Saturday, December 31, 2011
All right. New Years Eve letter time.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, December 30, 2011
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
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
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
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
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
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.
“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…”
“We’re going to need Diana to come pick him up.”
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
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
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
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?”
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
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…”