Monday, August 31, 2015

Ren Fair

With our goofy schedule, Sundays are really our only day to function as a family. And rather than function as a normal family (staring silently into our screens, never acknowledging each other), we’ve been diving into highly orchestrated mini adventures. We then take that day’s worth of fun and spread it thinly over the rest of the week.

Yesterday morning, Diana suggested we all go to the Renaissance Fair just over the Wisconsin border. No one really knew what a Ren Fair was. We thought it might be like the Harry Potter section of Universal Studios. Some kind of sterilized version of England with some paid actors donning crowns and a couple Ye Olde Turkey Leg stands.

We were wrong.

This particular Ren Fair seemed to focus on recreating the filth, disease and debauchery of Medieval England. There was an edge and back alley darkness to the proceedings. I was fairly sure I could acquire a filthy prostitute or a knife wound with very little effort. Oh, and it smelled like pee.

The boys loved it.

I tried to strike the balance of encouraging Elijah and Luca to enjoy the day, but not too much. I worried about losing them to Renaissance culture the way I worry about losing them to hard drugs.

Diana reminded me just how many Star Wars t-shirts there were in the crowd. Yeah, but Star Wars isn’t filled with creepy nerds who hang out in conventions, dressing up in revealing and strange outfits and probably do it after hours. Oh, right. But Star Wars has laser guns. So there.

I begged Luca and Eli to let me take their photo with the leather panty-wearing woman with the twin broadswords. Or at least one pair of heaving bosoms. They said they would if I agreed to fight one of the foam sword demonstrators in the mud pit.

I contemplated the angry, greasy haired men who didn’t even bother wearing period clothes. They were just there for the sword violence. I demurred after seeing the big one dispatch a foe with flick of his wrist and bellow a war cry.

We walked away with a couple new wooden swords, a few plastic gold pieces and sincere desire to never go there again and come back year after year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Hunt for Beff

Thank you all for your concern over Monday’s first day of school post. Luca ended up fine. Great even. He loves school and excitedly bounds to class to play with a child named “Hawk.” I think it’s a safe bet to assume there will be multiple Hawk-related HamannEggs posts forthcoming.

Oh, and I’m still a mess over it in case you are wondering.

But I wanted to turn the Wayback machine to the Sunday before school started. The whole family visited Maggie Daley Park. Maggie Daley Park is a 20-acre public park in the Loop community area of Chicago. It is near the Lake Michigan shoreline in northeastern Grant Park where Daley Bicentennial Plaza previously stood. Thanks Wikipedia!

It’s this kid Shangri La with lots of climbing things and water things and some of the most dangerous slides I’ve ever seen. As I watched child after child ejected from these metal rifle muzzles, I wondered if Maggie Daley secretly hated children and asked for 14,000 ankles be twisted in her memory. But Wikipedia set me straight. She loved children.

About halfway through the day, we watched a father walk around the park calling out his son’s name with increasing panic. I can’t remember the kid’s name, but it was one of those names that sounds like a normal name, but is slightly exotic. Like Luca. Let’s call him “Beff.”

Anyway, Beff’s dad was getting frantic, so a group of parents, led by Diana, offered to search for him. Beff’s dad said Beff was wearing a red shirt and yellow Crocs. Crocs and a t-shirt, huh? Should be no problem finding a child with that outfit.

Diana and I split up and each took a kid for the hunt. I got Luca and he couldn’t really understand why we volunteered to find the kid.

“Because we’d be heroes. Don’t you want to be a hero?”

Luca agreed that being a hero would be pretty great. So we raced off to be the first to find Beff. We searched everywhere. The big wooden boat. The other big wooden boat. Luca scrambled into every nook and cranny calling out “Beff! Beff!” We scanned for red-shirted children. We combed the lawn for yellow Crocs.

After a fairly thorough search, we decided to go find Mommy and Elijah. And in classic Three Stooges style, we ran in opposite directions. I whirled around and lost sight of Luca for a brief moment. “Beff!  I mean Luca!” I shouted.

Luckily, I spotted Luca being ejected from a slide and scooped him up. I was about to lecture him about irony when we saw Beff in Beff’s dad’s arms. Beff’s dad was holding him tight and would never, ever let him out of his sight again.

Just then Diana arrived. She gestured to Beff’s Crocs, which were green instead of yellow.

“We would’ve found him if Beff’s dad told us the right color Crocs,” Diana said.

“And then we’d be heroes,” Luca added.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Last First Day Of School

Last night, I propped my head up on Luca’s pillow and told him, “You know. It’s ok to be scared about the first day of school. The trick is what to do with those scared feelings. Face your fears or let them own you. That’s the big choice.”

Luca replied, “Thanks dad. I do feel a little nervous.”

I said, “I was talking about me.”

I took the morning off to walk with Elijah and Luca to school and I chose my biggest sunglasses to protect myself from having other people watch me weep.

Luca was starting kindergarten and I was sick over it. Why in the hell does time have to keep moving forward? Can’t I just keep him in teddy bear PJs, surrounded by stuffed animals forever? It would be a little strange in his 30’s, but I’m ok with it if he is.

I planted myself in the dining room and fought off wave after wave of panic and melancholy as Luca cheerfully ate his Cheerios. He seemed genuinely excited for school and chatted about the merits of sack lunches over the dreaded hot lunch “Bosco Stick.” Elijah adopted the slouching disposition of the third grader who had seen it all. Neither of them seemed to share my intense Kafka moment.

After a flurry of new gym shoes and water bottles, we walked to school with Callie, Lydie, Chris, Lexa and an ever-growing parade of PTA members. I was the only dad moaning to himself, “I feel like this is the Bataan Death March of our childhoods.”

We dumped Eli off at the pile of third graders and took Luca around the corner to the kindergarten area. He was all smiles and glad-handing with the other kids. Hey! It’s Finn! How ya doin’ Jasper! I felt like maybe everything was going to be ok. The bell rang and the kids walked single file to the door.

Then Luca lost it. Every terrible, anxious, nervous strand of DNA he had the bad fortune of inheriting from me lit up within him like a firecracker.

He clutched Diana and wept. Diana told him she couldn’t go into the school with him and he’d have to be brave. He managed to make it into the doorway and then came running back to her arms. Two, three more times.

The gym teacher took pity on us and promised Luca she would help him get to class. He looked back at us with an expression that not only destroyed me, but wiped my existence from the face of the planet.

Diana and I walked home, holding each other up like natural disaster victims. I felt like someone should throw an Army blanket over us.

I got in my car and vowed to buy Luca something gigantic on my way home. Also to look into home schooling immediately. Even if it meant joining a creepy religion. I think I could pull off one of those beards without the mustache.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Over the last few months, we’ve been doing a bunch of renovations to our house. Essentially, we turned our two flat into a single family home. It mostly involved workers spreading a thin layer of rubble over every inch of our house. Our Roomba hung itself in our dining room.

One of the advantages of having double the space, aside from twice the locations for Grover to poop during a thunderstorm, is the boys could have their own bedroom.

Diana and I were a little nervous about how they’d react to the idea of sleeping alone. The two had been roommates since we lived in Denver, a city Luca is convinced is fictional.

Diana tried to sweeten the deal for both of them by creating two bedrooms straight out of a Disney tween television show. They have framed vintage comic book covers, bunk beds, docking stations for their Ipads, whimsical rugs and little touches reflecting their personalities. Luca has a Lego building table and Elijah has a small pile of 5-dollar bills.

The founder of IKEA, Ingvar Kamprad, took one look and said, “I am liking this for your little children.” He also said, “I was not a Nazi sympathizer.”

But like all things I’ve built up in my mind, the boys were completely fine with sleeping in their own rooms. With the condition that Diana and I have to lie down with them until they fall asleep.

I was not on board with this. Diana was usually in charge of the be-withs in our house. Which would usually give me a chance to drink whisky or play video games. Or more likely both.

With the double be-withs, there is also a nightly game of “Who Do I love More?” The answer is always Diana. It warms my heart to hear them argue, bargain and bribe for the opportunity to sleep with their mother over the horrifying alternative.

After climbing in next to the loser, I’ll usually drift off well before they do. Only to awaken hours later with shooting pain in my lower lumbar from the metal IKEA death trap and wafer thin mattress.

At which point I will limp into our room to climb into bed. Where I’ll inevitably find Diana, Eli and Luca.

Friday, August 14, 2015


When Luca received his preschool equivalent of a report card this year, the YMCA teachers called out Luca’s vivid imagination. I wasn’t sure if that was a positive or a negative, but I was pleased. I worry from time to time his video game addiction will do lasting damage to his brain. Like it has mine. What were we talking about again?

When Luca goes into his imagination. He doesn’t simply dip a toe in. Luca jacks into his imagination like Neo from “The Matrix.” He clenches his eyes tight and balls his hands into fists and shakes with effort. He also makes a series of clicks and beeps and explosions.

To watch him do into Lucaland can be a little disconcerting. He sometimes looks like he’s having a medical emergency. In one such episode, Diana’s dad said, “Is he choking or something?”

Diana will sometimes ask, “Luca! Where are you right now? Who are you fighting? What’s happening in there?”

Luca will sheepishly mutter, “I’m being Iron Man.” Or, “Robots. I’m fighting robots.”

And sometimes I’ll whisper in his ear, “Come back to Earth, Luca. Join us here on Earth.”

We do it in good humor, but also I think in some ways we are a little worried he’ll get lost in there with the robots and the Iron Men. Or that he is exhibiting symptoms of something scarier.

A quick search of the internet revealed that he is either completely normal or possessed by the devil.

But I’ll take a kid who has a vivid imagination and is mildly possessed by the devil over some dumb dullard.

In other Luca news, Diana recently asked him what kind of job he wanted to be when he grows up. He said, “A reglear dad.” He says “regular” that way.

She said, “If you are a reglear dad as your job, how will you make money?”

He said matter of factly, “I’ll just live here with you and Dad.”

Elijah informed him, “Oh, they’ll both be dead by then.”