Thursday, February 26, 2015


Oh yeah, he fought it. Fought it tooth and nail. But in the end his intelligence won out and Luca learned the alphabet. But leading up to it was moments of pure drama.

A while ago I started quizzing him on his ABCs. Or rather, I would refuse to allow him to watch the iPod unless he let me quiz him on his ABCs. Luckily for me, we used the family Star Wars ABCs book. H is for Han Solo, M is for misguided sequels.

But I would randomly point to letter and ask Luca to name them. There were lots that were easy for him. L and E were no brainers because they are tattoos on my arms and happen to be the first letters of his and his brother’s names.

But we’d get to tough ones like M or N and it would turn into the $500,000 question on the old “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show. The Regis one, not that chump change Meredith Vieira one.

Luca would sit there and stare at the book for long drawn out seconds while the music in my head would build to an impossible crescendo. He’d then blurt out, “M!” and I’d shriek in joy and to simply release the tension.

Occasionally, during the silence, Elijah would get to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore and he’d scream, “M! It’s M! I can’t stand it anymore!” At which point I’d tell him to beat it and go back to reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

But I couldn’t understand why he was messing with me like that. Why the drama? Why raise my blood pressure like that? Doesn’t he know I have a weak heart?

After way too many nights of it, it dawned on me. Or rather it dawned on Eli. In one such dramatic beat, Eli said, “He’s just counting the alphabet in his head.”

Luca was using the time to work his way through the alphabet on the ones he didn’t know. I’d point to M and he’d have to go through ABCDEFGHIJKL in his head before M showed up.

I kind of loved it. He doesn’t really do it anymore, which is sad.

And yesterday I asked him since he knew all his letters if he knew all his numbers. He said, “There’s no way I can know all my numbers. There are a million of them.”

Smart kid.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Longest Swim

A few months ago, we received a parent teacher slip from Luca’s swim teachers at the YMCA. It was filled with stickers and “Great Jobs.” But if you dug deeper, it was clear that Luca had yet to master the art of swimming. Or had yet to master the art of not clinging to the pool ladder for dear life. None of the actual swimming skills had check marks by them.

But I didn’t care because as my good friend Tom says, “Man was not meant for the water.”

On Saturday, the temperature was predicted to hover right around frozen snot level. Hmm. How could I make that more uncomfortable? Or even life threatening? Oh yeah. Let’s go swimming!

As we exited the locker room, we walked past a swim meet in progress. Parents screaming. Kids exerting effort. Whistles.

Luca said, “I don’t ever want to do that.”

I said, “I wouldn’t worry about it.”

We got to the family pool area and expertly hid our locker key under our towels. Luca declared that he would not be wearing a floatie belt in the pool.

“So, like I’m going to carry you the whole time?”

As a reply, he leapt into the pool with no adult help whatsoever. He was brave. He was enthusiastic. He was not good at swimming. Luca paddled and splashed with herculean effort, and the line of chlorinated water sat dangerously under his blue lips.

But his doggy paddle was that of the proudest Great Dane. My heart swelled with pride and genuine concern.

Luca kept instructing me to take a step back in the pool so he could jump from longer and longer distances.

Eventually, he told me he wanted to swim the entire width of the pool. I said that would be the greatest thing in the history of the world. I thought that was the biggest mistake in the history of the world.

He paddled. And paddled. And paddled. I kept my arms in a protective arc around him the whole time, ready to strike if he fell under the surface. But damn it, the kid made it all the way across. He was exhausted by the end and could barely muster a smile, but I knew he was happy.

I shouted loud enough to warrant the attention of the sullen lifeguard. Whistle all you want, pimple face. My son can swim! My son can swim!

We celebrated by drying off with YMCA provided washcloths and spending the rest of the day rejecting all physical activity.

Monday, February 16, 2015


At any given moment in our house, there are at least 4 screens dedicated to the game “Minecraft.” While double-checking the spelling of “Minecraft,” I briefly went down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia about it and I still have no idea what the game is about.

“Minecraft allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world.” What? Just reading that makes me want to shake my cane at these kids today.

Luca is currently building a massive mansion in his Minecraft world. It’s actually a stunning glass structure that brings to mind I.M. Pei. If I.M. Pei liked to surround his buildings with lava and roughly 2,000 pigs.

Within the assumingly stifling house, Luca constantly adds bedrooms for people he likes. Each is equipped with a single Spartan twin bed and if you are lucky, a window. My room does not have a window. Eli has a room. Cousins Rory and Finn have rooms. I may be mistaken, but I think Diana has her own room. Which speaks more to how much Luca loves her than it does my chronic snoring.

Anyway, last Friday night I invited a work pal over for our weekly basement meeting of the nerds. Me must have had some Star Wars trivia questions gnawing at him that needed answered.

You know how cats can sense when you are allergic to them? And then they get all in your business? Elijah and Luca have a sixth sense for people who don’t have kids. They immediately lay on the charm so you’ll fall in love with them and rush home to make babies with your spouse. That’s how they increase their friend population. Oddly, it’s a lot easier than asking kids to play at the park.

My work pal gave as good as he got, however. He is the former editor in chief of a well-known video game culture website and regaled my sons with his knowledge of things they love.  He even boasted an in person meeting with the creator of Minecraft. I’m sure Eli and Luca thought was talking about the blocky main character of Minecraft, Steve.

The next morning, I found Luca hard at work on his digital masterpiece. As he added a twin bed to a room, he said, “I am making a room for your friend. The one who knows about Minecraft.”

“He has a name, you know.”

“I don’t remember it,” he said.

“Do you want me to tell it to you?”

“No,” he said. And then he added a window to the room.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Luca puked Saturday night. It was one of those matter of fact pukes that don’t really cause much drama. He barfed, announced it, Diana cleaned up some, Grover ate some, and then we all went back to bed.

But that puke had a little extra built in. That particular puke had dispatched an army of tiny men with tiny ball pain hammers to knock little dents into every inch of Luca’s body.

Like the aforementioned barf, Luca didn’t seem to mind the hundreds of welts all over his body. This was a missed opportunity. He could have parlayed it into a couple free days off school or a Lego set. At minimum some ice cream. But he just shrugged it off and delighted in showing everyone his welty butt.

If you’ll recall from Luca’s early days, he developed some allergies that required us to stalk him at all hours with an Epipen in case his throat ever closed up. So we got a little nervous he was having some kind of allergic reaction to laying around in the same pajamas for 48 hours straight.

So Diana asked me to call a very unenthusiastic doctor on call who said go get some Benadryl and never interrupt her viewing of “Downton Abbey” ever again.

Diana asked me a barrage of questions of which I didn’t have the answer. I assumed the role of “Dr. Hamann” and lied a diagnosis in an authoritative voice rather than have to call back Downton Abbey. I said this happens all the time (probably not), and would be cleared up in a few days (totally made up) and all he needs is a dose of Benadryl (true) and rest and lots of fluids (made up).

This seemed to calm down Diana and I went to Jewel. During the 5 block drive, my brain developed a little hole in it where the name “Benadryl” fell into, never to be found again.

I stood in the kid’s section, dumbfounded. What was it that I was supposed to get? NyQuil? French Fries? A tire iron? I grabbed what I thought the Downton Abbey doctor said to get, which ended up being a popular cold and cough medicine instead of the Benadryl.

I came home and attempted to assume the Dr. Hamann persona again. “No. This is much better for him. Its active ingredient is much more affective against welts because welts are really just his body doing little tiny coughs. Yes. That’s the ticket.”

On my way back to Jewel, I received at text from Diana that simply read, “Please get Benadryl.”

Luca was fine an hour later.

Monday, February 9, 2015

First Snow Man

On Saturday, cousin Finn came over sans Steve around lunchtime. After theoretically eating, they commenced whatever it is they do in between one of them crying.

As customary every week, I slid downstairs to play Xbox for as long as I could before one of them started crying. A couple of games in, I felt this pang. What am I doing down here? It’s beautiful outside. Balmy. And I’m just sitting here in the dark playing Titan fall. You gotta get those boys outside, man. You’re missing their entire childhood in front of this damned box.

Now, this had absolutely nothing to do with how crappy I was playing and had minutes earlier thrown my Xbox controller across the room.

I raced upstairs declared it time to go to the park. It’s a beautiful day out, guys. What’s wrong with you? You’re missing your entire childhoods in front of a damned box. The boys ran from me, screaming. Luckily, I am still big enough to manhandle three boys under the age of 10 and we were at the park in minutes.

After a few minutes throwing the ball to Grover, I noticed how nice and packable the snow was. So I began throwing snowballs at the boys. They begged me to continue but I could see a snow down the back of the coat incident on the horizon.

“Who here has ever made a snowman?” I asked.

No hands went up. I pulled at my collar, Rodney Dangerfield style. Okay. Okay. There was still some time to salvage some childhoods here.

We commenced making a pretty great snowman. He had sticks for arms. Leaves for eyes and a mouth and some pretty great pine needles for hair.

Elijah said, “Watch this.”

I said, “No snow wieners.”

Eli stopped packing.

We stood back and marveled at our guy. I asked that we name him, for blog purposes. But they wouldn’t indulge me. I gathered them up and squatted down.

“Okay guys. I’m going to give you a life lesson here. The very minute we leave here, some kid is going to smash our snowman. We can either walk away and know that snowman is doomed, or we can put him out of his misery.”

The boys attacked the snowman with a ferocity that made me a little uncomfortable. Shortly after the boys realized just how wet and cold they all were. We walked back home and resumed letting our childhoods slip away.