Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Eve 2015

We’re in Mexico for this New Year’s Eve. At present, we are glued to our screens, giving the pristine Puerto Vallarta beach outside our hotel room a collective middle finger.

The Odyssey traveling here is worth its own post, so I’ll save it for later.

Even though we are currently ignoring each other, I feel the Hamann Clan is closer than ever, having survived a demolished house, a few personal crisis, a Disney trip, two, count ‘em two robberies and Kindergarten.

It’s tradition on HamannEggs for me to write a little note to each of the eggs. So here goes.

Dear Elijah,

Thank the Maker you are still the smart, funny, beautiful little guy who breaks my heart every time you look into my eyes. It gives me such sick pleasure to see the jealousy on the other parents’ faces when they marvel at how sweet and kind you are compared to their dullard children. How did you get this way?

Dear Luca,

Oh, my little weirdo. You are so creative, so imaginative, so friggin’ funny. I hope you never forget that little world you’ve created, Luca Land. I hope you continue to draw and write and sing and scrunch your face up in battles against AT-STs and dragons and The Hulk. How did you get this way?

Dear Diana,

Oh yeah. You’re how they got this way. Despite working your butt off slinging wine and rebuilding our house and attending every parent teacher conference and guitar lesson, you’ve managed to find the time to turn our boys into funny, smart, caring beautiful little souls. They, and I, owe you everything.

Dear Grover,

You need a bath. Bad.

I love you all.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Home Alone

‘Twas the day before Christmas on Oak Street, and all through the…um, no I’m not doing that.

The boys and I were engaged in our usual pre-Christmas rituals: I was making my old secret family “pigs in a blanket” recipe for a party later. The secret? Let’s just say I have a little help from a certain Dough Boy. The boys were trying to ruin all their video games in anticipation of a new crop Christmas morning.

I realized I was missing a critical ingredient. Either pigs or blankets, I can’t remember. But the thought of taking the boys to Jewel on Christmas Eve filled me with dread. I figured it had devolved into a “Mad Max” scenario. Not the cool Charlize Theron kind, but the mullet Mel Gibson version.

I wondered if I should leave them alone. I remembered an NPR thing admonishing me about how overprotective parents are these days. In the old days, you’d just chuck your infant into a snow drift when you went to Jewel to get crescent rolls. Maybe you’d give them a sharpened rattle for protection.

To prove NPR wrong, I announced that I was heading to the store. No response beyond the telltale click of controller buttons. I wrote my cell number on our fridge and attempted to give Elijah instructions.

“Don’t leave the house. Unless something bad happens. Then leave the house immediately. Don’t answer the door. Unless it’s a police officer. But then ask to see some I.D. and a warrant. If Mad Max style mutants come, you are S.O.L. because your mother won’t let us have a gun.”

Eli didn’t even look up from his game. “Guh.”

I raced to Jewel and was surprised by how civilized it was. Burl Ives sang to me about Holly and Jolly. I was able to scoot right through the 15 items or less line and had a lovely conversation with my cashier about how few a-holes came through her line that day. I assured her I would not add to her a-hole list and popped a penny into the give a penny take a penny bowl with a wink.

I opened our front door and bellowed a “Hello!” Click click click went the controllers.

But as I took off my coat I was struck by a distinctive smoky smell. And there was a little haze in the air. Strange. I walked upstairs to our kitchen and the haze had turned to smoke.

I turned into the kitchen and found the cast iron pot I had cleaned earlier still on the stove, under the high heat I had ignited a half hour before. The pot was nearly red hot and making weird hot noises. Oh yeah. That. Oops.

I quickly turned off the stove and opened a window to wave out the evidence. I then raced downstairs to apologize to the boys. Click click click.

Christmas gleefully came and went, pigs and blankets were eaten, and I gave myself the gift of constant images of burning my house down running through my head.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Pt1

Can you imagine being 6 or 8 years old this time of year? Luca and Elijah have no idea what to do with themselves. Aside from arranging and rearranging the presents under the tree.

They have their Christmas morning plan set with military precision, starting with a gentleman’s agreement to wake each other up and then tap dance on our heads at first light. I’ve given a vague threat to not enter our room before 8am, but they simply nod their lying heads and say “yes” with their lying mouths. Knowing that on Christmas morning, Santa will be on vacation in the Poconos and not keeping track of who is bad or good.

The boys got a warm up to the actual Jesus birthday by heading down to Grandma Connie’s official “I’m Not Going To Make You Choose Between Grandparents’ Houses On Christmas So I am Doing It Early” extravaganza.  Complete with shrieking cousins, seafood pasta and my vain attempts not to drink an entire bottle of wine by myself.

For me, and no one else, the “I’m Not Going To Make You Choose Between Grandparents’ Houses On Christmas So I am Doing It Early” celebration is not complete without a trip to the East Peoria Festival of Lights.

It’s this field 20 minutes from Connie’s where they set up a bunch of, well, Christmas lights and you wait 75 minutes to drive through the 10 minute path of fascinatingly dated installations like the Star Trek “Enterprise” or “Toy Story’s” Buzz Lightyear. The event even offers a low watt radio channel to enhance your viewing experience, but we always choose to play “Baby Got Back” at max volume.

The boys always claim to want to go until they remember the 75 minute wait, at which point they claim stomach aches and want to go back to Grandma Connie’s. But I remind them part of Christmas is doing something you don’t want to do for an hour.  I said it was this or church.

In this age of gift lists, the actual surprise of getting gifts is replaced with realization of the strange stuff you asked for. Luca, in a sugar related brown-out, had asked for a briefcase. Not a spy kit or a Transformer’s briefcase. But a man’s business briefcase. When Luca opened it, he was genuinely stunned. But then became very excited by the prospect of carrying around this pleather rectangle.

He got even more excited when I started calling him “Vice President Luca.” He asked, “Dad, what does ‘Vice President’ mean?”

I said, “It means you are super important.”

He said, “Ooh. Are you a Vice President?”

“No. I’m a Senior Vice President. I’m your boss.”

Sunday, after we got back from Connie’s, we saw the new Star Wars movie (more on that later), and Luca and Diana ended the night singing made up Christmas carols. The following is transcribed from Luca’s last/best song:

“Christmas is the piece like a ornament, but, and there is a magical part of it too.

The Christmas tree, you hang Christmas up on the tree, but inside of the ornament is Christmas, and Christmas spreads out of the ornament, all over town.

But then, sometimes Christmas is a little bad for some kids. Because kids sometimes only care about presents. And then if they be bad they will get a sack or stuff of coal.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

Lice! Again!

A couple of weekends ago, my brother reveled over text that cousin Rory had contracted Lice. I chalked it up to the fact my brother employs Rory as a pickpocket in 1830’s London.

But Sunday morning my attitude changed.

I was downstairs playing Xbox, having convinced Diana I was doing the dishes while she was at Target with Elijah. Luca was upstairs writing thank you notes for his birthday. At least I think he was. I was playing Xbox, you see.

Our doorbell rang. Grover went bonkers. I begged Luca to answer the door. I was playing Xbox, you see.  I then screamed at Luca to answer the door. I was playing Xbox, you see.

The doorbell rang again and I threw my controller down angrily. I swung the front door open with a “WHAT???”

Neighbor girls Callie and Lydie’s grandfather stood there, pretending not to have just heard me raise my voice at my son. I was about to explain I was playing Xbox, you see, but just smiled sheepishly.

“I hate to tell you this, but last night we treated Callie last night for lice. I thought you should know.”

I nodded solemnly, thanked him and slowly closed the door. I immediately raced upstairs and shouted, “We have lice! We have lice! We have lice!”

I began to rake my fingernails across my scalp, which had begun to itch tremendously. The last time this happened, I gouged deep scars into my scalp, which may be what was actually itching. But I was taking no chances.

I texted Diana “Buy lice medicine. Lots. No time to explain.”

I gathered Luca into my arms and shined a bright light onto my head with instructions to search for lice.

“What do dey look like?”

“Lice! They look like lice, Luca,” I snapped. He pushed my hair around a little and gave me a sad little look.

I contemplated shaving both our heads. That’s what they did in “Alien 3,” right?

Instead, I collected all our bedding and threw it into a pyre.

When Diana arrived home, she found Luca and I standing naked at the top of the stairs. I instructed she and Elijah to do the same. Eli happily obliged with no need for explanation.

Diana refused, citing some craziness about this happening before and me being a lunatic.

I said, “Fine. Enjoy your lice Megaplex on your head.  Maybe the lice Donald Trump will build a tiny, tacky hotel in your bangs.”

Eli and Luca dutifully allowed me to cover us all in some really nasty chemicals. Some of which made my scalp burn and itch. That means it’s working. Like Selsun Blue.

Eventually we all showered and calmed down and I was left with finishing the 30 loads of laundry I started when the whole thing began.

Later, I apologized to Luca for yelling at him and putting him through all that fuss. He shrugged and said, “Do you want to play Xbox?”

Yes. Yes I did.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Temporary Great Father

Our neighbors Chris and Lexa left town for a trip to one of those countries with huge cockroaches. Due to some grandparent scheduling issues (“Matlock” marathon) they needed someone to watch their cuter than cute daughters Callie and Lydie for the night.

We’ve been dog swapping with them for years on vacations, but never kids. But we were up for it. The girls are good pals with Elijah and Luca and are pretty self sufficient. Besides, I felt it was an opportunity for me to convince children other than my own that I am a good dad.

I was working from a deficit. My first real interaction with Callie and Lydie was them watching me chase and scream at Grover as he delighted in freedom, having escaped out our front door. I think I even blamed them for leaving the door open. And if memory serves, my leg was pouring blood from bashing it mid pursuit. But I was confident I could be the best temporary father in the world.

After work last night, I burst through the door and shouted, “Hello family!” in my best sitcom dad voice. Laying it on thick, I hugged both my sons in a warm embrace. They frowned, wondering if their old man had stopped by a tavern on the way home to drink his dinner.

I then introduced a bit I would grasp onto for dear life all evening. “Hello daughters!”

“We aren’t your daughters,” Callie pointed out.

“Ahh, but tonight, you are my daughters. Why, I may even draw up some adoption papers to make it legal.” If memory serves, I gave her a wink to let her know I was just having a little good-natured fun.

At dinner, I played the part of Great Dad. I didn’t scream at anyone to eat their vegetables or to stop leaning back in their chair or to quiet down before I take away screens until they were 18.

I laughed uproariously at their stories and asked about their days and did a dramatic reading of Eli’s progress report. I swallowed my rage at his teacher’s issues with his attention span. “Oh that’s ok son. Paying attention is a real mystery,” I said while patting his shoulder. He was fully convinced I had taken a bad spill at work and suffered brain damage.

After baths, where I not once lost it over water all over the floor, they retired to their rooms. Lydie and Luca slept in Luca’s room and the other two in Eli’s room, in order to be as confusing as possible. This also gave Luca an opportunity to show Lydie his gentials.

Knowing Lydie was listening from the top bunk, I indulged Luca with story after story about Star Wars. Another story after I already told you this was the last one? Of course, son. I even regaled them with a bonus story of a samurai and Zen master I plucked out from deep in my brain.

This morning, I worked from home to convince Callie and Lydie I make breakfast every morning. I even let them watch TV in my bed and eat cereal.

Eli absentmindedly left his bowl on the floor while he went to get dressed for school. I accidentally kicked it, sending milk and Whole Foods Froot Loops all over our room.

I totally lost it and yelled at Eli to mop up the mess. I loudly announced that no one was ever going to have cereal in our room again. No! No one was ever going to eat cereal in our house ever again!

Callie and Lydie stood in the doorway with looks of relief. The dad they knew was back.

p.s. Some of these children are Callie and Lydie.