Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Eve 2011




All right. New Years Eve letter time.

Dear Elijah,

A few hours ago, your mom and I were watching you run through the house and she said with a sigh, “He’s a boy now.” She’s right. Over the course of the last year it seems like you’ve leapt from being a baby to a full fledged boy. It’s heart breaking and awesome in exactly equal measure.

Each day I think, “Okay. I can’t possibly be more in love with this kid. Surely I’ve reached my love limit.” But each day you prove me wrong.

I love you, pal.


Dear Luca,

You. Are. Incredible. Yesterday, we made a little fort in your room and we sat there with your stuffed animals and a flashlight and just…hung out. We didn’t need to talk. We just sat there. Like friends. That’s what I love most about you. You’re simply a great friend.


Dear Diana,

This year could have, should have been a back breaker for us. But we are together because of your strength and your capacity for love. Our sons have my genes, but it is you who makes them special. It’s your humor that makes them funny. It’s your love that makes them lovely. It’s your joy that makes them joyful.

I can never thank you enough for this family.

I love you.

Dad.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Poop


It’s all our fault. We brought this down on ourselves and we’re powerless to stop it. It’s the Poopy Talk Epidemic 2011. Luca has it bad and we can’t make him stop. Partly because it’s adorable.

Lemmie back up. It started with a simple question: What would you like to eat for lunch? Would you like lavies (ravioli) or a poop sandwich? Every meal, the choice was whatever we were cooking or a poop sandwich. Luca and Elijah would burst into laughter. Oh mother and father, your potty humor is so very droll. Thank you for enriching our lives with the gift of scatological humor.

But then somewhere it dawned on Luca. Waitaminute. Mommy and Daddy get huge laughs when they say “Poop.” I wonder what would happen when I said such a word?

And so it began.

Luca began inserting “Poop” into every conceivable sentence. When our new sister in law Dana said, “Luca, you’re cute,” he responded, “You’re poopy!”

When someone sang “Jingle Bells?” Luca sang “Jingle Poops.”

When you told him you loved him? He said, “I love poop!”

We decided to put an end to it. Whenever Luca inserted the brown noun, we said, “No no, Luca. No potty talk.” On the surface, this is good parenting. When your kid says something inappropriate, correct him. But unfortunately we were correcting him while suppressing belly laughs. At best this is a mixed message. At worst, it’s a reward.

So we need to get serious with this. No laughing. No giggling. No smiles. But damnit, it’s hysterical when he says “poopy.” His pronunciation is that of actress Anne Ramsey in the 1987 movie “Throw Momma From The Train.”

Those of you who get the reference know what I mean. Those of you who aren’t 39+ years old, just imagine a elderly woman who talks as if her mouth was always filled with Braunschweiger.

All right, I have to get back to playing “Construction Site” with Luca. Or as he calls it, “Construction Poopy.”

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa Claus


About a month ago, Tim, the guy who dug out our basement came by at about 8pm. As the boys and dog attacked him he brushed past everyone and said to me, “I gotta talk to you.”

As Tim headed downstairs, I noticed he was carrying a large garbage bag. I thought, “Is he going to bury a body in our basement? If so, fine. He’s giving us a heck of a deal on concrete.”

We reached the bottom of our stairs and Tim said, “Take a look in here.” Fully expecting a sack full of human heads, I peered in. Inside was a full Santa Claus outfit. Red coat. Boots. Beard. Even wire rimmed glasses. I’ll admit I was a tiny bit disappointed.

“I was doing a Montgomery Wards demolition a few years ago and this came out of a wall!”

I then learned it was Tim’s Christmas Eve tradition to walk from house to house, delivering presents and he wanted to add us to his route.

“It’s going to blow their minds!”

On Christmas Eve, Steve’s family came over with our pal Kitty and her new daughter for some wine and appetizers. I felt it was my job to hype Tim’s arrival to the kids.

“Guys! Patrick just called and said he saw Santa Claus in Skokie! And he’s coming our way!”

The kids immediately positioned themselves at our window to look for the man in red. According to Tim, he’d be at our house at 6:30pm.

6:30 came and went and I started to get worried. Our phone rang and it was Tim. He and his construction buddies were enjoying a little holiday cheer and he was running late. I began to picture Dan Aykroyd’s character from the movie “Trading Places,” who stumbled around drunkenly in a filthy Santa suit and at one point stuffed a salmon into his pants.

I stared down at Kitty’s salmon platter and wondered if we were about to ruin Santa for Elijah and Luca.

Tim called again and said he was on his way. I told the kids to resume their positions at the front window.

And then it happened. Santa came dancing up Ashland Avenue. The real Santa. If decades of cynicism wasn’t coursing through my veins I would have sworn he had arrived with eight tiny reindeer.

Kids cheered. Parents cheered. We pounded on our window as we watched him stand on our porch and dramatically reach into his bag for gifts for not only Elijah and Luca, but Rory and Finn as well. He extracted a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates for Diana, who had been particularly good this year.

He tipped his hat and waved to us before bounding back down the steps and heading back to into the night.

The kids began to pick apart the logic of Santa arriving at 7:45pm and not while they were asleep and why did he sign the packages “Snata” and didn’t they specifically ask for a Star Wars thing and not a bean bag game.

But for me, it was the real deal.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Church


On Christmas Eve’s eve, my brother was drinking beers at my house and we were making plans. Or rather, I was telling him what his plans were. “And then we’ll all go to mass dressed in identical white turtle necks and red sweaters that I am planning on knitting between now and 3pm tomorrow…”

Steve got a scrunched look on his face and said, “Uh, I don’t think we’re going to church tomorrow. Too much of a hassle.”

“What? That’s our tradition. It’s in HamannEggs Volume 1. We go to church Christmas Eve. It’s in the book. In the entry right before my first weepy New Years Eve post.”

He changed the subject to Star Wars. Shrewd. The next morning, Diana bailed on church by sweeping her hand over the filth that was our house. She would need all day to get the house ready for Christmas Eve guests.

A little later, I took Eljah to the liquor store. He’s a wiz at choosing spiced rum.

“Hey man, I think it’s just going to be you and me at Christmas church this year. What do you think of that?”

“Well. Sometimes I like to do things with you and sometimes I like to do things with mommy. And this time I think I want to NOT do something with you.”

I quickly explained that the only way Santa was coming to our house is if he went to Christmas Mass. Suddenly, Elijah got very religious. The fact that he would be able to wear a necktie was a bonus.

When we got home, we had exactly 3 hours before church time. Unfortunately, I had to prep my Christmas boeuf bourguignon, which takes 3.5 hours. I spent that time internally cursing Julia Child and externally cursing at anyone who dared disturb by kitchen.

Boeuf in the oven, I crammed Elijah into his tie and pants and we raced to Church. We were late (in Hamann terms, 5 minutes early is late) and couldn’t find a seat. An usher shoved over an elderly couple and made enough room for Eli to sit in my lap.

Having no memory of church, Eli was fascinated. And he was adorable. He stood on the pew and tried to sing along with the choir. He crept up the aisle to see the nativity play and actually tried to listen.

As I watched him in his little tie, I got welled up and thought, “We could do this every week. We could be church people. Just me and Eli. Two churchy guys churching it up, church style. Maybe he’ll become one of those athletes who are super religious. Like Tim Tebow. Yeah, he could be Tim Tebow. Throw a touchdown, take a knee, point heavenward.”

At that moment, Elijah turned to me and said so loud that it echoed off the holy walls, “Dad! I want to leave! And I don’t want to do this ever again!”

I quickly scooped him up and escaped through the side door. We walked up Washington Street to our car and I said, “You did a pretty good job, Eli. Let’s go wait for Santa.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Vicks



Earlier this week, Luca had a terrible, terrible cough. He would cough so hard he would wake himself up, crying at midnight, 2am, 3am, 3:15am, 3:30am and 3:31am. For some reason, he would call for me. I think it was because he doesn’t want me to have a job. His chest and throat was so bad that when he spoke he sounded like a three pack a day diesel truck driver who had a cold.

As I slumped over my desk, I remembered an old wives’ tale. If you rubbed the bottom of a kid’s feet with Vicks Vapo Rub, it would cure a cough. Normally, I am not in favor of these quote, unquote treatments. It’s 2011. We’ve faked putting a man on the moon. Why would I stick chicken bones on my kid’s ears to treat an ear ache?

I was desperate and too sleepy to listen to reason. I did a cursory internets check and discovered the Vicks foot treatment hadn’t been debunked. But it also hadn’t been proven. But more importantly, I couldn’t find any evidence of kids losing their feet from it.

I suggested the treatment to both Diana and our new babysitter, Hanna. Diana thought it sounded crazy, but Hanna heard it worked. I decided to go with the 22 year old Art Student’s recommendation.

Luca was exhausted and didn’t fight us wiping stinky slime on the bottom of his feet. And wouldn’t you know it? He slept through the whole night without a single cough. Miracle!

The next night, he hacked and coughed and cried all night. Until Diana wiped more Vicks on his feet.

I am currently stock piling chicken bones in case he gets an ear ache.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Brawl


Diana has a motto: “If you wanna play rough, you gotta be tough!” No, she is not referring to our make out sessions. She’s referring to the almost constant battle that occurs whenever more than 2 Hamann cousins occupy the same fifty foot radius.

For example, we visited my dad and stepmom this weekend for pre-Christmas. They put on their usual awesome spread of deer sausage, cheese, taco dip, chex mix, pickles rolled in ham and cream cheese, fudge, peanut brittle, chips, cookies, wine, beer, whisky and joy.

All the Hamann brothers were there and Dave and Steve brought their kids. But there seemed to be a constant ringing of a boxing bell, because the kids wrestled, punched, kicked, and pretended to shoot each other in the face for the entire 19 hours we were there.

It used to really bother me when the cousins fought. I mistook their fighting for actual angry violence and I would spend entire afternoons chasing them, shouting, “Quit yer fighting!” in a vaguely southern accent. But then I slowly realized there was no use in fighting their fighting. Fighting is good exercise and as cubs, this play fighting is useful for them later in life when they’ll have to hunt for food for the Pride.

And rarely do they actually hurt each other. The crying usually occurs when one of them realizes they don’t have their parents’ 100% attention at any given moment. Or when Luca’s giant head shifts weight and he smashes into a coffee table.

So I sat back and let them go at it. Knowing it would be years before they’d be able to take me in a fair fight.

p.s. Today’s photo is Luca demonstrating his favorite Christmas present this year. Thanks Dad and Connie.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

LICE!


Elijah’s school sent me an email the other day. Now, normally I view messages from them with the same interest that I do the never ending avalanche of “luxury watches” and “male enhancement” spam. But I perked right up when I saw the subject line: “Illness Alert: Lice.”

A note to spammers. Maybe you’d get me to open your dumb spam if your subject header was “Illness Alert: Lice.”

Here’s something you may not know about me. I. Hate. Lice. The very idea of it makes me viciously scratch my head. I’d rather stick my head into an Amtrak men’s room toilet than deal with tiny little bugs eating my scalp.

I came home that night and found Diana in our kitchen. Before she could even say a word, I launched into it, “Let me tell you something. If our son comes home with lice, I am going to sleep at the office. Not before I burn our house to the ground. I will make sure you aren’t here, however. But I am serious about it.”

Yesterday, I was sitting in a meeting where smart people were saying smart sounding acronyms and I was nodding my head in an attempt to keep up when my phone rang. I excused myself and picked up.

“Yellow?”

“Hi. Is Diana there?”

“No, this is her awesome husband.”

“Oh. Well this is Elijah’s school. As you know…we’ve had some lice issues and Elijah…”

“NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!”

“We’re going to need Diana to come pick him up.”

“NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!NO!”

Lice. Little creatures eating my son’s brain (I assume). I didn’t go back to the meeting. I ran to my office and got online to look up lice symptoms. I then was hit by a crystal clear mental image: Elijah laying on my pillow the night before. In reality, he was saying, “I love you daddy.” In my mind, he was saying, “I’d like to introduce you to my parasite friends, daddy!”

I suddenly and furiously had all of the symptoms. I began scratching my scalp and screaming, “Get off! Get off!”

I called Diana and hissed into the phone, “He gave it to me. He gave it to me. That little sh*t gave me lice!” That’s the honest truth. That’s what I said. I’m terrific.

Diana tried to talk me off the ledge. Yes, his teacher found a lice on his head. But it was only one and he wasn’t infested. The teacher thinks they caught it before we could’ve gotten it.

I stayed at the office. Not because I thought I was safe. But because I could not be in that house. With those things.

Later that day, I received a video message from Elijah. He was speaking into camera with his hair still filled with Lice medicine. Diana had added a little animation to the video where little hearts leaped around his head. He repeated a script from Diana.

“Dad. Don’t worry, we’re getting rid of all the head lice. Because we love you and we want you to come home tonight. I got this goopy goo in my hair and it’s killing all the bugs except this one on my shoulder. I’m just kidding! See you soon.”

I reluctantly headed home and made Diana search every inch of my head for bugs. She found none. But I made her put all our pillows, bedding, clothes and hair into a pile in the yard and light it on fire.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Acul Don’t Care ‘Bout Santa


Santa is keeping a close eye on our house. He is especially interested in if you kick or hit, if you are a lollygagger and if you wipe your butt and wash your hands after you go to the bathroom. As such, Elijah is the picture of good behavior as he waits for the bearded fat man to arrive. Coincidentally, Santa is also digging out our basement. But that’s another blog post.

Luca, on the other hand, could give a rat’s ass about Santa, and as a result, has catapulted into The Terrible Twos, or as I’ve described before, the invasion of Luca’s evil doppelganger, Acul.

I loath Acul. His presence is all the more offensive because Luca was known as such a sweetheart. This is a kid who liked to say, “Mommy? You’re the best,” not three days ago.

But now? Here’s how the one hour I was home before the boys went to bed went:

I walked in the front door and found Acul hitting Eli repeatedly in the bathtub. Eli, who views Acul with bemusement, accepted the wet slaps of flesh. We yanked Acul out of the tub and told him to sit on the steps. Instead, he ran at full speed and leapt back into the tub, spilling water all over the floor.

Upstairs, I had to drag him kicking and screaming from our closet to get his pajamas on (fairly sure he whizzed on my sweaters again). I attempted to read Acul and Eli a bedtime story, but he spent the whole time kicking Elijah in the face. Rather than retaliate, Elijah envisioned Santa looking down at the scene with his huge telescope and marking “coal” next to Luca’s name and “helicopter” next to his.

I gave up and wrestled Acul into bed, to the refrain of, “No! I’m gonna puke!” I flicked off the light and told Eli I was sorry he had to share his room with him (or it).

I barely got to the bottom of the stairs before Eli shouted, “Luca got out of his crib!” I found Acul standing in the middle of the room. Escaping from the crib is actually the evil doppelganger’s official calling card.

It’s a good thing he looks so cute in lady’s hats.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sweaters




Remember the other day when I talked about Luca’s penchant for hiding in my closet? That seems to be only half the story.

A few days ago, I stumbled upstairs after pretending my sleeping on the couch was somehow keeping Elijah and Luca safe between 6 and 7am. I was groggy and the tiniest bit grouchy from the glass of tequila Diana tricked me into drinking the night before.

I threw on a pair of jeans and thought, “Today is a brown sweater kind of day,” and nabbed one from my closet. Once the sweater was over my head I noticed something was off. Something smelled strongly like pee pee. I stuck my head into my sweater and, yes, it stunk like a two year old had recently saturated it with his diaper juice.

I immediately yanked it off and threw it onto the floor and did that gross out dance. Not only was my son using my closet as his own personal hideout, he was using it as his own personal latrine.

I went downstairs and put the sweater in the official Rick Hamann dry cleaning pile, otherwise known as the floor directly in front of the door. I found Luca and knelt down to baby eye level.

“Luca. Please don’t pee pee on Dad’s sweaters. I need them so I can stay warm and look cute.”

He responded in his usual manner, “Can I watch Fireman Sam?”

And this morning, I got out of the shower, went upstairs, thought, “Today is a green sweater day,” put on my green sweater and immediately smelled pee pee.

Pee on me once, shame on you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

T-Rex Café


A good, solid imagination is extremely important to me. As an advertising professional, I use my imagination constantly. To think of other career paths. Ahh…busdriver.

In the constant battle with TV, I constantly try to find places for the boys to use their imaginations rather than lay back and let entertainment wash over them. And Diana has been really stepping it up, by creating some of the most the most boring imagination games in the world.

The other night, I came upstairs to check on them and found the boys scurrying around, delighted.

“What are you playing guys playing?”

“T-Rex Café!”

Ohh, were they imagining going back in time to explore uncharted lands and battle fierce dinosaurs? No. They were pretending to order food at the Denver Natural History Museum food court.

Now, truth be told the kids were actually using their minds and learning valuable food ordering skills and generally having a ball. But really. “Chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, please” wasn’t exactly stealing a page from “The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.”

I added a little comic relief by playing the part of the inept waiter, who couldn’t seem to make it to the table without pratfalling. And for some reason I needed a French accent. If America’s comedic tastes were that of Elijah and Luca, I would be the most famous comic of all time.

After my fifth or sixth fall, I realized the only thing I was adding was letting the boys imagine they were watching terrible dinner theatre at the T-Rex Café.

I gave up and let them go back to their playing, which soon morphed into a rousing rendition of the game “Go to the Grocery Store.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Where’s Luca?


When Luca was a baby, we, like most parents, played that game where you drape a cloth diaper over his head and say, “Wheeeere’s Luca? Wheeeeere’s Luca?” Then we’d lift the diaper, we’d shout, “There he is!” baby laughs would be delivered from New Jersey and we’d repeat until he needed to eat.

Luca hasn’t figured out that we stopped the game.

We’ll be minding out own business, most likely explaining to Elijah why he cannot watch his 30th consecutive hour of television, when one of us will say, “Where’s Luca?” But not in that entertaining, draw out the “e” way.

And then we search. For someone who hasn’t lost his delightful baby fat, Luca can cram himself into some pretty tight quarters. His favorite location was, until recently, my closet. And why not? There is a ton to entertain himself with during the hunt: Plaid shirts, unused dress pants. The occasional tag from the dry cleaners. Lint.

But after yanking down the clothes bar and burying himself in J Crew, he banned him from my closet. So he’s had to find new places to hide.

We’ve found him in the sill of our front window (which, when naked, gives passersby a nice show) and in our Christmas present closet. Luca hasn’t yet figured out if he turned his attention from hiding to opening, he’d discover Santa’s loot. But he much prefers to awkwardly lean heavy boxes onto his own body in painful dedication to his art.

In the end, it’s never too difficult to find the boy. He can’t resist laughing when you go from room to room asking for him. This is why I think he won’t make it as a criminal. At any crime scene, the police will merely have to say, “Wheeere’s Luca?” into their megaphones and Luca will respond, “Tee hee hee…”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Movie



As a child, asthma prevented me from being able to play outside with the other kids in my neighborhood. So I found comfort in the magic of movies, which turned into a lifelong passion. I would go on to direct masterpieces like "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas." Wait. That’s Martin Scorsese. Well, still. I like movies a whole lot.

And for four and a half years, I’ve been waiting for a time when Elijah would be able to sit through a whole 2 hour flick at the theater without freaking out and forcing me to leave early (Rick Hamann fact: The only movie I’ve ever walked out on is Ghostbusters 2).

Well, last weekend I decided it was time for Eli’s first movie. Not because Eli had reached any major developmental milestone. “The Muppets” came out and I wanted to see it and going by myself would seem creepy at best.

Now, if you are Tom Goodrich, you are probably thinking, “Hey. He’s lying. Rick and Eli went to see Cars 2 with me and my son Davis in Colorado.” To which I say, “Tom, let’s keep that to ourselves and let me tell my story, huh?”

Where was I? Oh yes. Lying.

Last Sunday, my brother and his kids went with us to “The Muppets.” While we waited for them to pick us up at our house, Eli hit Luca and I threatened him if he hit his brother again, I’d cancel our movie and we’d just stay home. He hit Luca again, but I pretended not to see it. The show must go on.

We arrived at the theatre and Elijah was extremely excited. Not for the movie, but for popcorn in a bag. So, Sodium in hand, we took our seats in a theater packed to the gills with kids. I figured even if Eli had a meltdown, he’d be in good company.

I loved the fact that he demanded to sit next to his best pal and cousin, Finn. But it also broke a chip off my heart.

Eli wasn’t quite sure how to behave at the movies, so he aped everything his cousin did. I could not convince Eli to take his jacket off because Finn wore his. And then Finn removed his jacket and I got to hold Eli’s.

None of the kids really liked the film (My review: 3 ½ HamannEggs) but they did great and I hope to take Eli to many, many more movies soon. Does anyone know when “Saw VI” comes out?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Two Luca Stories




Luca’s official birthday party went off without a hitch. It was great and hilarious and filled with friends and cousins and cake and pizza and probably the greatest fire truck in the world (thanks Iris). But you know what the problem with a perfect birthday party is? It ain’t blog worthy. Filling this page with a detailed account of how well behaved everyone was is b-o-r-i-n-g.

So I’ll give you 2 short Luca stories to make up for it. One involving poop.

ONE:
Diana says it best: On time for a Hamann is ten minutes early. I need to be on time. Ask anyone who works with or is married to me. On. Time. Unluckily for me, no one in my direct family takes after me. On Thanksgiving, our goal was to hit the road in the morning. And well after noon no one was ready to go but me and I was a little testy about it.

I gathered up a sopping wet pile of clothes from the bathroom and huffed up the stairs. Half way up, I smelled something…evil. Logically and illogically, I placed my nose into the wet clothes in my hands to find the source of the stink. Nope, just garden variety urine. Three quarters up the stairs I found it: a perfect poop. It was really flawless. If I asked you to draw me a piece of poop, this would be it.

Naturally, I blamed Grover. I balled up my fist (in my mind) and searched him out. But at the top of the stairs I found Luca, naked, standing over another perfect poop.

He said, “I made a poop, Dad!”

“I can see that,” I said, trying to act angry.

Luca said, “I sit on the steps?” (For those of you who are new to the blog, you wrong me? You sit on the steps).

I said, “Sit? You’re one letter off, pal.”

TWO:
As I alluded to on Luca’s birthday post, we are digging out our basement. Our current basement was built in 1890, apparently when people only grew to be 4’5” tall. So I have to duck whenever I want to sneak beers in peace.

Anyhoo, Diana got the idea to dig out our basement to make it normal person sized and eventually make a kick ass playroom to sneak beers in. Digging out our basement is the awesome Tim, from Windy City Unlimited Concrete. Tim could not be more Chicago if he was constructed from parts of Mike Ditka and Dorothy Hamill (She’s way more Chicago than Capone).

Anyway, as a pure Chicago man, he feels the need to come over every once and a while to make sure as the man of the house I’m okay with his work. He’ll come over and pound on our door, crush my hand in his paw and use words I have never heard like “underpinning” and “manual labor.”

The other night, Tim was standing in our basement explaining again how this procedure will not destroy our house when Elijah came running in. I shooed him out saying, “No no no. Men talking here. Besides, it’s dirty down here. And double besides, you need to be upstairs watching Luca.”

As if on cue, Luca entered the filthy basement having freshly removed every bit of clothing I had recently applied. Luca then began a very authentic impersonation of a home inspector. Looking in corners, kicking cement, knocking on pipes. Tim didn’t miss a beat except to say, “Kids are funny,” and continued speaking contractor-ese to me.

p.s. My brother Steve wanted me to advertise his new art blog to all seven of my readers: stevehamann.blogspot.com.

Friday, November 25, 2011

TWO!




On Wednesday, God gave Luca his birthday present a few days early by way of “Windy City Unlimited Concrete.” A massive cement mixer parked in front of our house. The purpose of which will be revealed in another blog post. No, it is not a full sized statue of me. Despite my lobbying. Luca and his cousin Rory sat by our front window screaming like it was Beatlemania. Luca kept shouting, “That’s crazy! That’s crazy!”

Yesterday, we took the crew out to Lisle for Thanksgiving and a mini Luca party. Diana’s dad provided the best gift of the day, a massive yard that has yet to be raked, and will not be raked this year. “I plan on letting the snow cover it,” he said proudly. The boys and their female doppelganger cousins, Sheila and Serena, jumped in massive piles of damp tree droppings.

The adult guests tried and mostly succeeded to keep the mood up, as this was out first Thanksgiving without Di’s mom. We had a lovely meal and Luca received some awesome gifts. I’ll give you a hint what they were: it rhymes with “truck.”

Luca slept so hard on the ride home that woke terrified and screaming when we unbuckled him from his car seat. His screams echoed through the house and he woke up several times throughout the night to scream. Apparently, turning his personal calendar over is painful. I completely understand as I look down the barrel of 40.

Tomorrow, we will be giving Luca an official birthday party with the Evanston crew. Elijah, and only Elijah, thinks it’s a surprise party. He keeps saying, “Let’s just tell him not true things!”

Luca, this next part is just for you.

I love you, buddy. But it’s not like you make it hard. You are simply the most loveable kid I’ve ever met. You are the funniest, happiest, kindest, cutest little boy currently residing on planet Earth. You approach everything with such glee. Running, playing, watching TV, crying. Even your screams in the middle of the night seem to come from a place of glee. As I write this, you are perched on a stool, shouting, “Help! Help!” But your shouts are nothing but gleeful.

I wish I could give you a cement truck every day of your life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

El Again


Since moving back to the greater Chicagoland area, I’ve contracted a little germ phobia. Maybe it’s because I got a little too used to the sterility of Denver. But every time I hop on the subway now I get the heebie jeebies. I don’t remember the poles being so hot. And wet. I’m about five minutes away from carrying a permanent tissue in my hand.

So what better way to rid myself of this fear than take Elijah and Luca on the train? Back in the infant Luca days, Eli and I would escape the crying and boobs and ride the rails like two hobos. And what’s better than two hobos? Three hobos.

We walked to the El and I noticed how people would actually slow their cars down to check out my cute boys. I’d tell Eli and Luca to wave at them to see if they’d crash their cars.

Once we got to the El platform, I gave the rules. Rule number one: DO NOT fall onto the tracks. Rule number two: DO NOT push your brother onto the tracks.

We looked across the tracks to the Southbound line. The only other people at the Dempster stop was a dad and his son. Clearly on a crying/boob escape run.

Of course, Elijah shouted, “What are you doing?”

The dad said, “We’re riding the train!”

Eli responded, “No! You’re riding the El!”

The man shuffled his son away and our train arrived. The conductor came out and said, “Are these boys or girls?”

I thought, “Really? They’re in blue jackets and Star Wars hats.” But I let it slide because she offered to toot the horn for them.

Luca was entranced. He loved ever moment of the train. He kept looking at me dead in the eye and saying in hushed tones, “We’re riding the train…”

Eli cured my germ phobia by constantly biting the train pole. I informed him that if the train stopped short he’d get his teeth knocked out. He looked at me like, “That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

We hit the end of the line and back and I added on a trip to the pet store, where the awesome clerks brought out a giant turtle. I discovered Elijah is terrified of giant turtles.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kiss it!


I share an office with a pretty great guy whose kids are much older than Elijah and Luca. We were speaking the other day about when the constant panic of being a dad wanes. I told him I expected it to happen when Luca gets married, because then he’ll officially be someone else’s problem. Hopefully when he's 15. But my office mate assured me that his parenting sphincter loosened (maybe not his exact words) when his kids stopped falling down all the time.

Yeah, I thought. Maybe it’s his disproportionate head size. Maybe it’s his proximity to pointy things. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a klutz. But Luca’s body is in a constant state of healing. As of this writing, he has a split lip, a scratch on his face and around thirty bruises.

There are advantages to being a klutzy almost two year old. He gets lots of kisses from his mother. At least thrice a day Luca will smash into something, like Elijah’s fist, start screaming and then find himself in the loving arms of his mother. She’ll soothe him by asking, “Shall I kiss it?”

To which he always says, “Yesh.”

Lately Luca has been skipping a few steps to save time. He’ll reach out a hurt appendage and say, “Kiss it!” Usually, this appendage is covered in Beefaroni. Or slugs. And he’ll hold it out, dripping and say, “Kiss it!”

“Do I have to?”

“Yesh!”

I can’t say no, so I try to kiss his Beefaroni finger or eyeball with as little actual contact as possible. It’s all the more difficult because I’m beginning to suspect the Beefaroni appendages aren’t actually hurt and he just wants to see if he can get me to do it.

Just know, Elijah came into the room and asked what I was doing. I said, “I am writing a story about Luca.”

“Why?”

“So I can remember the funny stuff you guys do.”

“Will you read it to me?”

So I just read it to Elijah and he simply said, “Hmmm,” and walked away.

Everybody is a critic.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

WHEEEOOOOO


Elijah is by no means a bad kid. He’s extremely well behaved 99% of the time. But we’re greedy, so Diana instituted a sticker behavior chart.

When Di attached it to the fridge, I was surprised by its complication. The chart was a maze of Elijah accomplishments from “Listening” to “Being nice to Luca” to “Breathing in and out.” 5 stickers would result in a trip to Target to purchase a Star Wars guy of his choice.

Because the behaviors included “Putting on your clothes” and “Trying new things,” Elijah nailed 5 stickers in about 15 minutes. So off to Target we went.

Standing in front of the Star Wars figures wall, I found myself arguing with him about what guy to buy. Luca sat patiently in the cart, wondering how he could be related to these two nerds.

Plastic figure selected, I moved on to buying something for son #2. No, he doesn’t have a sticker chart. But his cuteness alone warrants a constant stream of gifts. Besides, buying Luca a toy is like shooting fish in a barrel. Fire Trucks. End of story.

We went to the truck aisle and I handed him a few fire trucks to review. He ended up selecting a truck with little yellow buttons on the top, when depressed sound like this, “WHEEEOOOOO!”

In the vast landscape that is Target, I didn’t realize how loud this sucker is. But once we got into the car, the sound filled the tiny space with horror. WHEEEOOOOO! WHEEEOOOOO! WHEEEOOOOO! One the ride home, I kept pulling over to let emergency vehicles pass that didn’t exist.

Once we got home, I realized what a huge mistake this particular toy was. It was loud. Real loud. WHEEEOOOOO! WHEEEOOOOO! WHEEEOOOOO! Because it was so loud, Luca loved it. His tiny fingers were mashed on the yellow buttons 24 hours a day. WHEEEOOOOO! WHEEEOOOOO! WHEEEOOOOO!

But, as it turns out, tiny chubby fingers weren’t the only way to make this horrific sound. Pick up the fire truck?

WHEEEOOOOO!

Trip over the fire truck?

WHEEEOOOOO!

Look at the fire truck?

WHEEEOOOOO!

Think about the fire truck in the middle of the night?

WHEEEOOOOO!

Throw the fire truck into the garbage?

WHEEEOOOOO!

Remove the fire truck from the garbage when Luca cries?

WHEEEOOOOO!

p.s. Here’s Luca with his pal JB. They are in a fierce battle over who is the cutest baby in the world.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fail


I don’t want to be the yelling dad. I hate it when I raise my voice at Elijah, and to a hugely lesser extent, Luca. When I turn into Mad Dad I instantly regret it and feel like I’ve failed as a parent.

Which brings me to yesterday lunch.

I mentally agreed with myself earlier in the weekend to approach any and all Elijah frustrations with a Zen-like calm. Kill ‘im with kindness, I say.

I tested this approach by making both boys some of the grossest risotto in the history of the world for lunch. Before you think I am some kind of gourmet, it came from a bag, adding to its grossness. I tasted the orange (roasted butternut squash!) goo and immediately knew neither boy would consume more than a bite of it. But I was determined to expose them to food beyond macaroni and cheese, so I demanded they both eat one full spoonful before I would make them pizza.

Luca ate his spoonful with utter glee and then dumped the entire contents onto the floor for Grover. This kept Mad Dad at bay because, yes, he did technically eat one bite. Grover loved it, by the way.

One down.

Elijah took one look at the orange goo, made all the more disgusting by the fact I served it in an orange bowl, and retreated to the couch.

I quickly followed and explained the situation. He would need to eat one full bite of food in order to eat any other food for the rest of his life. Simple.

“I don’t feel good.” He made a little hugging gesture around his waist.

“Nice try. Get in there and eat one bite. Then I will make you delicious, non orange goo pizza.” I felt pretty good. He was being obstinate and whiny, but I felt completely in control.

He refused.

I calmly explained non-eating would result in me calling off our planned visit to see his cousins.

“I’m sick.”

“No you are not. Get. In. There. And Eat.” I could feel my skin turning slightly green, hulk style. But unlike David Banner, I took a deep breath and calmed down.

Rather than continue the fight on the couch, I gathered Eli up and gently placed him on his chair in front of the goo.

“One bite. That’s all I ask. Please. Then you can have a pound of pizza.”

“No.”

“One. Bite.”

“No!”

This went back and forth for a few rounds. And then I snapped like a cheap rubber band.

“Go sit on the steps!” I bellowed. I loudly proclaimed that Eli was not getting another bite of food until dinner and no one, not mommy, not Luca, not Grover, was allowed to feed him under penalty of getting some of the same yelling at Eli was experiencing.

Elijah sat on the stairs and cried. I angrily told him he was being a bad boy and was making me furious. Eli cried harder.

Eventually, I dumped the disgusting risotto down the drain and sulked. Elijah eventually came off the steps without eating and went until dinner with no additional food.

Turns out he was, in fact, sick. As a dog. As evidenced by his raging fever and stomach cramps that came on at 10pm last night.

As I smoothed his sweaty hair away from his forehead, I felt like I earned an F minus as a dad and I asked him for forgiveness. He did not grant me this. Or that’s what I could gather from his moans.

So I’ll simply attempt to raise my grade to a D this next weekend.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Photography




I try not to make this a “Kids Say The Darndest Things” blog. For starters, Bill Cosby had that market covered in 1995. And if I spent all my time on this blog relaying the hilarious things Elijah and Luca say I’d be missing out on my favorite subject: me.

But today I’ll make an exception.

Last night I made it home in time to participate in crazy time. Diana and I laid in our bed and watched as Luca and Eli ran from room to room screaming and shouting and generally terrorizing Grover.

At one point, Elijah stopped short and looked at us in the bed.

“I have to get the camera.”

He arrived several seconds late with our ancient digital camera around his neck. He began to art direct us for the perfect shot.

“Turn that light off. Move over to the left.” He was practically saying “Work it…work it…”

He snapped off a few hundred shots and some of them were quite good. Diana said, “Eli, maybe you could be a photographer when you grow up.”

I immediately thought, “There’s no money in that.”

Eli looked at us and thought for a moment. He said, “No. I’ll be too busy being Luca’s dad.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Elijah The Spaniard



A quick story to begin that has nothing to do with today’s blog except for the fact it’s cute:

Diana tossed Luca into a shopping cart in the Target parking lot and they entered through the automatic glass doors. The moment they hit the red carpeting, Luca breathed deeply and sighed, “Ahh. Smells like Target.”

You’re welcome.

Anyhoo, we’re white. Really, really white. The combination of both Diana and my DNA is a black hole of pigment. This whiteness makes me I worry my sons will only have white experiences and white friends and white bread sandwiches. So whenever Elijah takes a mild interest in someone or something non-white, I overpraise to the point ruining whatever it is he was curious about in the first place.

Which brings me to Spanish.

Eli has been learning the occasional Spanish word at Pre School. When we’re driving around, he’ll say things like, “Dad. Did you know how to say ‘one’ in Spanish? ‘Uno.’”

“Oh my gosh! That’s so awesome! You know how to say ‘uno!’ That is the greatest thing in the history of the world! Uno! UNO! Wow. That’s really, really great. I hope you can use this talent with your future Latin American friends.”

Well, like any four year old whose father just spewed praise all over the back seat, he’s beun making up Spanish words to get me to say how smart he is.

“Dad, do you know to say ‘pasta salad’ in Spanish?”

“No sir.”

“Plecolatical flangol.”

“Ah. Are you sure? That doesn’t even sound Spanish.”

“Dad. Do you know how to say ‘cat’ in Spanish?”

“I know that one. ‘Gato.’”

“No, it’s ‘Plecolatical flangol.’”

“Wait, isn’t that just what you said ‘pasta salad’ was in Spanish?”

“No.”

Incidentally, Google just informed me “Pasta Salad” in Spanish is “Ensalada de Pasta.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Late Night Luca



After 4+ years, the blog has fallen into some predicable patterns. Summers are filled with stories of my intense fear of the boys near swimming pools. Spring is focused entirely on the lead up and let down of Elijah’s birthday and Winter revolves around my weepy and sappy year end notes to my family.

But Fall? Fall is all about Daylight Savings Time. This meaningless turn back of the clock never ceases to toss our family onto its ear. It always, always breaks the boys. They wake up at 4am. They sleep fitfully and angrily. They make me grouchy at new jobs.

Luca has been particularly affected this go around. Each night at bedtime, he stands in his crib shouting our names to tuck him in for the 99th time. Even Grover. He springs awake 5-100 times a night and attempts to wake up his roommate brother. All of which can be heard over the baby monitor.

“Eli! Eli! EEEEEEEEEEEEEELI!”

“Luca! Be. Quiet.”

“ELI!”

“Luca! No! Bad boy!”

After this goes on for a while, I feel compelled to save Elijah and try to get Luca back to sleep. I kind of love it, though. Oh, I try to act mad when I go in there.

“Luca. You need to go sleepies.”

“Can I watch Fireman Sam?”

But then comes the greatest part. The rocking. Even though Luca seems wide awake, he’s usually exhausted from sleeping ½ hour a night. So when we arrive at the rocking chair, he clamps onto me like one of those Kuala Bear thumb toys.

It takes about three seconds for him to fall asleep, but I like to just sit there and listen to his heavy breathing.

Baby sleep experts will tell you this is the worst thing you can do. To reset the sleep patterns, you gotta put them down to bed and walk away. Allowing a baby to be rocked in the middle of the night will create a pattern of neediness and sleeplessness that can take months to fix.

But I’m fairly sure if the experts were hugged by Luca in the middle of the night, they’d give me a pass on this one.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Night Before The New Job


I officially had my first day at the new job this week. And with that comes a lot of stress. What button down shirt do I wear? The checkered one or the other checkered one? And don’t get me started on choosing those first day pair of jeans. Come in on the first day with the wrong jeans? You may as well just turn right around and go home.

So it was with these things on my mind that I bedded down on New Job’s Eve. I managed to drift off fairly easily (Thank you, inventor of Pinot Noir). However, the germs that had invaded Elija earlier collectively decided I should not have the opportunity to sleep.

I awoke at 2am to a bull seal attempting to crawl out of Eli’s throat. He was coughing so ferociously it rattled the windows. Like any caring father, I closed our bedroom door to shut out the sound. I then prayed he would remain in his bed and not want to sleep with us. The answer to my prayer came in Elijah coughing into my face.

“I’m sick,” he moaned.

“Climb aboard,” I whispered, wiping my face. As Eli nestled in, I looked at the clock. If I immediately fell asleep, I would still be 50% alive on my first day. I shut my eyes.

This is when Eli decided to put his cold feet on me. Two pieces of sashimi laid across my thighs. I whispered, “Please don’t put your feet on me. I hate that. Daddy needs to sleep or he won’t make a good impression on his first day and first impressions are the most important…”

Eli responded by coughing.

I abandoned ship, knowing I’d never sleep in the current situation. Elijah responded by rolling completely onto my side of the bed.

I was exhausted. So I stumbled into the boys’ room and crawled into Eli’s bed. Check that. I crawled into Eli's torture chamber. The rock hard mattress and sharp particle board was specifically designed by the good people at IKEA to ruin my first day at work.

I stared at the ceiling for hours, feeling the particle board dig into my calf muscles. The last time I looked at the clock, it was 5:15am. I closed my eyes. At 5:35am, Luca discovered me in his brother’s bed and began shrieking happily at this oddity.

So now I’m known at the office as the sleepy guy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chocolateless Halloween







My brother and his Star Wars posse showed up at precisely 4:30pm. We snapped our yearly Halloween photo on the front steps, which looked like a group photo in front of Comicon, then we headed out on our official Trick or Treating route: from our house to Kitty’s house for beers.

Before we hit the first smashed pumpkin porch, we coached Elijah. “Here are your lines: ‘Trick or treat!’ Wait for the candy. Then, ‘Thank you!’ Wave to the audience and move on.”

Eli nodded his comprehension and attacked.

“Trick or treat! I don’t like chocolate!”

This little ad lib took our neighbor completely aback. A four year old who doesn’t like chocolate? Um. Isn’t chocolate the complete point of Halloween? Our neighbor peered into her plastic orange bowl.

“Well, honey. All I think we have is chocolate…”

Elijah looked at the Snickers in his hand and threw it, disgustedly back into the bowl. Life lesson time.

Eli listened intently as we explained Halloween is not a grocery store. If people were nice enough to give out candy and it happened to be chocolate, he was to say, “Thanks anyway!” and either smile and back away from the porch or take the chocolate for dada.

For the rest of the night, I took sick pleasure at watching the expressions on people’s faces when Eli informed them that he was not a fan of chocolate. A few dads rushed back into the house to find a replacement. We’d shout, “Don’t worry about it,” from the street, but some people were determined to find something, anything to give this tiny Star Wars guy. A spoon. A chicken leg. A TV remote.

Eventually, we made it to Kitty’s house.

Now, if you remember from last year, Kitty really does up her place. Spooky music. Bonfire. Hay. And she also had a battery operated zombie that caused Elijah permanent mental damage. This year, I thought, “He’s 4. He can handle a little zombie action. Hell, he’s seen countless dudes get murdered on Star Wars. What’s a little bloody grey guy?”

Um, no. As soon as Eli caught sight of the zombie, his memories from last year came flooding back and he began screaming hysterically. Spilling his non chocolate treats all over the grass.

I scooped him up and shout-whispered in his ear, “He can’t hurt you. He can’t hurt you. He can’t hurt you.”

But Eli wouldn’t listen. He shrieked until we got him safely inside Kitty’s, where I could calm myself with a Bud Light.

We asked Kitty to keep the zombie every year until Eli comes to grips with his fear. Then we will allow him to smash it with a baseball bat. That doesn’t seem like psychological abuse at all.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Allergyween






Last night was Elijah’s school’s Halloween party. Eli went as Jango Fett (Star Wars bounty hunter), Luca went as the most adorable Yoda ever and I went a Darth Vader. Well, I didn’t have the helmet, so I looked more like the clone of Luke Skywalker from the book, “The Last Command”…I’ve lost you already, haven’t I?

Diana went as a hot and tolerant mom.

The party started an hour before leaving for school with the ritualistic decorating of cookies. My role was to yell at Elijah and Luca to stop eating my masterpieces. Their role was to eat everything not nailed down. Diana’s role was to make fun of my art.

Right before we left, Luca barfed. Natch.

But by the time we arrived at school, something else was up. Luca was drooling uncontrollably and was slurring his words. “Dada” sounded like “Lala” and he kept telling people he was dressed up as “Yola.” We started to panic a little that he had eaten some peanuts (for those of you not keeping track, Luca is allergic to them).

Diana started to get that look of a mom whose kid is about to go into allergic shock. She basically stood on a cafeteria table and shouted, “Is there a doctor in the house?”

I believe the man who looked at Luca was a Paleontologist. But he had a “DR” in his name, so that gave him the right to stick his fingers in my son’s mouth. He said Luca didn’t look like he was in any real danger, but we should give him some Benadryl just in case. Yeah, Benadryl. That would have made sense to have on hand with a kid who is allergic to mystery things.

I offered to run home and get some. I offered this because I did not want to be alone with a kid having an allergy attack. The idea of having to use the emergency “EPI” pen fills me with dread. But Diana was the only one who knew where she hid the Benadryl, so she took off in a panic.

I held Luca in mu lap, praying the parents would stop staring at us with concern. It was about this time I realized if this did go really south and Luca’s throat did close, the dreaded EPI pen was in the car with Diana and I’d have to perform a tracheotomy with a Capri Sun straw.

From behind me, I heard a voice. “Hey. You Darth Vader! That awesome! Hey. He Yoda! That’s awesome!” I turned and saw a kid who was clearly Autistic. That special kind of Autistic kid who loves Star Wars more than anything. It’s really the only part of Autism I understand.

I started to say, “Hey buddy, I’m having a bit of a panic attack here, “ but the Autistic kid would not be denied.

He pointed at his own shirt, which featured the Wookee, Chewbacca. “You know Chewbacca? He’s awesome. He has lots of weapons he can use to fight off bad guys and his friend is Han Solo and he’s real strong.”

I said, “Well, technically those aren’t weapons. That’s ammo for his laser crossbow…” A fresh pool of Luca drool snapped me out of my own Autistic trance.

Diana rushed in a few minutes later and we administered the Benadryl. Within minutes we were back in the business of trying to figure out how to use the restroom in our Star Wars costumes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Milk Strike


With Elijah, we were fairly strict about weaning him off pacifiers and bottles and other things he derived any and all pleasure from. It was our attempt to toughen him up to make in on the mean streets of upper middle class Evanston. And as he entered his private pre school in his $40 leather Converse sneakers this morning, I think he appreciated how tough we were.

Luca, on the other hand? Meh. He can do whatever he wants. If that means he wears rubber rain boots and a diaper to the Whole Foods, fine by me.

But he is a little long in the tooth for bottles. I’m not wild about the oral fixation-ness of it. Won’t that lead to smoking? Delicious, delicious smoking? Smoking that made you look so cool when you were 24? Man, it would be soooo great to just buy one little pack. No one has to know. One cigarette wouldn’t hurt after all these years, right? Marlboro. That was my brand. Marlboro Ultra Lights. Mmmm. Ultra.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Bottles. Well, we decided the best possible time to wean Luca off bottles was after uprooting him from his home, forcing him to drive across the country and sleep in a room he doesn’t remember in a house that is essentially foreign to him.

Yeah, what could go wrong? Well, he has decided, no bottle, no milk. Flat out refuses to drink milk from a sippie cup, a regular cup, a flask, an udder. Nothing. He simply looks at it like it used to taste good and says, “Baba,” in a wistful way.

I was of the mind that he would eventually come around and drink milk like a normal kid. But it’s been a long time with no vitamin D. He’s starting to get that stooped over look of those old foreign women. And I think his bones are getting brittle. I thought I heard a “crack” when I hugged him today.

Well, long story short, we’re back on bottles. Kid’s gotta have milk. I figure he can go with bottles until he’s 18. Legal cigarette age.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

First Sleep Over


I’m trying to come up with the specific reasons we moved back from Denver. Telling people, “Denver just felt like that friend who is really nice, really into triathlons but has no sense of humor,” just gets confused stares.

I guess one of the big reasons is we realized out there how important being close to family is to us. I really, really missed my twin brother. But I also missed my mom and dad and stepmom and non twin brothers and nieces and nephews a ton.

So on our jaunt back to Evanston, I built in a stay over with my older brother, Dave. He has a lovely family in my hometown of Normal, Illinois. We used to fight like cats and dogs as kids and had a bit of a cold relationship in our twenties. But through a lot of effort from mostly him, we’ve become pals in our thirties. To top it off, he has this awesome 5 year old kid with the equally awesome name of Fox.

As you can imagine, the second we entered the house, Fox and Elijah became best friends forever. It didn’t hurt that Fox has an arsenal of plastic guns the likes of which would never be allowed in a certain hippie woman’s house.

The boys refused to leave each other’s side all night. So when bedtime came around, the suggestion came up that the boys may want to sleep in the same room. That familiar “ding” went off in my head, “Hey…this sounds like a blog entry waiting to happen…”

We put an air mattress in Fox’s room and after a few books we said goodnight and went downstairs to watch “Extreme Couponing.” The next hour was like watching action through a strobe light. But the distance between strobes was about 10 minutes apart.

We’d sit for a while, watching coupon hoarders and then hear that telltale thump of kid activity. We’d go upstairs and catch the boys in mid-crazy. Flash, they were jumping. Flash, they were fighting. Flash, they were half out the window. But each time they got busted, their reaction was like, “Hey, it’s completely normal for a four year old and a five year old to be hanging from the ceiling.”

Eventually, we decided to cancel the sleep over and I put Eli in the guest room. Based on the complete fit both boys threw at the act of leaving each other the next morning, I still think it was a success.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ride Home



Dear Inventor Of The Portable DVD Player,

Hi. My name is Rick. I have this blog. It’s a nice blog and once in every great while, someone reads it. The subject is my family (Hamanneggs, get it? You know, eggs?). Sometimes it’s sappy, other times it’s funny. The thing is, I prefer to write about the funny stuff. And the funny stuff that happens to my family comes in the form of disasters. You know, poop on the floor, puke in cleavage, pee in the hair. That sort of stuff.

Which brings me to why I am writing you. We recently moved back to Evanston from Denver, Colorado. By car. A four year old and a one year old trapped in a car. For sixteen hours. I was convinced those 16 hours would be good for at least thirty entries. In my mind’s eye, I saw a Subaru flying down the highway on fire, windows covered in jelly, with a dog attempting to leap from the from the trunk. Yes, the dog would be on fire.

But once we started on our journey and turned your invention on, there was nothing to write about. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Elijah and Luca sat quietly for 16 hours. Not a cry. Not a whine. Poop remained safely where it belongs. The only disaster I could see was the destruction of their attention spans from sitting in front of a video screen for 16 hours. But we won’t see the results of that for years. Years, man.

Thanks for nothing, jerk.

p.s. This is where we lived in Denver.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dr. Hamann


Over the last ten months, I’ve completely lost the ability to drink. Maybe it’s the altitude. But after a glass or two of wine, grandpa needs his nap. Thankfully, my meth addiction is going strong.

Last night, a few co-workers took me out for a goodbye beer. And at the time, I didn’t think I had that many of them. There was no lampshade atop my head. My knuckles were decidedly un-bloody. But when I woke up this morning, I had one great hangovers. My head was bounding. My stomach churned. I was covered in sweat.

And then Luca and Elijah woke up.

Now, I could’ve pawned off wake up duty on Diana. But that would have meant cashing in one of my husband chips. I don’t have that many left and I want to use it for permission to go to Las Vegas one of these days.

I managed to get milks delivered and the TV turned on without barfing. And then laid on the floor and announced that Dada was not feeling well and it would be awesome of we kept the crying and shouting and jumping on me to a minimum.

Elijah immediately took a seat on my stomach. At which point the world tilted 45 degrees and I decided it would be a great idea to stick my head into the toilet.

After spending a while thanking the porcelain, I hear the door open. Luca toddled in carrying his toy doctor kit. My heart almost exploded. What kind of almost 2 year old leaves the joy of early morning cartoons to administer medical care to his hung over dad?

He handed me the plastic stethoscope and plastic bottle of pills (there was no toy Vicodin inside, damn it) and then actually came over and gave me a hug. Not surprisingly, the hug made me feel lots better. I tried to explain to him I wasn’t actually sick and had brought this all on myself, but he kept rubbing my back and murmuring, “Dada sick…”

Diana eventually took pity on me and took over so I could take a half hour shower. I told her about her son, the most compassionate baby ever and she said, “Well, you may feel like crap but at least you’ll get a blog post out of it.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Be Prepared


Luca is obsessed with the TV show “Fireman Sam.” In his unbelievably cute halting style, he’ll tell anyone who listens, “Fireman. Sam. To. The Rescue!”

For those of you who don’t watch TV at 6am M-F, Fireman Sam is a Welsh animated series where mildly Mongoloid-ish people learn about fire safety. But Elijah and I have learned something valuable from it: Always be prepared. For Luca’s pee.

Much like the titular character, Eli and I are always poised for the announcement from the basement, “Luca went pee pee on the potty!” When those magic words come, you have to drop whatever it is you’re doing and run, don’t walk to the bathroom.

We’ve dropped full bottles of water. We’ve left stove burners on high (what would Fireman Sam say?). We’ve left Grover in mid butt scratch.

The screaming is deafening. Di, Eli and I shout our intense approval. “You went pee pee! You went pee pee!” Positive reinforcement.

Luca usually stands there, naked, with a huge grin on his face. Elijah then dramatically unveils a Thomas The Tank Engine sticker for Luca’s pee pee chart. I don’t know why Luca doesn’t get to do his own sticker, but like all Welsh Fire Fighting techniques, you don’t want to get in the way of the bureaucracy.

And then there is the ceremonial dumping of the pee from the baby potty to the toilet. My least favorite part of the program, Eli and Luca’s most favorite part of the program.

From there, it’s life as usual in the firehouse.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cock Robin


I watched a George Harrison documentary the other night and I was struck yet again by how many musical geniuses were exposed to great music when they were very young. Now, I’m not sure I want either Elijah or Luca to become musical geniuses when they get older. You know, because of the heroin. But just in case there is musical genius rattling around inside one of them I yanked the guitar off the wall.

Feel sorry for them. Feel very, very sorry for them.

I announced we were going to play some music and they needed to get some instruments. They both chose drums. Of course.

I found an ancient chord book of Children’s songs and made my way though the classics while they smashed stuff. “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, B-I-N-G-O, She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain,” etc. Yeah, we weren’t nailing “Hey Jude,” but it was fun.

Elijah was the first to get bored and he yanked the chord book out of my reach and announced he was choosing the next song. He immediately picked a song called “Who Killed The Cock Robin?”

“No,” I said, “I don’t know that song and it’s creepy. And it says ‘cock.’” He was adamant about hearing who killed the drawing of the dead bird on the page.

So I made up my own version of the song, all in minor chords. It sounded like a funeral dirge.

Of course he loved it. He demands to hear “Who Killed The Cock Robin,” every time I come within 50 feet of the guitar. And now he constantly walks around the house singing:

Who killed the cock robin?
Who killed the cock robin?
“I” said the sparrow with my bow and arrow.
It was I…oh it was I.

p.s. Today's photo is another in the “Insane Clown Posse” series.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back Trip



Now that’s we’ve made the decision to move back to Chicago, which meteorologists are predicting will have the worst winter in the country, we need to figure out how to get everyone back.

If you’ve been a longtime reader, you’ll recall we did the move out here in long, drawn out stages. Di and I drove out here and then I flew to Illinois, and flew back with the boys. Yeah, that didn’t work out for me. I think I still have post traumatic stress syndrome from that flight. In fact, I think I’ve blocked most of it out from my memory. I seem to recall something about pee.

So this cross country trip, I decided to make it easy on us and propose a new plan. I suggested to Diana that she fly home with Luca and I’d drive with Elijah and Grover. I figured we should split the pain rather than double up on one parent. And I think Eli would get a kick out of seeing the vast emptiness that is the Midwest. Check that. I think Eli would get a kick out of watching 18 hours of DVDs.

Her response? No. Way. Not in a million years. Her suggestion was for me to fly with the boys and she’d drive with Grover.

Did she even hear me? I explained it again. Me go with one boy. She go with other boy. Man to man defense. Share pain. No heap pain.

Again, no way. Not going to happen. After a little digging, I discovered the root of the problem. Diana holds a massive fear of flying with children. Not a fear of flying. A fear of flying with children. Any children. It fills her with intense dread.

So I tried to figure out the story problem. If two adults and two children are crossing the country with a giant black dog, what combination is the least awful? Then I realized I was terrible at story problems and just decided to cram everyone in our Subaru and drive together.

Because what fun is visiting hell if you can’t do it as a family?

Stay tuned.

p.s. That’s a Green Bay helmet Luca has on. We need to get back to Chicago immediately.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nighttime


I have a terrible memory. I think it came from living under those powerlines for so long. Or possibly the half bottle of wine I drink ever three hours, but if you ask me what Elijah or Luca’s birthday is, I get flustered. I know one is right around Thanksgiving because he gypped me out of turkey one year. The other one is the day after my mom’s birthday, which is in Springtime. I’m 80% sure.

That’s why we have the blog. With it, I can remember important things like birthdays. But I can also remember tiny things that would get lost in the yearly shuffle back and forth to Colorado. Things like the time Eli pooped in the tub. Or when Luca pooped on the floor.

Aside from poop. I’d also like to use it to remember the heartbreakingly perfect moments of the boys’ lives. Like every night ay 10pm. It goes a little something like this.

Every night when Diana goes to bed, she asks me to take Elijah from our room into his own room (Lately Luca is too noisy at bedtime for Eli, so he’s been getting permission to sleep in our room).

I challenge you to find something more beautiful than Elijah while he sleeps. He’s usually moving too fast during his waking hours to truly appreciate how gorgeous this kid is. But I usually sit for a few seconds and just watch him breathe. I then try unsuccessfully to lift him without disturbing his perfection. There’s usually a quick twitch of terror when I lift him. His arms and hands palsy in different directions but then he realizes he’s safe. He sighs against my arms and I feel happier than I can describe here.

I carry him across the house, pausing in front of Diana so she can look at him and make a dramatic weeping face. Then I walk down the hall to his bedroom and I whisper to myself, “Ramming speed.” I hold him out in my arms and I use his little feet to push open his door. He never stirs when I do this.

I then tiptoe him across the room and put him into bed. He immediately burrows into his pillow.

After putting his blanket on, I tiptoe over to Luca and peer into his crib. He just as perfect as Elijah, but in an intensely boy way. He’s usually sprawled across the blankets like he just finished a case of beer. I watch him too, and put my hand on his stomach to make sure he’s breathing. Because I have to. I just have to.

And then I try to gently pull his blankie out of his clutches so I can cover him. He rarely lets it go without a fight. I then drape the blankie over him and tip toe out of the room and think, “I gotta remember that somehow.”

p.s. Sorry about the lack of funny in this post. As a consolation, today’s photo is Luca after he just ate a Halloween cookie. Doesn’t he look like a member of “Insane Clown Posse?”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drummer Face



A few months ago, we stumbled into our local public library looking for something to do. After a few minutes trying to find that elusive combination of Star Wars and Dump Truck book (you’re sitting on a potential gold mine, George Lucas) one of the librarians informed us there was a kids’ drum circle ready to begin next door. This, we had to see.

The drum circle dude was the most perfectly cast gentle drum circle guy ever. He stunk, of course. He had inexplicable bracelets and non-ironic peace t-shirt. And shoes which were left at home.

He did a fairly good job keeping the attention of a room full of kids who’d rather be watching Sponge Bob. And he didn’t seem to mind that not a single one could hold a beat (because he was stoned).

But I didn’t truly fall in love with his gentlemen until he taught my son how to make the “drummer face.” He described it thusly: scrunch your nose up like you smell something bad. Then nod your head “yes” and shake your head “no.” It was perfect.

Elijah has been using his newfound drummer face a lot lately. Diana and I have been having a secret battle of music in the kitchen. “Phish” vs “Wilco.” It has to be confusing to our kids. Should they love music designed for white suburban 30 somethings or Caucasian 30 somethings from the suburbs?

Neither one really blows the doors off the house. They are designed to be listened to in dorm rooms by black light.

So the other night I was flipping through my ipod and stumbled across that classic Guns N’ Roses album, “Appetite For Destruction.” Don’t ask me why it was there. I must have been angry in the recent past.

I cranked it up and said, “Who wants to learn how to rock?” Then I played that anthem of trailerparks everywhere, “Welcome To The Jungle.”

Both boys stood agape. I actually thought it was scaring them. But suddenly, Elijah broke out his drummer face and started thrashing around the kitchen. Luca immediately jumped in and they made their own little pre-school mosh pit. Grover leapt on me and humped me furiously. I imagined our landlord neighbors peeking in our windows and praying we’d leave for Evanston sooner than we said.

Once the song was over, I tried to keep the energy up with “Sweet Child O’ Mine” or “Paradise City,” but Elijah kept shouting, “No! No Daddy! Put the surprising song on again. The SURPRISING SONG!”

And then he would make is drummer face.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Announcement From The Dog


Hi guys, my dad keeps asking me to let the dog do a post. Grover’s been kind of sulky lately, but he agreed to get off the couch and write. Take it away, Grover.

Hi gang, it’s me your loveable pal Grover. Sorry I haven’t written lately. I’ve been a little depressed ever since we moved to the mountains. The Man told me I’d get to hunt and eat an elk when we moved out here. But it’s been almost year and no elk. I’m fatter than ever. And my fur is falling out. All because I haven’t been able to hunt and kill an elk. It’s really affecting me. This elk thing. Seriously, if I wasn’t going to kill an elk, what was the point of being out here?

So I convinced The Man and The Woman to move back to Evanston.

It was hard. Because I can’t speak English. I had to do it with my eyes. I sat there at The Man’s feet and stared at The Man and told him with my mind, “This Denver thing isn’t working out. You miss Evanston. I miss Evanston. You’re a Midwesterner, man. Your sons want to go back. The Woman lost her mom and she should be with her family. You’ve got that house sitting there waiting for you. And there hasn’t been a single elk that’s come through the yard for me to hunt and kill. Your brother, The Other Man Who Smells Like The Man, is there. Your friends who smell like beer and basements are there. You gave it a shot and it was fun. But it’s time to move back. Time to be where you belong. You can get a job in Chicago doing whatever it is you do. Based on your breath, I assume it has something to do with liquor. I miss the toxic waste smell of Lake Michigan. I miss the stench of pretension on your neighbors. I miss the lax leash laws.”

And then The Man stared back at me with comprehension and said to The Woman, “Do we need to feed the dog?”

Then The Woman said, “Let’s go back to Illinois.”

The Man said, “Fine by me.”

So we’re heading back home. In a couple weeks. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pee Side Chats


I mentioned this last week, but Luca’s end of the night ritual is to go sit on his little potty in our bathroom. It’s awesome for a lot of reasons. For one, it’s kind of tough for him to sit down on the potty with his back to it, so he looks an awful lot like an old man easing himself into his favorite La-Z-Boy.

But the real reason I love it is the chatting.

Since Luca isn’t really sure when and if his pee will arrive, he needs to sit for a little while. To help pass the time, I sit across from him on our full sized toilet. Mostly I have my pants on. Notice how I said “mostly.” Anyhoo, we sit and we chat. Well, I ask him questions about his day and he answers. It’s more like a Letterman interview, without the snark.

“Did you play in the sandbox today?”

“Yesh.”

“Did you eat any sand?”

“Yesh.”

“Did you play trucks?

“Yesh.”

“Did you eat the trucks?”

“No-o.”

And so on and so forth. The thing is, I think he genuinely looks forward to our little chats. I know I sure as heck do. Life goes by so fast, it’s rare when we can just sit down and talk like human beings. About eating sand.

Elijah sometimes comes in to listen. But he doesn’t butt in on the conversation. He just sits on my lap and listens to Luca’s answers. He’s genuinely interested in Luca and I love him for that.

Eventually, Luca will pee or not and I’ll force him to go to bed. And then Diana and I sit in front of the TV and quietly drink wine.

I think tonight I am going to invite her into the potty for some conversation.