Friday, May 31, 2013

Dog Bite

I always figured it would have been Grover that did it.  I mean, if any dog deserves to take a snap at Elijah or Luca, it’s the dog they tease, poke, pull, jump on and scream at.

But alas, it was another dog that bit Luca.

We were at my friend Garth’s big Memorial BBQ in the western suburbs.  There were beers, burgers, hipsters and tons of dogs.  Big dogs, little dogs, dogs who climb on rocks.  Fat dogs, skinny dogs, even dogs with chicken pox.

Both boys realized the hard way that their bbq plates were right at dog mouth level and Luca lost ½ a burger to a sneaky corgi or some other kind of stubby legged guy.

The constant stampede didn’t really bother the boys too much.  Especially after they found Currey Dorris.  He’s a giant of a man.  A man who rivals Garth in tallness.  And like Garth, he is a super nice guy.  He has boundless energy and seemed to like being ninja kicked by two kids ¼ his size.

All that ninja kicking and ninja “hiya”-ing got the boys into a massive frenzy.  They raced around, yelling and screaming and running among the animals until one of the guys had enough.  He barked and took a chomp onto Luca’s hand.

Now, granted, it was clearly a warning chomp.  It barely broke the skin.  All there was was tiny little puncture. 

But it was enough to scare the living heck out of Luca.  He screamed the bad scream and came a running.

We sprang into action.  It was time for Operation Don’t Make A Big Deal Out Of It.  Because if we freaked out, we could be creating a dog phobia that will never go away.  I didn’t want Luca, who is already racking up an impressive list of stuff to be afraid of, to get spooked every time a dog walks by our front door.

I hugged him and said as calmly as possible, “Oh. It appears that you have been bitten.  No big deal at all.  Hmm.  Oh look.  Blood.”

The dog’s owner came running over to see if he was okay and I said in the most genteel way, “All is well, kind lady.  There is no need for any freaking out.  Huzzah! “

Luca wouldn’t fall for any of it.  He ramped the screaming up into high gear until Diana offered him ice cream and a band-aid. 

I can’t tell if it has any lasting affect on the boy.  He doesn’t seem freaked out by dogs and continues to torture Grover.  And Grover continues to look at me like, “When is it my turn?”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cat In Water

One of Elijah’s pals had a birthday party at the YMCA pool last weekend.  The invitation specifically said, “We encourage any parents who want to suit up and join us in the pool.”

I read it as, “Hey Rick.  Don’t be a baby and get in the pool.  No one will notice your weird shoulder hair.”

But the real reason I decided to get in the water was Luca.  He was invited along with Eli and, well, water and Luca don’t mix.  This is a kid who hates getting his hair washed.  The mere idea of water getting in his eyes fills him with terror.  And yet, he wanted to attend the pool party.  With water.

Before we stepped out of the locker room, I made sure my freshly shaved shoulders were looking good and I did a few push ups to bulge out my biceps.  A tip I learned from 80’s Latin rap artist Rico Suave.

The pool was filled to the brim with screaming 6 year olds and, inexplicably, a giant inflatable bug.  As I sucked my gut in and walked by the moms Luca began to scream, “I don’t want to go in the water!  I don’t want to go in the water!”

“What part of ‘Pool Party’ didn’t you understand?  This is the gig, man.  We’re going in because I can’t hold my stomach in any longer.”

I immediately lost track of Eli, who was swallowed in the mass of kid limbs.  I prayed a little prayer that the lifeguards would watch over my son with no fear and concentrated on my little cat in water.

Luca dug his fingers into my neck, closing off my airway and dug his little feet talons into my love handles.  He screamed into my ear until I threatened to make him go sit with the moms if he didn’t calm down.

Eventually, Luca did calm down and actually began to enjoy himself.  I held him and he splashed and yelled at the Eli friends he knew the names of.  As we neared the giant inflatable bug, Luca stiffened.  No, he did not want to sit on it.  Or touch it.  Or look at it.

But everyone else did. 

I had a steady stream of snot nosed 6 year olds begging me to lift them on top of the bug.  So I’d have to hold Luca in one hand, while hoisting the little boy or girl with my free hand.  Making sure any and all touching was a good and legal touch and did not involve any, as Eli calls them, “front or back privates.” 

Luca would scream and dig in, my head would briefly dip under the surface and I’d wonder what my obituary would say.  “He died how he lived: avoiding front and back privates.”

Thankfully, the whistle blew after an hour and we adjourned to the party room for cake and an epic balloon fight.  I was exhausted and managed to blurt out to a YMCA employee, “Swim…lesson…sign…up…form…please.” 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Luca Love

The other night, Diana and I finished watching “Game Of Thrones” and were deep into our regular debate on if it’s appropriate to quote “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” during the show. 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a shock of brown hair on our stairs.  Luca!  He tried to dart out of sight, but he was busted.  I climbed the stairs and slumped down next to him.  It was way, way past his bedtime. 

So I said, “It’s way, way past your bedtime.”

“I’m not sleepy.”

“Well, what if I lie down next to you and tell you all the stuff I like about you.  Will you go to sleep?”

Of course he took me up on it.  I covered him up with his little blanket and fluffed his pillow.  I then tried to create a makeshift pillow out of his stuffed animals and got started with the basics.

“I like your brown hair.  I like your blue eyes.  I like your little butt.  I like your Hamann feet.”

I moved onto humor. “I like that you are really funny.  I like that you can make funny voices and I like that you can toot on cue.”

I then went into likeability.  “I like that you are a nice guy.  I like that you are friendly.  I like that you are nice to people you don’t know. I like that you are nice to Grover.”

I then went into potpourri. “I like that you like superheroes.  I like that you like fire trucks.  I like that you can’t stand water in your eyes.  I like that you never sleep.  I like that you love Skittles.  I like that you need a Kindle to poop.  I like that you like playing in the mud.  But mostly I just love you.”

I leaned over to see if he was asleep.  He was almost gone.  Before he closed his eyes he said, “Eve was behind me at school and she said ‘Luca’ but I didn’t hear her and then she said ‘Luca’ really loud and then I heard her.”

I took that as an “I love you too.”

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Turtle

On Sunday, I received my official birthday present from Diana.  An all expense paid trip to the J Crew outlet in Aurora Illinois!  Oh…sweet sweet plaid shirts. All the colors of the rainbow.

This magical journey also allowed the boys to visit their grandpa in nearby Lisle for come good old fashioned cane fishing at the pond.  Elijah and Luca couldn’t stop squealing about it.  They’d shriek, “Yay!  Dad is going the bike store and we get to fishing with Papa!”

I’m not sure how they got confused that I was going to the bike store instead of the vaguely sissy store, but I preferred it that way.

After I drove back from the mall, I found a note on Di’s Dad’s place instructing me on how to find the fishing hole.

I arrived to find both boys happily covered in a paste of fish good and mud.  They bombarded me with stories of barracuda catching and worm vivisecting.  I heard a delighted slash frightened shriek from pond-side.  Diana had snagged a fish.

No, make that a turtle.

We rushed over to see the little guy.  He was about the size of your fist and was dark green, or as J Crew would call it, “Vintage Sage.”  Oh, and he had a hook sticking out of his skull.

Yeah, Diana’s enthusiasm to yank the little guy out of the water had resulted in a little unplanned brain surgery. 

Eli shouted, “Is he going to be okay?”

Diana’s dad unconvincingly said, “Oh yes.  He’s a tough little guy.”  He began trying to extract the barbed hook from the turtle.  Not to save him, mind you, but because we needed the hook. 

The boys huddled around their grandfather while he yanked on the hook.  I prayed, “Please, do not take off its head.  Please.”

With the dexterity of a man who has yanked many a hook from many a turtle, he succeeded.  Eli said, “Oh look!  It still has a worm in his mouth!”  I thought, “That ain’t a worm. That's his brain.”

Diana dad stood up and said, “Let’s get him back to his house.”  And then threw the turtle as far as he could across the pond.  And we all hoped it wouldn’t immediately come back to the surface, belly up.

Diana quickly announced it was time to go home for lunch and we had a delicious meal of chicken and pasta and I refused Diana’s request to do a fashion show.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

First Skate

 While Luca was sleeping on Mother’s Day, I got Elijah out of Diana’s hair by taking him down the street to the park.  Our main mission was to collect his bike, which had gone forgotten at the rack the whole weekend.

I had a speech with the perfect combination of yelling and consoling ready to go if we discovered his bike was stolen, but luckily it was there, yellow, rusted and slumped over.

We passed the time with some good old fashioned Under Dogs on the swings, but it was just a tad bit too cold.  So I suggested a walk over to the ice rink.  Where we could see if the snack bar was open.

It was not.  But the vending machines solved that little emergency.  I noticed the ice was not filled with the usual Olympic hopefuls or brutish hockey kids.  It was filled with Normals and I realized it was open skate day.

I looked down at Eli and asked, “Do you want to try ice skating?”

He lit up and said, “Yes!  Do you know how to skate?”

I said yes and then did a quick calculation.  It had been about 30 years since I had been on an ice rink.  I smelled disaster.

“You know what?  Maybe we shouldn’t do ice skating.  I don’t think I even remember how to lace up the shoes and it’s really cold and the ice really hurts when you fall on it…”

But I could see from his face we were not getting out of this.

After paying way too much and spending way too much time getting our feet into the bladed contraptions, we made our way onto the ice.

I immediately noticed that his bright blue sweat pants matched his bright blue jacket, giving him a distinctive Brian Boitano look.

My plan was simple.  Keep my hands in my pockets to approximate an air of coolness and simply lean forward to let gravity propel me around the rink.

Elijah’s plan was also simple.  See how many times he could fall onto the ice.

 And fall he did.  I worried that I would break his wrist from trying to steady him.  But he didn’t seem to notice.  He simply laughed the greatest laugh in the history of the world.  Neither of us minded that people were blowing by us in a blur, nor the fact that we only made it around the ice twice the whole time (it added up to $10 a trip).

Then they ordered us off the ice for the Zamboni.  Eli was enthralled by the concept, the equipment, and most of all the mulleted driver.  A man who attempted, but failed to ignore the wildly waving six year old in the stands.  He eventually waved back, which couldn’t have been more impressive if it was Obama at the wheel.

We made it around the ice one more time and then took his bike back home.  I couldn’t help but wonder if it was as thrilling as winning the 1988 Calgary Men’s Long Form.