Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bucket

One of the things I really liked about living in Denver was going to the Jewish Community Center pool.  It was as close to being members of a country club as we’ll ever get. 

This summer, now that we’re back in Illinois, we got passes to the Skokie Community Pool.  Which has a decidedly more “Caddy Day” at the country club vibe.   Now, I don’t say this disparagingly.  I feel a lot of comfort in having the least number of tattoos of anyone in attendance.  And Diana loves being the hottest woman there.  By far.  By far.

The crowning achievement of the Skokie pool is The Bucket.  Perched high above the kiddie pool is a massive, massive red bucket.  A big pipe pours water into the bucket and when it fills to the top, it flips, dumping hundreds and hundred of gallons of water onto the toddlers below.

I have to hand it to the pool designers.  They were able to convince the good people of Skokie to allow their children to be crushed by a tidal wave every three to six minutes. 

That’s one of the awesome things about The Bucket.  The randomness of it all.  The Bucket has a mind of its own.  Like an angry god who smites his tiny subjects at his leisure.  The Bucket doesn’t care if your rich or poor or black or Hispanic or if you are The Wine Goddess.  The Bucket drenches all.

There’s even this group of Bucket Disciples who sit directly underneath it all day, waiting prostrate for their punishment.

Elijah loves it, of course.  He races around the kiddie pool structure with no care, mocking The Bucket.  And when The Bucket unleashes it’s wrath, Eli falls to the ground, laughing his head off.

Luca, hates it, of course.  He’ll go nowhere near The Bucket’s splash zone.  He walks around the pool constantly looking up at the Bucket.  Checking The Bucket.  Praying to The Bucket.  And when it dumps with it’s mighty roar, Luca screams bloody murder, to the delight of the sullen lifeguards.

I tried to get Luca to walk with me out to The Bucket’s splash zone, so he’ll see that it ain’t so bad.  But Luca can make himself very, very heavy when he wants to.

Luckily, I plan on being there every day this summer, so he’ll have plenty of time to get brave.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I’ve heard rumors of these creatures called “Teenager,” who sleep until noon.  Creatures who actually enjoy sleep.  I’ve even heard they get angry when you try to wake them up in the morning.

We have no such creatures here.

Let me take you through a typical night last week.

After roughly (maybe too roughly) forcing a kicking and screaming Luca into his pajamas, we’ll turn out the lights and threaten Luca that he’ll never watch TV again unless he gets some sleep.  Elijah looks pleadingly into our eyes and we turn out the lights.

For the next 2 hours we hear thumping from upstairs.  Dull thumping of a child digging a hole through a Rita Hayworth poster.  Occasionally, we hear Eli begging Luca to go to sleep.  This sometimes escalates into a screaming match, where I’m forced to burst into their room yelling, “GO! TO! SLEEPPPPP!”

After the ensuing cry fit, there’s quiet until about midnight, when Luca decides he’d had his daily supply of 15 minutes of shut eye.

Luca will stroll into our room screaming, “I want to go downstairs!  I want to go downstairs!”

The most sober of us (Diana) then tries to explain that there are no good tv shows on at midnight and he needs his sleepies. 

This results in another bout of screaming.

Sometimes we give him a bottle.  Sometimes we let him sleep with us.  Sometimes we go sleep with him in his bunk bed.  Regardless, no one sleeps.  There are just house of him flopping around like a fish, occasionally demanding a glass of water.  Or to have his diaper changed.  Or to have his blanket on or off or chucked out the window.

This goes on until about 7am, when Elijah wakes up, bright eyed and bushy tailed and requests (rather sweetly) that we all go downstairs and watch Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Luca is usually fast asleep at this point.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Father’s Day 2012

Dad and Connie are just so…lovely.  They put in the effort to be great grandparents. I mean, excellent grandparents, not the parents of my grandparents.  Anyhoo, they set up this completely awesome picnic at Starved Rock last weekend to celebrate Father’s Day. Starved Rock is a place where some Native Americans died somehow.  I think from dehydration. 

They woke up at the crack of dawn, packed the exact food each grand child wanted (Eli: Jelly Beans, Fox: Marshmallow Fluff, Luca: Leinenkugel, Finn: air) and staked out a spot underneath a huge shady tree.  They even brought a motorized children’s motorcycle.  Just because the kids may want something to fight about.

It was good news they selected a place under a tree because it was a billion degrees with a billion percent humidity.  

After the twentieth fight over the motorcycle, my dad suggested we go for a hike.  Everyone thought this was a great idea except Connie.  Who will now be known as “Smart Connie.”

Smart Connie thought it may be too hot for the kids.  Smart Connie is smart.  I realized Smart Connie was smart about ½ way up the 3,000 steps to the top of Starved Rock.  When Luca demanded to be carried.  He had that glassey eyed, flushed look of someone in the middle of heat exhaustion.

We made it back to the picnic table and pumped the kids up with water.

All seemed well on the drive back until Luca woke up from his nap.  Completely dehydrated and heat sick.  The only way for him to express his discomfort was to scream uncontrollably.  Rather than swerve into oncoming traffic, my brother parked at McDonalds and took the kids inside. I held Luca while he screamed.  And screamed.  And screamed. 

A steady stream of McDonald’s patrons (obese people) walked by trying to ignore this child whose head seemed to levitate off his head. 

I tried to explain the situation to them.  “Oh, I just beat him.”  That seemed to work.

Eventually, I got him calmed down enough to consume an apple juice and some kind of iced fruit drink.  I had fries.

In hindsight, it was exactly why I love being a dad.  I love the chaos.  I love the unpredictability. I love soothing an un-soothable child.

Best Father’s Day Ever.  Until next year.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bumper Substitute

As I reported yesterday, we broke Luca when we switched him from a crib to a bottom bunk.  He wakes up constantly, screaming bloody murder.  He screams, “Uppie uppie!”  He screams, “I want to go downstairs!”  He screams in some kind of bizarre language of his creation, like an irate Jodie Foster in “Nell.”

Last night, I decided to get to the bottom of it by setting myself up, Jane Goodall style in the boys’ room.  I shoved Luca over and lay down beside him, hoping to see what it is that triggers his rage.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Luca suffers from Bumper Ache. 

When Luca was in his crib, he would root around with his head until he got it good and wedged up against the padding around the railing.  Otherwise known as a Bumper.  This isn’t completely uncommon.  In fact, a friend of ours who will remain nameless (Dan McNulty), still likes to wedge himself up against the wall when he sleeps.

All night last night, Luca would root around with his head, searching in vain for a railing that wasn’t there.  Eventually, he’d wake up, angry and start screaming.  I was there to rub his back and calm him down. 

At one point, I got the idea to cram his head into my armpit to simulate the corner of his crib.  It worked for a little while, but eventually the smell would get to him and he’d spin away in search for a less B.O. corner that was never there.

I also tried to simulate a bumper by lining his wall with stuffed animals and shoving his head into it.  It just wasn’t as good as the real thing.

I’m hoping we can get Dan McNulty over to our house stat for a proper demonstration.

Monday, June 11, 2012


On Sunday, I stood among a pile of 200 pieces of bunk bed and called Luca and Elijah over.

“Hey guys, Dada is going to put this thing together and I’m probably going to yell at you a lot.”

They paused from banging stuff with my hammers to give me a look of “Duh, what else is new?”

About 2 hours later I had abandoned all my clothes except boxer shorts.  I was covered in sweat, making modifications to the IKEA design with my drill to cover the epic mistake I made with a wooden dowel. 

I had, in fact, yelled at the boys.  A lot.  There is something about my utter ineptitude that shortens my fuse.  Especially when little hands keep stealing screws and little voices keep asking, “When is this ever going to be finished, Dada?”

Eventually, I got the evil Swedish thing together.  And promptly ruined my sons’ lives.

Luca spent the entire night following this plan:  1. Fall out of bottom bunk.  2. Cry.  3. Scream. 4. Wake up brother.  5. Repeat.

Granted, Luca’s fall was only 2 inches, since the bottom bunk is essentially a mattress on the floor, but Diana and I still took turns racing into the boys’ room to console Luca all night. 

I crawled in Luca’s bed to help teach him the proper way to sleep.  He thrashed and flipped around and summersaulted and continuously kicked me in the face.  “This is how you sleep, you lunatic?” I thought.

But his life until this point had the friendly confines of a crib.  Until last night he could bounce around as much as he wanted without problem.  But now he had freedom.  Horrible freedom.

He was like a felon who couldn’t adjust to life outside the prison walls. 

On a side note, in of my trips in to the room, I found Elijah sleeping with his lower half dangling over the side of the top bunk.  He didn’t seem to care. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Yesterday, I arrived home and Eli flew open the door and shouted, “I’m wearing lipstick!”

And he was.  I immediately gave Diana a look that said, “Don’t put me in the position of approving or disapproving this.”  Yes, there is a look that says that complex emotion.  It’s all in the scrunching of the nose.

That story has nothing to do with today’s topic. 

We’ve lived in our house for 6 (7? 8?) years now and have never really interacted with our neighbors to the north.  They are a really nice Hispanic family, but our relationship consists of that five seconds while one of us are walking from our car to our front door.  Vigorously wave.  Shout “Hi.”  Unlock the front door.  See your son in makeup.
I’ll admit most of my hang up is the dad doesn’t have a huge command of the English language.  And I have almost zero command of Spanish. 

We tend to communicate through yard work.  I’ll mow their front lawn every couple months and the dad will shovel our front walk in the winter.  I clearly get the better end of that interaction. 

But here’s the thing.  The beautiful, beautiful thing.  Our kids don’t give a rat’s ass about who speaks what and how.  They speak the international language of water guns.

Last Sunday, Elijah and Luca were playing water guns in the backyard (nude) when a stream of water flew over the fence and into our yard.  It began one of those awesome water fights where you get little pieces of grass stuck all over your legs and your hair goes nuts and eventually your mom yells at you to knock it off.

This all occurred while I was at work last weekend.  I arrived home to find Eli running at full steam across our lawn, water gun in hand (he had acquired pants at this point) and began banging furiously on our neighbor’s gate.

Not knowing our children had blown up our polite, yet cold relationship, I stopped him.  ‘Whoa.  We don’t just go banging on people’s door, mister…”

Their kid, Diogo (what does it say about me that I didn’t know their kid’s name before Eli did) flew open the door and unleashed a torrent of water into Eli’s face.  Eli laughed that laugh of people who actually enjoy being soaked in 69 degree weather.

And he ran into their backyard.  The backyard of his new best friends.  Diogo, his brother with the name that starts with a D and their mom and dad whose names I will now make it my duty to learn.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Dream Lady

I was working late last night and in a bit of a funk.  Luckily, I have a wife who understands exactly what it takes to not only get me out of a funk, but catapult me into a giddy euphoria.  Last night, it was the photo above.

This lovely creature was created by none other than Elijah Steven Hamann.  I’m sure it was on a Barbie site or a My Little Pony site.  It seems to be the electronic equivalent of a paper doll.  But Eli used it to create the woman of his dreams.

And it is just awesome.  I love it so much.

I mean, look at her.  That oddly high forehead.  Those Fetal Alcohol Syndrome eyes.  Her lipstick matches her hot pants’ draw string AND her rain boots.

He was kind enough to give her an umbrella so her motorcycle jacket and teddy don’t get wet in the rain. 

And the dog.  Oh how I love the dog.  Waiting obediently by her side after apparently stomping Pinot Noir grapes.

I want NBC to greenlight a TV show about these two immediately.  Model by day.  Alaskan fishing boat captain by night.  Private Detective by afternoon.  It will be called “Slippery When Wet” and will win its timeslot every night.

As I continue to look at her expression, I’m suddenly reminded to set parental controls on our internet when I get home tonight.