Thursday, May 26, 2016

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Eli

I’ve been conscripted into nighttime Be-Withs for the last few months. I do it partly because I’m sure the window for Elijah and Luca actually wanting me to sleep with them is closing fast. Although I’m all for sleeping in Eli’s university dorm bed. You know what the sock on the door means, son.

But I also love the moments between wake and sleep when Eli reveals his true feelings for me. He sleepily repeats, “I love you Dad” over and over as he drifts off. And sometimes asks, “Dad, can I hold you hand?” It’s this kind of behavior that gets a kid a red convertible sports-car when he turns 16.

It’s after he drifts off that things get a little Mr. Hyde.

A week or so ago, Eli leapt up (still asleep) and scrambled over the top of me. He began pacing around his room, opening his door and desk drawers while muttering, “I gotta do the..find the…I have to…the thing. What was it?”

It wasn’t so much “Old Man Looking For Spectacles” as it was “Crazy Person Acting Scary and Crazy.” I couldn’t remember if waking a sleep pacer was dangerous or if that was an old wives tale. But he started to kind of scare me so I said, “Eli. Get your butt in bed. Now.” Thankfully he complied and I didn’t have to search for bed straps.

Or did I?

The other night, I blissfully drifted off in Eli’s bed, content with the knowledge he loved me. I awoke to two hands around my shirt collar. Still asleep, Eli began to throttle me.

I looked pleadingly at him and said, “Eli? Are you trying to murder your father?” Eyes closed, he simply kept shaking me by my t-shirt collar. 

He then began to crawl into my shirt and I realized he was trying to get warm. Eli likes to sleep shirtless, and sometimes pantsless. The night was a little cooler than usual and he had a chill. I tucked him into bed and gave him another blanket. That seemed to lessen his murderous streak.

But I went to my own bed just in case. Where Grover let me hold his paw and tell him I loved him.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Rocket Man

Last Saturday, I bribed the boys into a trip to Target by promising one reasonably priced toy each.

Elijah was immediately paralyzed by the choices. What thing that I will ultimately say no to should he choose? The strange candy version of French fries? A 70” plasma TV? A gun that is just slightly not a gun and may get past his mother’s no gun stance?

Luca, on the other hand, simply chooses the first thing that enters his field of vision. The kid is an end cap sucker. Hence the piles of un-played-with toys that occupy every corner his bedroom.  Man, that Barbie stapler seemed like a good idea at the time.

While I argued with Eli about the differenced between a $10 limit and a $48 double barrel shotgun, I spotted Luca looking agog. He was standing in front of a real working model rocket.

Luca half-heartedly said, “Can I get that?” Clearly knowing the answer. Who in their right mind would let a 6 year old buy a miniature explosive device? It was a missing thumb HamannEggs blog post waiting to happen.

What Luca did not know at the time was I was really missing my dad at that very moment. And my dad used to shoot rockets off with us on divorce sanctioned Saturdays. They were remarkably like the one Luca was standing in front of.

I had all but written mini rockets off, figuring they were a relic of the 1980’s. Doomed to extinction like pull tab beers and pirated HBO.

I immediately threw it into the cart. “Don’t you want to know how much it costs?” Eli asked, clearly not wanting Luca to have any fun ever.

“I could cost a million billion dollars and I’d still buy it. Shooting off rockets is your birthright!”

Later that afternoon, I gathered the cousins and we all walked in slow motion down to the local middle school to launch our rocket.

There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate. The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier.” – The Right Stuff

I crammed a tiny stick of TNT into the flimsy fuselage plastic body and attached little plastic wires to the bomb. We walked to a safe distance and attached the wires to a little red button.  

We counted down from 10…9…8…7…6…5

Luca hit the button on 5. No sense waiting until zero. With a puff of white smoke and a sound not terribly dissimilar from a bottle rocket, our craft lifted off. It flew up and up and up. And up. And up.

And then went out of sight.

Apparently I bought the “Korean Nuclear Test” version, because I’m fairly sure it left our atmosphere. Or at least flew over The Wine Goddess store.

It did kind of bum out the kids that we might have lost the rocket right after the first flight. Steve suggested we take a stroll east and see if we could locate it. He had a pretty good idea where it may be.

And then we heard sirens.

I’m sure it just a regular Evanston fire. Probably some professor’s bong got knocked over.  But there was a slight chance our rocket crashed through an Audi’s windshield and caused the driver to lose control and smash into the Shell gas station, igniting a fireball that could be seen from space.

We ran home as fast as we could.

Friday, May 13, 2016


The other night, I attended “Pioneer Night” at Elijah’s school. The third graders put on a pretty great play recreating The Oregon Trail video game, complete with a couple youngsters getting dysentery.

But the highlight was a glorious square dance performed in clunky, prepubescent glee. Eli’s dance partner was Kylie.

Oh Kylie.

Kylie is Eli’s first love. She’s adorable and happy and funny and so skinny she barely occupies space in our dimension.

Eli and Kylie were inseparable this year. They had countless play dates and even a few sleep overs. Don’t get all weird about a boy and a girl having a sleep over. They’re 9, get your head out of the gutter.

Eli once told me, “Kyle is the only person I can say really personal things to.”

Like what?

“Like, ‘I hate this person or that person.’”

So of course she is moving to Iowa at the end of the summer.

Because apparently the universe felt the need to teach Eli about Existential Despair.  Sheesh. Why in the world does the love of your life have to move away at 9? Is his life story being written by Samuel Beckett (according to Google, he’s the 20th century’s most depressing writer)?

When Diana told Eli the news, he melted off our couch and laid face down on our floor for seemingly hours. I wanted to blow up Iowa so Kylie would stay. I wanted to throw all of the Corn in Iowa into the ocean. I wanted to punch one of Iowa State’s famous collegiate wrestlers right in his face.

Can you tell I’m still not over Amy Crupernink moving away when I was 9?

But unlike Amy Crupernink, Eli lives in the Facebook era and Kylie’s mom and Diana are real friends and digital friends. So maybe they can meet up years later and play “Tickle Monster” together when they are 30. But it will mean something completely different.

Good luck out there in the corn, Kylie. We’ll miss you.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dad Morning

I had a late morning flight on Wednesday. Rather than go all the way to the office and then to the airport, I decided to take the time to completely ruin everyone’s routine.

Grover followed me around all morning with a look that said, “Okay, human. Time for you to go. Leave now. Leave. Leave NOW…”

Diana made herself a cup of coffee and attempted to have a few minutes of peace and quiet before the boys woke up. As she sat at the computer looking at Facebook, I stood behind her and said, “When do the boys need to wake up? Shouldn’t they be up by now? What’s the eta for them to be at school? Give me the lunch situation. Seriously. It’s 7:05. Shouldn’t they be up by now?”

Given no real answers from Diana, I raced upstairs and violently threw open the boys’ window shades. I also thought it would be nice to yank off their covers like the tablecloth magic trick. Luca gave me a look that said, “Oh. I guess I hate you now.”

School starts at 9. So I asked Diana, “What time do you guys leave? 8:30? 8:32?”

Diana said, “We try to get out door by 8:50.”

“Are you insane?”

I then used my patented motivational technique of shouting “Guys! Let’s go!” several hundred times.

By 8:40, I was in what can only be described as “A state of unrest.” I told Elijah and Luca that I would be in the car and that car would be leaving the garage at 8:45 with or without them.

As the boys got their seatbelts on, they had expressions of fear mixed with tiredness mixed with a sincere wish their dad was at work now.

We entered the school parking lot and Eli said, “See dad? There is no one else here. We’re the only ones at school now.”

I said, “Yes. Isn’t it great?”

Eli immediately ran to his side of the school to escape, but Luca was stuck with me. Gradually, less insane moms and dads dropped their kids off and the kindergarten teachers began collecting their classes.

Luca asked me, “Dad. Did you bring my journal? And my teacher appreciation card? And my backpack?”

“What? No. I didn’t know about any of that stuff. Why didn’t you tell me about that stuff?”

Luca burst into tears and I decided then and there to use my next morning off to sleep.