of life lessons and fun for all ages, but I just hate it.
I said, “Really? Angelina Ballerina? That doesn’t sound much like a tooth. What about Luke Skywalker? Or Darth Tooth?”
“No, the tooth’s name is Angelina Ballerina.”
I turned to Luca. “How do you feel about this?” He just grinned.
I let it drop and went to work. I arrived home hours later and found the family playing in the backyard. Luca was cackling in a swing, while Eli was relocating worms from one side of the yard to the other.
I bent down to talk to Luca. “How is your tooth, little guy? Have we decided on a name for it yet?”
From across the yard I heard Eli yell, “Angelina Ballerina!”
Diana suggested we name his next tooth “Brad.”
p.s. Luca should only be photographed in blue shirts.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
I used to never raise my voice. If you asked Diana, in the history of our relationship, I think I’ve yelled maybe once. But I can’t even remember the reason. I much prefer the ancient martial art of passive aggression. Silently slumping and then mumbling, “Nothing,” when asked what’s wrong.
Even at work, where there are hundreds of reasons for me to raise my voice every day, I tend to blankly nod my head when I’m furious and then secretly spit in the offending person’s coffee when they’re not looking.
But over the last three years, I’ve become a yeller. Anymore, I find it’s the only way for me to get through the constant Star Wars theme that runs around Elijah’s brain.
“Eli, stand back from the TV. Eli, stand back from the TV. ELI! STAND BACK FROM THE TV!”
“Eli, get back in bed. Eli, get back in bed. ELI! GET BACK IN BED!”
And then the most I get from him is a casual glance in my direction. “Oh, did you say something, daddy?”
And it isn’t even the negative that gets me screaming.
“ELI WENT POO POO ON THE POTTY!”
“ELI, YOU ATE YOUR VEGETABLES? THAT’S AWESOME!”
“ELI! CURIOUS GEORGE IS ON!”
But honestly, I think it’s delaying my eventual heart attack. There is something so cathartic about standing on the top of the stairs and shouting, “I AM GOING TO COUNT TO THREE!”
My yelling hasn’t made it to the office yet. But as you can tell from my complete lack of posting this week that I may start adding it to my management style.
“ART DIRECTOR MATT CRAGNOLIN WENT POO POO ON THE POTTY!”
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
It was 5,000 degrees yesterday in Evanston. I don’t know what I’m paying my taxes for if they can’t keep it reasonable.
About midway through the morning, as I was contemplating a twelve hour Star Wars marathon to beat the heat, Steve texted me, “Want me to bring the kiddies over?”
I responded, “Yeah! Pool party, baby.” And then I began singing the classic Aquabats song “Pool Party.” Much like my “Total Recall” reference from a week or two ago, if you don’t know what an Aquabat is, it’s not really worth your time looking them up.
Anyhoo, Steve arrived shortly after with his hilarious son Finn and the always cute Rory. Who, at the age of 1, had already mastered the art of matching her shoes to her swimming suit.
Steve and I immediately took our shirts off and compared beer bellies over the baby pool. He won on girth, but I destroyed him on hairiness.
The kids fought, splashed, rubbed popsicles all over themselves and allowed the sun to attempt to penetrate their SPF 50 shields. Meanwhile, Steve and I huddled in the 1 foot by foot square of shade that our backyard offers. With beers.
Suddenly, it happened. Our neighbors to the west began their block party. Now, this is no lily white, north shore, wine and cheese party. This was…urban. Awesomely urban. I don’t know where they found their sound system, but the base alone cracked some of our custom made bricks in the front walkway.
Rory started us off by feeling the music deep inside her. She stood on top of a nearby table and began dancing…uh…urban-ly. I didn’t know a one-year-old Catholic could move like that.
The rest of us followed suit. Eli flapped his arms to the beat of the beat. Even Finn, who would prefer you take his Star Wars toys away than dance, got into the groove.
Luca bounced on my knee like the world’s greatest miniature rap star. My apologies to Lil Wayne. In fact, our backyard turned exactly into a rap music video. If you took all the elements of a rap music video and did the opposite. But we still had a ton of fun.
The popsicles eventually ran out and we went inside to eat our sliced turkey and provolone cheese.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Despite my and Diana’s efforts to ruin our collective gene pool with hard living in our twenties, Elijah was born with opposable thumbs. While useful for Star Wars toy grabbing and Lightsaber wielding, he prefers to use his magic thumbs to constantly open his bedroom door when he is supposed to be asleep.
This stopped being cute after the 1000th consecutive night. And then the yelling started.
Eli is nothing if not smart. He realized his chances of being yelled at were greatly reduced if he drummed up a reason for coming downstairs for no reason.
So he started with the “I need a drink” excuse. But we told him he was on a water ban given his nighttime propensity for urinating in every available receptacle like a miniature Howard Hughes.
Then he cried, “I have ta’ go pee peeeeee!” But standing in front of the toilet, wiener in hand, with no results got him a stern “Little boy who cried wolf pee” lecture.
His latest ploy is to shout, “I have ta’ puke,” from the top of the stairs. Now, this is fairly brilliant because nothing gets us running like avoiding gross toddler barf.
So we let him come down and stick his head in the toilet. He then imitates barfing for a minute. “Blerrrrgh.” If it wasn’t so damned cute it would be dis-gus-ting.
But even the little boy who cried barf has gotten old. Lately when he calls from the top of the stairs, “I have ta’ puke,” I say, “Go nuts. Puke up there.”
And then I’ll hear him go, “Blerrgh,” and then slam his door shut.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Saturday morning, I took it upon myself to teach Luca how to crawl. As Elijah stared into the TV, I put Luca down on his stomach and sat right in front of him and gave him pointers.
“You see, what you wanna do is work your upper body. But you also want to get your legs involved here, buddy. Pump those legs. Pump those legs.”
I’d even put a toy right outside of his reach in an attempt to bait him into crawling.
“See? See this thing that has Grover’s spit all over it? Go get it.”
And then, he started to get it. He actually started moving. But backwards.
He was doing the army crawl with his arms. But he shoved his body backwards. But I think it was technically crawling. So I encouraged him by shoving my face in his face and acted as motivational speaker.
“Be the crawl! Visualize your one-ness with the crawl!”
And then, sure enough, he’d scoot backwards another couple inches.
“Yeah! You’re doing it!”
Scoot scoot scoot.
And then it dawned on me. I had just consumed my third coffee of the day on top of my terrible, terrible morning breath.
My son was simply trying to get away from the foul odor coming out of my face.
Who knew bad breath could be such a motivator? But I see his point. Many a time, I get work done in meetings simply to get away from a cigarette smoking, cheese eating, coffee swilling co-worker sitting next to me.
Tomorrow, I’m going to eat a fist full of garlic and instruct Eli how to clean his room.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Occasionally, Diana will ask why I haven’t written about a favorite Hamann family anecdote. Something she feels is prime blog-worthy material. Usually, it’s because the story starts and ends with, “Oh, my gosh this was soooo cute.”
But every once and a while she reminds me of a perfectly quintessential boy story that simply must be told, no matter how many months ago it occurred.
So here is a soon to be classic Elijah story.
Remember when he was so damned sick we had to take him to the hospital? Diana stayed with him while I pretended to watch Luca at our house but really raided our wine cabinet.
Apparently, the medical TV shows are accurate. At one point in the evening, a troop of interns marched into Eli’s room to discuss his “case.” As you can imagine, this pleased Eli to no end. A bunch of adults asking him questions and laughing at his every answer? Sign him up.
A lot of these future Porsche owners had toys hanging around their necks. They were these kind of flashlight-shaped things that spun around and lit up when you pressed a button. I think they used this to distract children from the ear poking/suppository inserting/IV injecting unpleasantness that they deal with on a daily basis.
As one fresh faced intern waxed poetic about not knowing what the heck was wrong with Elijah, our son pointed at the toy and said, “I want that.” Smartly, the intern obliged.
As this poor twentysomething attempted to impress his superiors, Eli yanked his pants open, displaying to the group that he had eschewed underpants this day. As the interns tried not to look at his genitals, Elijah dropped the toy into his pants.
The intern muttered, “I guess I won’t be asking for that back…” And yet, at the end of the session, he did ask for it back. I guess he had a lot of faith in the Evanston hospital’s Purel supply. And a lot of faith in Diana’s ability to explain to my son why an intern would want his penisy toy.
Monday, July 5, 2010
We’re getting into the really busy time of the summer for me. So when you arrive at HamannEggs and there is no new posting, it’s not that I’m lazy. It’s because I’m battling the evil forces who stand between very wealthy people and their brand new sports cars.
Thankfully, I got to spend what will probably be my last weekend at home with the dudes. We played Star Wars. We watched Star Wars. We talked about Star Wars. We talked about talking about Star Wars.
And then it happened.
My boss just completed a huge masterpiece of a mansion two blocks away. It serves as a giant symbol of what you can achieve by wearing dark blue jeans and a blazer every day. Now, I’m not saying his house was the one that overloaded the Evanston power grid. But he does have that huge blinking neon sign on his roof that reads, “Subtlety!”
It also happened the minute Diana dared to leave her children for more than five minutes to go to the hardware store. I blame her.
Elijah had a grand mal conniption. His brain could not get round the fact that you need actual electricity to watch Star Wars on TV. I’m fairly sure Luca noticed that I had to feed him baby food by candlelight. But if he cared he allowed his screaming brother to do the talking for him.
We made it through the night with sporadic power, but when the guys woke up yesterday, we were still powerless. As Eli screamed, “I want to watch Star Wars!” I suggested we actually go outside and enjoy the morning. Eli asked if there was Star Wars outside. I said sure.
I packed the troop up and we headed to the park. The streets were largely deserted. Not having a working clock, I didn’t realize we were hitting the streets just five minutes after the zombies went to bed.
I sat on a shaded park bench with Luca and Grover and watched as Eli played as a normal child. Not once did the words “Darth” or “Skywalker” exit his lips. I thought, “Why can’t we do this every day? Why can’t we play outside rather than stare at Lucasfilm created imagination for hours and hours…”
Then I saw porch lights snap on all over the neighborhood. I screamed, “Star Wars is back on!” I grabbed Elijah under one arm, Luca under the other and began running home. Eli said, “What about Grover?” I shouted, ‘Leave him!”
We were safely back in our own air conditioning in minutes.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Luca is in a weird place right now. He can’t crawl, but is easily bored. If you place him in his bouncy chair or nuclear technician station to treat him like a piece of furniture (guilty as charged), he gets angry. He flaps his little chubby arms and shrieks.
I feel for the guy. But in the mornings when Diana is getting her 15 minute allotment of sleep, I gots stuff to do. Important stuff. Like stare at myself in the mirror. I can’t take time away from my intense preparations to look fantastic to entertain my little friend.
Or can I?
This morning I got an idea. I grabbed the Baby Bjorn and attached Luca to my front for the duration of my post shower activities. A tour de Rick, if you will.
I immediately thought he was my little Kuato, from “Total Recall.” Look, if you don’t get that reference, don’t bother looking it up on the internet. It will just upset you. If you do get that reference, you’re welcome.
We took Grover out for his run, which we’ve done before. So he wasn’t too impressed. Grover was ticked. “What’s this guy doing here? This is our time.”
After that I introduced Luca to the concept of making Elijah’s breakfast. It was slightly harder than I thought to cut Eli’s banana in his demanded slices with a baby hanging on my front. I was very nervous breakfast would include baby toe slices. Next time I will not use a butcher knife. Luca seemed impressed by my knife skills.
Next, we went on to teeth brushing. He liked this quite a bit. Mostly because he could look at himself in the mirror. And what Hamann doesn’t like that? He did get a head full of toothpaste spit, but didn’t seem to care. I worried the Scope fumes would make him stoned. I couldn’t really tell because his expression in the mirror was, “Ohhh wow. I can, like, see myself.”
The final step was cramming my stuff into my backpack. Fairly uneventful. But from his body language I got the distinct impression he was afraid he was going to be one of the items stuffed into the pack.
I eventually put him into his nuclear plant station and let him shriek until he went on the Tour De Diana.