Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Game Show

If you were a kid who spent a lot of time faking illness to get out of school in the 1980’s, you became intimate with the wonderful world of daytime TV game shows. Steve and I spent so much time watching “The Price Is Right” that we could name the price of Rice A Roni or a Ford Fiesta with Asperger’s speed.

We were convinced if we ever got the opportunity to visit CBS Television city, we’d not only handily win the Showcase finale, but would become best friends with Bob Barker and open a pet sanctuary together.

But I digress.     

Last night, I got home relatively early and found Luca watching TV in our room. Rather than make a big stink about watching screens during the week (they had clearly broken Diana), I promised if he turned off cartoons we’d play a game show at dinner.

Luca shouted, “Yes!” and then after a beat, “What’s a game show?”

“Well. It’s a TV show. And it has a game.”

That was enough for him. After a few minutes of the boys pushing around salad on their plates, I cleared my throat and announced, “It’s time for everybody’s favorite game show: Do You Know Your Numbers and Letters! With your host, Daaaaaaaaaad Hamann!”

The other occupants of the table looked on in stunned silence. I asked our announcer, who was also me, to call our first contestant. Luca was genuinely surprised to hear his name called.

Elijah was angry he didn’t get called, but I told him his job was Game Show Assistant and he’d keep score. I also gave Diana the job of Game Show Assistant because “Barker’s Beauty” felt a little sexist.

I asked Luca to tell the audience a little about himself.

“My name is Luca and I like video games and my dad is funny.”

The game itself was fairly simple. Round 1? Name letters from a stack of flashcards. Three strikes and you’re out, but that never came into play since he’s known his letter for at least 2 weeks.

Round 2 was numbers. Also easy for the most part. The only drama came when a number over 10 was pulled.  He’s not too sharp on those. I ended up pocketing a 15 and an 18 to move things along.

Round 3 was the Lightening Round. I rapidly plowed through numbers and letters, but the score got away from me and Luca was in danger of strike three when the dreaded number 19 came up.

Eli’s face lit up. The prospect of his brother failing was just too delicious.

In a moment that rivaled when Michael Larson cracked the code on “Press Your Luck,” Luca blurted out, “Nineteen?”

Imaginary balloons fell from the ceiling and imaginary stage lights flickered off and on as I howled with excitement.

The show ended as all game shows do, with Diana handing out five dollar bills from her wallet.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

It’s a Trap!

I am the protector of our home. Whether it be someone who wants to steal our TV, or the same guy who wants to steal our TV two days later, I feel it’s my responsibility to make sure only invited guests enter our house. I’m talking to you, vampires.

I gleefully kill millions and millions of ants every spring. It creeps out Diana to watch me laugh maniacally while I disregard insecticide warning labels and just pump that poison all over our house.

Imagine my horror when I realized we had rats sneaking around outside. I was eating breakfast with the boys when Luca pointed to our back porch and shouted, “Chipmunks!”

Stupidly, I said, “Those aren’t chipmunks. Those are rats!”

Rat talk became the topic du jour for anyone who would listen. I tried to explain telling everyone we had rats would make them think we’re gross. Which had little or no affect.

My neighbor Paul, overhearing Luca’s constant rodent chatter, beaconed me next door. He explained that since we lived in Evanston, buying heavy duty rat poison was looked down upon by the Subaru driving set. He showed me a humane rat trap you could buy at the local Ace. It was a little cage with a door that dropped when a little Remy was lured in by cheese. He then explained he chucks the humanely caught rats into the lake to drown. He was kidding. I think.

I set up the trap in the garage next to the massive pile of rat poop we found. I placed a nice brie from Whole Foods inside and waited.

Luca, in particular, was obsessed with catching a rat. I explained over and over that when we caught one he could not stick his finger inside or pet it or apply any human qualities to it or give it little white gloves to wear.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do when I caught one. I didn’t think I could chuck it into the lake. I also didn’t think I could actually touch a trap with a rat inside. Diana really wanted me to release it at Chicago’s NRA headquarters. But if there is a better way to get shot, I haven’t heard it.

The first few mornings, I’d pray a little prayer and poke my head inside the garage. No rats. The next few mornings, no rats. Then I stopped checking.

I got a text from Diana a week or so later. It read “We caught a squirrel!”

I immediately called her and asked that she feed the squirrel to Grover. He loathes them so. With their constant chattering from our fence. Always taunting. Always taunting.

She refused and released it back to our fence. I asked what Luca’s reaction was and she said his head exploded.

I’m fearful our rats have moved on and I will not get to murder anything for a while. But based on the constant trail of crackers the boys leave in our garage, I know I’m wrong.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Thousand Words

Remember Luca Man? Luca Man was my youngest son’s drawing of a matter of fact face with two eyes and a straight line of a mouth. He repeated this drawing over and over until I made too big a deal out of it and he refused to draw it ever again.

That hasn’t stopped Luca’s artistic streak, though. Since Diana and I banished all screens during the week, our sons have been forced to the art table. I believe not being allowed to watch The Disney Channel is what fueled Van Gogh.

Our walls are filled with Luca masterpieces. Robots, dinosaurs and an autumnal series of ghosts, spider webs and vampires.

And like all great artists, from time to time Luca will declare, “I’m pretty great at art.”

Diana informed him he could actually pursue art as a career. But this disturbed him. He anxiously asked me how he would have time to have a job as an artist, a fireman and live with mommy. I told him there would be plenty of time between fires and getting cats out of the tree to paint portraits of his mother.

Elijah also dabbles in art. But his medium is apologies.

When he beats his brother or trashes his room or leaves a half eaten pudding cup in our sheets, he will create a drawing depicting his transgression with the words “I’m sorry” scrawled across the top.

I love this because it’s a heck of a lot more sincere than mumbling a mea culpa while suppressing a smile.

Take last night, for instance. In the course of a raucous game of Hide and Seek Eli and Luca destroyed a large potted plant in our office. Schuyler the sitter spent the time she would normally dedicate to dinner cleaning up the massive pile of dirt. So Diana had to feed the boys after a trying day in the wine mines.

Eli drew a big image of Diana frowning with a question mark over her head. Our unused oven was depicted in the corner and he drew little kids yelling and smiling. The caption read, “Sorry mom. We did not have dinner.”

His other apology from last night is described with permission from Diana. You’ll see why in a minute.

This one shows me and Luca and Eli sitting at the dining room table.  We all have very sad faces. On the other half of the page, he drew our bathroom, complete with a urine-filled toilet. He drew Diana with a frown on her face and a liberal and graphic depiction of her, um, time of the month. Across the top, he wrote, “Sorry (again).”  
I have no idea why he felt like it was his fault. I guess that’s for him and his therapist to figure out in 20 years.

I begged Diana to let me put the drawing in the blog. She agreed, but in the cold light of day, I’ve decided to share this cute photo of the boys at the nature center.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Star Haters

A few weeks ago, Luca received a birthday card invitation that read “A Birthday Party You Have Been Invited To.” And there was a little green elf holding a green laser sword. His name is Yoda and his existence guaranteed I would be the parent attending this party.

We arrived four minutes early, as is the Hamann way, and sat in the car waiting for the party to start. We wondered if Darth Vader would be in attendance. We wondered if there would be Star Wars goodie bags. We wondered if J.J. Abram’s contribution to the franchise would live up to fans’ inflated expectations.

The party itself was delightfully do-it-yourself. Instead of buying a bunch of overpriced store stuff (which I would totally do), the party included “Jedi Tag,” which was just like regular tag but featured 30 kids pretending to be Star Wars guys. The Dad (Who had at least 2 Star Wars wardrobe changes. We are going to be friends) also constructed a Jedi training obstacle course that involved leaping over space firewood and sliding down the space jungle gym.

The highlight of the party was a giant box of foam swimming noodles, each lovingly decorated with duct tape to resemble light sabers. The kids were then instructed to beat on The Dad, dressed as Darth Vader, until pizza arrived.  Occasionally, The Dad would cry out, “When is that blasted pizza coming?” before succumbing to another foam barrage.

Occasionally a child would get bored beating on The Dad and venture off to beat on another parent. One such child repeatedly jammed his foam light saber into my face in an attempt to knock off my Bears hat.

I playfully said, “Okay buddy.  That’s super funny. But maybe we should stop poking me in the face. Okay buddy? Not the face. Not the face. Okay buddy. Not. The. Face.”

After the tenth poke in the face, I yanked the light saber out of his hand and threw it across the yard. Playfully.

Later, I was attempting to engage another dad in small talk, which was so painfully awkward that the dad simply backed away without saying a word. I was then attacked by Luca, who buried his face into my crotch, sobbing.

I asked him what was wrong and he gulped, “I HATE him.”

“Did someone get too rough with you?”

“I HATE him.”

I knelt down and said, “Hate is a little strong, Luca. You may not like how someone is playing. But we Hamanns don’t hate.”

“I HATE him.”

I asked Luca to point out the object of his loathing, and sure enough, it was the face poker.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “I hate that kid too.”

Rather than destroy the face poker, we decided to just go watch children whack a Star Wars piƱata with a broom handle and hope the kid got hit with a backswing.