Monday, September 24, 2012

First Homework

Do you remember your first homework assignment?  I sure as heck don’t.  As much as this blog is a document to portray myself in a completely fictionalized version of a dotting father, it also serves to give Elijah and Luca a trip down memory lane years from now.  Long after whatever futuristic zombie juice they’re into has erased their brains. 

Last night, as Diana was getting the boys ready for bed, she remembered the Elijah had been given a homework assignment to complete over the weekend.

“Is this the kind of thing they taught you at Berkeley?  To wait until the last second to do your homework?”  I said.

“Maybe you’d like to discuss the quality of my education compared to, where did you go?  The Illinois State Institute of Dishwasher Repair and Advertising?”

Turns out Eli’s assignment was to read a book called “Good Night Gorilla.”  It is actually a neat little book where a gorilla steals a zookeeper’s keys are releases the inhabitants of a zoo, who choose to act cute and cuddly rather than eat each other and eventually get put down by the local authorities.  He read the whole thing aloud without any help.  I did not burst into tears.  Nope.  Not at all.

Eli then had to draw a picture interpreting the book.  He sat down at his little drawing table and crayoned a pretty great scene of the gorilla stealing the keys.  Complete with a bunch of bananas and a tire swing.

It took every ounce of will I had not to shove him aside and do his homework for him. My need for him to be happy and healthy and successful is chemical.  Obsessive.  My every instinct is wrong headed and destructive. 

Luckily, I chose to lie on the floor at his feet, biting his “Goodnight Gorilla” book like a horse bit.  I may have done a little bit of over praising and telling him how much of a genius he is, but let’s focus on the positive here.

Speaking of genius, Diana read him a book by the author David Shannon, who wrote one of Eli’s favorite books, “No No David.” 

Eli read the cover and said, “Hey!  David Shannon!  He wrote ‘No No David.”

He will not be attending The Illinois State Institute of Dishwasher Repair and Advertising.

No, I don’t have a photo of the drawing.  But I do have evidence of two of the WORST haircuts my sons have ever received.  Whooboy.  Whoever from Kidsnips got to these guys was not in a good place, mentally.

Friday, September 21, 2012


This whole reading business started a long time ago.  When Elijah was in pre-school.  I was sitting in our bed, reading stories to him and Luca when Diana suggested he read to ME.

Yeah, right.  Eli produced a hand made, hand colored book filled with preprinted drawings of a bird and worms and stuff.

He began to read, “It is spring.  Mommy bird sees a stick.  Mommy bird sees a tree.  Mommy bird builds a nest.  Mommy bird sits on the eggs.  The eggs hatch.  Mommy bird sees a worm.  Mommy bird feeds the babies.”

I immediately declared it a hoax.  There is no way this child could read.  He was clearly just using the pictures as a guide. 

Denial is my very best friend.  Because when they learn things, which means they are growing.  Which means they are growing up.  Which means they will eventually leave me.  And that is not something I can stomach.

Slowly but surely, I’ve come to the realization that my son can, in fact, read.  He calls out stop signs on the road.  He reads ahead in most of his children’s books.  Can pick out which sugar cereal we won’t purchase for him at Jewel.  

His school sent home a big poster of the alphabet and words that he loves to read from.  You know, A is for apple, B is for Braunschweiger.  He isn’t exactly plowing through The Odyssey, but he is definitely combining letters to form words.  

I’d put his reading ability at “Slack-Jawed Yokel” level.

p.s.  Today’s photo is with my pal Patrick’s son JB.  Go get ‘em, JB!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cool Dad

When we were little, one of our best buddies had a dad that would be considered “cool.”  He swore.  He took us on fishing trips.  He didn’t trouble us with rules or discipline and had more than a working knowledge of Star Wars trivia.  We idolized him.  From what I’ve heard, over the years he’s descended into drug and alcohol addiction. 

And yet, I still have this intense desire to be known as the cool dad to Elijah’s friends.

The other night, Eli’s pal Charlie came over and they were playing with Star Wars guns.  As he ran to and fro, I tried to get my claws into him. 

“Hey man!  Hey!  Do you like Star Wars?  Do you want to know how many times I’ve seen Star Wars?  How high can you count?”

He ignored he in that special way five year olds can ignore you: completely.

I found myself getting more and more desperate for Charlie’s favor.  I quickly counted the dollars in my pocket.  Finding none, I opted for a more boy approach.

“Charlie, come here.  Lemmie see that gun.”

Charlie handed it over and I immediately shot (pretend) him.

“You just learned the first rule of Blasters.  Never give up your Blaster.”

Charlie looked at me with awe.  I got him.  Diana looked at me like a woman who once swore there would never be toy guns in out house.

I handed Charlie back the gun.  “Oh wait, Charlie.  I forgot to show you something on this gun.  Let me see it.”

Charlie handed me the gun and I shot him.

“What’s the first rule of Blasters?”

I began to take on mythical status in Charlie’s eyes.  I could also tell I had impressed Eli as well.  I may just have this cool dad thing down.

Eli said, “Hey Charlie.  Let me have your Blaster.”

Charlie refused.  Fool Charlie once, shame on Charlie.  Eventually the spell was broken and I went back to just being another tall person Charlie could ignore.

I calculated how many years I’d have to wait before I could swear in front of them.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Yesterday morning, I was jockeying for position between Elijah and Luca on the couch while they fiercely argued about what to watch in their second straight hour of TV.  Power Rangers.  My Little Pony.  Power Rangers.  My Little Pony.  POWER RANGERS! MY LITTLE PONY!

I sprang up from the couch and declared, “Get your clothes on.  We’re going outside.”


“I don’t know.  The zoo.  The nature center.  Just get your clothes on.  We’ll find something to do.”

After threatening Elijah that I would personally move his cousins to Utah at great expense if he didn’t get his shoes on, we piled into the car.  I turned the car west with the vague idea of visiting the nature museum in Northbrook.  Where they have the one eyed owl and that sad fox in the cage.

Eventually, I realized we missed the turn to the one eyed owl’s habitat and we were just passing Dunkin Donuts after Dunkin Donuts.

Suddenly, we passed a red sign that read, “Blah Blah Blah Forest Preserve.”  A-Ha!  A forest!  I swung the car into the parking lot and we climbed out. 

The forest preserve’s main purpose was a bike path.  A paved, two lane path carved into fairly picturesque timberland.  We watched peloton after peloton whiz by on their carbon fiber investments.  I thought, “This will not end well.”

But out of the corner of my eye I spotted a little footpath.  I waited for a break in the action and we ran for it.

The path was gorgeous.  Quiet.  Cool.  With dollops of sunlight above and, oddly, giant piles of horse manure below.  Elijah took great pains to leap over them.  Luca, on the other hand, tromped right through.  Thank goodness for his red fireman boots.

After a hundred yards of me shouting, “Isn’t this beautiful?”  We came across a little footbridge over a creek.  We scrambled down to the water’s edge and I gave a clinic in stone skipping. 

Elijah, for three glorious minutes, completely forgot about My Little Pony and began to understand the joy of standing in stinking mud while urinating into creek water.

Luca was soon covered in mud and, presumably, horse manure.  He threw stick after stick into the water like a little beaver. 

The spell was broken soon enough when both boys realized I had not brought along water bottles.  Suddenly, they both became desperate for hydration and we walked back to the car.  Where they fought over Eli’s handheld video game.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Heart Grandpa

A couple weeks ago, I took the boys down to my dad’s house for his birthday.  It was meant to be a surprise that all his grandkids were visiting.  But I blew it in a way that doesn’t portray me in the heroic light I am used to portraying myself in the blog. 

Anyway, I suggested to the boys that they choose their Grandpa’s birthday present.  I had visions of giant purple muumuus and Terminator sunglasses dancing in my head.

Luca immediately declared his pro-fire truck stance and would not budge.  Elijah was a bit more thoughtful.   He hemmed and hawed.  At one point I asked him to think about what kinds of things Grandpa liked and he replied, “Grandpa likes caring for people.” Solidifying a permanent place in my dad’s will.

The day before we left for Peoria, I gleefully announced we were going to Target and commence buying something useless slash hilarious. 

But Eli spoke up, “What if we bought Grandpa a shirt that says ‘Happy Birthday?’”

Wow.  Awesome idea.  It just so happens I have a friend who owns a T-Shirt screen printing company called “T-Shirt Deli.”  It’s styled like a real deli, with shirts in a meat case and they wrap their goods in butcher paper and it’s all very hip.

I immediately loaded the boys into the car and we sped off to the once ultra hip part of Chicago, Bucktown.  I used to live there when it was cool and you could get murdered and stuff.  But now it’s all gentrified, man.  With their Starbucks and dumb Dads shopping with their kids getting birthday presents for their grandparents. 

Anyhoo, while we were driving, I asked the guys what they wanted Grandpa’s shirt to say.

Eli said, “Happy birthday, Grandpa.  We love you.  Love, Dada, Mommy, Luca, Elijah and Grover.”

“Well, I’m not sure we’ll be able to fit all that on one shirt.  And I think they charge by the letter.  So let’s try a shorter message.”

“How about, ‘We love Grandpa?’”

I said, “Well.  See.  He’ll be wearing the shirt.  So it may look a little weird for him to be wearing a shirt that says ‘We love Grandpa’ when he’s Grandpa.  It’ll look like he loves himself…”

I looked in the rearview mirror and could tell Eli had no idea what I was talking about.  And the fractured logic added just enough purple muumuu-ness to make this another successful Eli and Luca present.

We arrived at the store and put the order in.  Extra large blue t-shirt with red letters.  Perfect for a retiree.  The very nice and ultra hip employee tried to point out that it didn’t make sense for us to give Grandpa a shirt that says he loves Grandpa…

I cut her off and said that’s the shirt we wanted.  We added a heart shape instead of the word “love” just because.

My dad loved it. 

p.s.  Today’s photos are of Luca’s first day at pre-school.  Diana didn’t give me any details aside from the fact that Luca cried a bit but was okay.  You gotta love that little chunk.