Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Practice



I got home a little early from a New York trip and had dreams of going home, demanding Elijah and Luca do their homework (and making some up if they were done) and then feverishly play video games until Diana got home from work.

However, Diana ruined it by suggesting I take the boys to the park to do a little baseball practice.

Regular readers of the blog will know E and L are beautiful, smart and funny, but awful, awful baseball players. The reason they are awful baseball players is because I am an awful, awful baseball player. Which is the source of 99.9% of my fatherly guilt.

I entered the house and asked the boys if they wanted to go play baseball. I attempted to strike the right balance of enthusiasm, but also left the door open for going to get ice cream if they didn’t want to play.

They excitedly and cutely shouted, “Yay!” and our fates were sealed. On our ½ block walk, Eli informed me that he’d be doing the Luca instructing, since he was “already great at baseball.”

I delicately told him there may a few things he could work on, like catching, eye hand coordination, batting, general fitness, etc.

We stood in a triangle, roughly 10 feet apart. Luca requested some grounders, so I rolled the ball in such a way that it would come to a rest well before it got to him. He then, in the most adorable move I’ve ever seen on the field, would squat down, grab the ball with his non gloved hand and then gingerly place the ball into his glove. You know, for practice.

I’d then throw it to Eli, who made valiant attempts to catch. The ball would careen of his glove (an improvement over last year) and fly all over the field, frequently into his head.

Eli, who assumed it was my throwing that was causing the problem (he may be right), gave me a little instruction on how to throw. “Point your hand at the target, step, then throw, Daddy.”

Humiliated, I suggested we do some batting practice.

We Hamanns are not built for catching, but I’ll be damned if those boys can’t hit. Even Luca, who had never actually attempted to hit a thrown ball, got a hold of a few. But he became enraged when I suggested holding the bat correctly or standing in the actual batter’s box.

Elijah has the languid and laid back stance of that one famous baseball player who has a languid and laid back stance. But he connected time and again.


Satisfied I was Baseball Father of The Year, I suggested we go home for some well deserved video games.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lego Ball


Diana attended Luca’s first T-Ball practice. According to reports, he practiced introducing himself to his coach over and over, “Hi Coach Mike. My name is Luca. Nice to meet you.” That just beat out the internet video of babies playing with kittens as the cutest thing ever.

However, once practice actually started Luca got very nervous and demanded Diana stand with him in the field and run bases with him.

It makes sense that Luca would be a little intimidated. Before that very moment, Luca had never even seen a baseball or knew rule 1 of the game. What’s the deal with the standing around? Why can’t you bring the bat with you everywhere? Why do coaches have to wear those shorts?

Diana recounted this story to me wearing a look that can best be described as “Utter disappointment in my fathering.”

Well, I was under the impression that Luca was going to be the nerd boy. Eli was the jock (as much as a Hamann can be a jock).  I figured he’d sit in our basement for the next 18 years, playing Minecraft only to emerge as a tech visionary. A four hundred pound tech visionary.

But now he’s interested in sports and needed to get some baseball education stat.

I woke up early Saturday morning and set up a bunch of Star Wars Legos in a miniature baseball diamond. The batter was using a light saber and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle played right field, but it was good enough.

Luca sleepily came out a little while later and instantly got excited about the baseball set up. I explained each of the positions and some of the basic rules. I then produced a severed Lego head to use as a baseball so we could run through some plays.

“Daddy, why do they all have their guns?” Luca asked.

“Well, I didn’t want to lose them. Just pretend they aren’t there. Now here comes the pitch!”

“Do they shoot the ball?”

“Here, let me take these guns and put them into a pile here. Now here comes the pitch!”

“Can the ball hit one of the outfielders in the crotch, Daddy?”


“Yes. Yes it can.”

Monday, April 20, 2015

Aquarium Dogs




Even though Elijah’s birthday was technically a week ago, we decided to do an outing to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium with a few pals and a few cousins.

Eli still wants to be a “Sea Animal Trainer” when he grows up, so we thought it would be nice to show him what kind of job he can get with a Marine Biology degree. Namely, the guy who hands out 3D glasses at the “Ice Age” movie on the third floor.

But first, we took everyone to Ed Debevic’s hamburger restaurant. It’s the place where the servers act like complete a-holes and it’s meant to be cute. They were so sassy that at least one of the kids cried before our appetizers arrived. I recognized our server as an out of work actor from a few of my commercial casting sessions, so the sassiness was tinged with sadness.

The aquarium itself was fun and we lost only two of Eli’s friends. The day culminated with the “One World: Sponsored by Toyota” show. It featured jumping Beluga whales, an uncooperative penguin and a kind of preachy message about not destroying the environment. We got third row seats because of my chemical desire to be places 25 minutes early.

At one point in the show they brought out a beautiful rescue dog to show how they train animals at the aquarium. But instead of sitting atop his box and batting the red target his handler held, this little sassy guy stared directly at our group and began barking aggressively.

Now, our neighbor Callie has a history of looking delicious to zoo animals (special shout out to Callie’s mom Lexa, who claims to be omitted from the blog). But this barking Labrador seemed to be agitated by something over Callie's shoulder.

His continuous barking kind of put a halt on the show and his trainer began to get the look of a fifth grade school play actor who forgot her lines.

I looked over my shoulder for the source of this poor animal's agitation. I spotted Eli beaconing urgently for the dog to join him in our seats. He whistled a “come here” whistle at a volume only the dog and I could hear.

I locked eyes with him and bulged out my eyes and mouthed, “Stop. It.” Busted, he shrank back into his seat and the dog reluctantly went off stage, humiliated and contemplating a career at Ed Debevic's.

We then spent the rest of the day trying to exit the aquarium without getting sucked into the thirty four gift shops. We failed.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Ruined Wars


The new Star Wars movie is coming out this Christmas. Which means I am going to be an insufferable pain in the ass for the next 8 months. I missed a flight home from New York yesterday because I wanted to watch the latest teaser trailer.

The movie could end up being terrible, but right now it’s the greatest movie in the history of the world. Until I’m proven otherwise. Like “Phantom Menace” did so humiliatingly.

This is the biggest cultural thing I have in common with Luca and Elijah.  We don’t have sports or literature or really even video games to talk about. Because the video games I like best give you extra points for shooting people in the face.

So we have Wookiees.

As a ramp up to this Christmas, the boys and I have gone into full Star Wars immersion. I make special trips to the comic book store to get Star Wars comics on the day they’re released. We’re halfway through a marathon of all six movies, where I give a running commentary on every obscure character on screen (“That guy’s name is name is Ponda Baba. Some people called him ‘Walrus Man,’ but everyone knows that isn’t his real species…”)

A very nice co-worker gave me a massive Star Wars encyclopedia and I forced Eli to record a thank you video in response. There’s a real hostage renouncing his citizenship vibe to it, as if he were holding today’s newspaper instead of a hardbound book.

Yesterday, when I got home from my missed flight I sat both boys down and forced them to watch the new Star Wars trailer. I warned them prepare for blown minds. During the minute and a half, I leapt in front of the TV, acting out all of the parts and yelling, “Isn’t this AWESOME?”

When it was over, I stood in front of the boys, panting. They looked at me patronizingly. Their frozen smile were lame attempts to humor me.

“My mind is blown, Daddy,” Luca said with no conviction. I looked over at the pile of untouched comics and encyclopedia.

It dawned on me that they don’t like Star Wars half as much as I thought. Or maybe even at all. Over the course of my obsession I kind of ruined it for them. They just like me and want to have something in common.

I’ll take it.





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

EIGHT!



Typically, I tiptoe around the house before I leave for work so as not to enrage any of my sleeping family. But yesterday morning I had strict instructions to roust everyone at exactly 6:55am.

Elijah had presents to open.

By 6:56am, Eli was surrounded by wrapping paper while Luca and Grover lay motionless on the floor.  I simply couldn’t believe my sweet little guy was eight years old.

Later in the day, Eli got to choose whatever restaurant he wanted for dinner. I prayed a little pray that he wouldn’t choose Chuck E Cheese and my wish was granted by the delicious margarita makers at The Little Mexican CafĂ©.

After forty or fifty pounds of tortilla chips, Diana instructed everyone at the table to say one thing they loved about Eli.

Luca said he loved the things Eli builds in Minecraft. The twins next door said he wasn’t a braggart. Our neighbors said he was kind and sweet and trusting. Our friend Kitty said he was hilarious and honest. Diana said he was a beautiful, old soul.

I blurted out, “I love you because you are a nerd.”

In other words I froze up. Yes, he’s sweet and funny and kind above all else. And he is a huge nerd.

But I worried if I started saying what I loved about Eli we’d be there well after the staff had turned off the lights and put all the chairs up on the tables.

He is simply a better person than me in a million ways. He is a joy machine, churning out tiny pieces of beauty and friendship and hilarity from the moment he wakes up until he puts his floppy head on his pillow.

Every year I worry he’ll be corrupted by life and  loose that magic that makes him so special. Now I’m not so sure. I think maybe he’s going to beat life and leave this ugly, dirty planet a lot better off when he’s done with it.


I love you, pal.