Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve 2017


As is tradition, we all braved the cold on New Year’s Eve to travel the 42 steps next door to attend the Murphy/Green festivities. Chris Green has this way of starting the evening off right. And that way is whisky.

As is tradition, I sat on their big wooden bench to rekindle my yearly romance with Jim, a dad of Eli’s pal Harper. We really only talk once a year, over whisky. And it works for us. We get to tell the same stories as last year and occasionally marvel at the Cha-Cha line of screaming kids moving past. It’s our version of “Same Time Next Year” starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn.

As is tradition, the kids ignored any and all suggestions of a kid count down and demanded to stay up until midnight. We Dads of whisky all said it was ok.

As is tradition, everyone was asleep by 12:04am.

As is tradition, I write a little note to everyone I love.

Dear Elijah,

You are still the most caring, lovely, kind boy on the face of the planet, despite your eighteen Nerf guns and 4,000 Nerf bullets. I’m beginning to think your warmth and generosity may be permanent. I desperately want another year of laying down with you at bedtime. I can’t wait to see what you do in 2018 and to hear your happy stories. I love you.

Dear Luca,

You are suddenly a sportsman. You are so funny and rambunctious and your enthusiasm makes me want to be a sportsman too. It’s insane to think you could become even more hilarious than you were last year, but here we are. I hope Lucaland never goes away and I hope you keep waking up early just to hug me before anyone else. I love you.

Dear Diana,

I can’t believe how strong you are. How you can be funny and kind and bright even when your eyeballs betray you. You are an inspiration. You are going to beat this stupid thing and I will be there every step of the way. Oh, and Trump is totally getting Impeached this year. I love you.

Dear Grover,

Don’t die. I love you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Elf on a Shelf

I’m sorry if this seems like both a painfully overwrought and vague post, but Luca sometimes reads the blog and I would like to hold on to what little magic is left in the world.

Have you heard of the Elf on a Shelf? Well, these magical creatures were first, um, discovered by Carol Aebersold, Chanda Bell and Steinwart, who wrote a hugely popular book about them and launched a marketing juggernaut. For any Lucas reading, this is not to suggest that Elves on Shelves are not real. They totally are. Now go practice piano.

The gist is these elves are sent my Santa as scouts to make sure kids are being good, because as we all know, Santa is super busy and his naughty/nice magic can’t be everywhere. That’s just crazy. So these elf guys are the rat finks of Christmas. The most interesting part is they move position during the overnight hours (to get a better angle on naughtiness) and the fun is discovering where the elf is every morning.

I was 100% against this tradition. I felt (incorrectly, Luca) that it was a gross commercialization of Christmas and I fancy myself more in the Charlie Brown wilted tree mold. I’m not even sure I accept Mariah Carey in that sexy Santa outfit.

Like all things I disagree with but never vocalize, Diana and the boys gleefully jumped in. After I saw how hook, line and sinker Luca was, my anti-elf Grinch heart grew three sizes. I was all in.

The only issue is, and this was not part of Carol Aebersold’s book, some elves forget to move overnight. It might be because they get distracted by cable news, or have a glass of wine or simply forget because they are fallible creatures.

When it is your goal to preserve as much magic as possible in an increasingly awful world, this is stressful. Especially when you have to go to Mexico to shoot a commercial.

So, I enlisted Elijah as my assistant elf-checker. Unlike guitar lessons, Eli threw himself into this new responsibility with great enthusiasm. He has really saved the elf’s bacon on multiple occasions.

During the official nighttime routine, Eli and I engage in a silent underground routine consisting of pantomimes and lots of mouthing of the word “elf.”

As of this writing, the elf hasn’t missed a night. There is still magic in the world.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Mystery Mean Mexican Kids

Luca’s newfound love of soccer still burns hot. He plays the FIFA videogame constantly. He recently gave me such a drubbing in the game that I made him go practice piano.

He also will play in our yard with anyone who willing to risk the 100% chance of stepping in Grover poop.

Additionally, Luca plays every day during recess. Against the Mystery Mean Mexican team. I’m pretty sure that’s racist. No, I’m definitely sure that’s racist. But “mean” and “Mexican” are the only descriptors Luca will uses.

They are this band of non-English speaking kids who I pray are from Mexico. Every day they thump Luca and his buddies at soccer during recess.

At night when I put Luca to bed, he describes in great detail the atrocities perpetrated against he and his friends.

“Dad. Today, one of the mean kids kicked me in the stomach.”

“Dad. One of the mean kids cheated and kicked a goal after time was over.”

“Dad. The mean kids pushed Luciano down and stuck his head in the mud.”

To which I always ask, “Why on Earth do you play with these jerks?”

Luca’s love for soccer is greater than his desire not to get his head stuck in the mud by a gang of mean kids.

I ask him if he can at least narc on them and get them in trouble with the recess monitor. Luca says the recess monitor is advised on all bullying, cheating and mud/head smashing. He claims the monitor doesn’t care.

I imagine the recess monitor is either a 25 year old child herself who can’t seem to hold back the tidal wave of screaming that washes over her every day, or a 55 year old grizzled veteran who could give two rats’ asses if you came to her with a bloody stump where your arm used to be.

A week or so ago, Luca excitedly told me his ragtag group won against the Mystery Mean Mexican kids. Yes! A win against the baddies!

The next day, Luca said the Mystery Mean Mexican kids recruited the P.E. teacher to play on their team and trounced Luca’s pals.

I’m beginning to think this is a fictional team.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017



This post is way late. But our little Luca officially turned Eight on the 25th.  God, I love that kid.

As with every Thanksgiving weekend, Diana had to fight off the onslaught of wine lovers who dared want to purchase things on the day of Luca’s birth.

I asked Luca how he wanted to spend the day. Movie? Children’s Museum? Sitting at home all day in our PJs?

In the cutest move ever, Luca suggested we go visit Chicago. What do you mean? I asked. What do you want to see? Chicago. What do you want to do? See Chicago.

“It’s the third largest city. I want to see it.”

Elijah came along because he had no choice and sensed he would be able to draft off any birthday related treats.

We parked in my spot downtown and the boys said, “Whoa! Look at how big those buildings are!” I started to make fun of them for thinking the cruddy condos around my office were cool. But then I realized they were, in fact, cool if you weren’t a total cynic.

I decided to lock my inner cynic in the trunk of the Prius (With the windows cracked. I’m not a monster.) and we held hands and visited Maggie Daley park, pretending to be tourists. We looked at the big silver Bean at Millennium Park. We spent over and hour at the big candy store and I let them buy whatever they wanted. We looked at the Christmas lights on Michigan Ave and tried to figure out what to do for the homeless man with the thing on his leg.

We then capped it off with a trip to the Disney Store. I’m glad I left my inner cynic in the car because he would’ve hated it. But the cynic-less Rick loved it. It was packed and sweaty with Black Friday holdovers. But the staff was well trained in burying their feelings deep.

I told Luca to pick out one thing he wanted. The “within reason” was silent. Knowing his audience, he picked out a big Star Wars helmet. I immediately bought two because Eli.

We then held hands and walked back to my car. Luca asked which office was mine and I said, “That ugly brownish black one over there.”

Luca said, “I think it looks cool.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Weird Dad

Luca had a pre-birthday party last Saturday with a few school chums.  Luca kept it pretty simple. Hibachi grill restaurant, sleep over, Nerf gun war, two kinds of Oreo cookies.

In the weeks leading up to the party, I’d been putting in some serious neglectful hours at the office. So much so, that Luca actually had to ask if I was planning on attending his party. Ouch.

Stress at work tends to shorten one’s fuse, so I was coming into Saturday with a few unreasonable yellings and snappy “get off the screens” in the minus column. I made an agreement with myself that once the party guests arrived I was going to be to be the nicest, coolest, most helpful dad in the universe.

Apparently, this meant delivering any and all communication in the loudest, weirdest way ever.


Luca’s friends reacted as if I threw a glass of ice water into their faces. They flinched averted their eyes and tried to get anywhere but my foyer.

To make things even creepier, I pulled each boy aside one by one and said, “Hey man. I’m the Fixit Guy for this sleep over. If you need anything, or you get scared or you go pee pee in your pants, just come to me and I’ll fix it.”

During my little speech, Luca’s friends would assume a defensive position, ready to race off in case I came in for a hug.

After we drove to the restaurant, I went back to the shouting. “WHOA! LOOK AT THIS COOL RESTAURANT, GUYS! REAL CHINESE LETTERS!”

Diana laughed at me and said, “Who are you supposed to be?”

Dinner was great and fun and the birthday crew loved it. Well, they loved everything but the actual food. We left the restaurant with 7 pounds of leftovers that I couldn’t eat because sodium hurts my blood pressure.

We got home and the boys ate cookies and opened presents and chased each other around. Eventually it was time for bed.

Which was when I turned from the nicest, coolest, most helpful dad in the universe to a guy who said, “If I even hear one of you so much as blink your eyes, I am going to pull you out of this room and make you sleep in the yard.”

But then I got donuts in the morning.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Toward the end of the evening, we Hamanns all acknowledge our sincere and passionate love for each other, and then move to parts of the house farthest away from any other member of the family.

For Diana and I, this is time to watch 80’s horror homages on our local streaming service. Or watch Rachel Maddow spend 17 minutes getting to the point.

For Eli, it’s watching “Friends” reruns. I recommended the show to him as an alternative to the horrifyingly awful Disney tween shows. This resulted in a, “Dad, what’s V.D.?” conversation.

Luca prefers to sit in our living room and make the loudest tongue clicking noise in the history of man. Remember “Luca Land?” Luca Land is the little imagination place Luca goes to for adventures involving Iron Man and Anthony Rizzo. He likes to make these little sound effects. He beeps and bops and makes shooting sounds. But over the last few months, he makes his super loud “CLICK” with his tongue. Try it right now. Luca’s is a thousand times louder than the sound you just made.


You can hear it all over the house. It’s the soundtrack to our lives.


It’s pretty annoying.


I looked up “Tourette’s” on Wikipedia just to make sure.


Kunal Jain (Canada) generated a sound level reading of 114.2 dBA by clicking his tongue at Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada on 6 August 2003. As a comparison, a lawnmower is on average 90dBA and a car horn is 110 dBA.


We asked Luca if he made the clicking sound at school and he said, “Oh yeah. All the time.” We said maybe he should cool it at school. He said, “My teacher doesn’t seem to mind.”


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wall Crawler

A few Saturdays ago, I was vaguely jetlagged. Which meant I was vaguely grouchy. Diana asked me to give her a ride to work (she left her car at work so as not to DUI after a wine thing), so I grumbled and groused and, um, graduated as we walked out to my garage. Oh, and it was raining.

Now, the previous owners of our house had split the garage into two. One section is a normal garage where cars and bikes and rakes and lawn mowers go.

The other section must have been for the previous owners’ special prized sports car. Or their meth making. It’s barely wide enough for my little Prius. And my meth. I have these little fantasies of really doing the place up one day. You know, vintage Porshce ads and bikini calendars and one of those big metal boxes with all my tools. But for now it’s just wood and dust and cobwebs.

We tiptoed around the 37 Grover poops in our yard and reached the Rick garage entrance. I turned the doorknob and, oddly, it was locked. I never lock that door. Have never locked that door. Will never lock that door.

As rain beat down on our heads, I did a little math. No key to the door + only garage door opener in car locked in garage = throwing a huge fit.

While Diana quietly ordered a Lyft, I yelled at any child in hearing distance. It must have been your friends who locked the door! Yes! It was your friends! The ones who eat all my chips when they come over! It’s their fault. And therefore your fault! Well, I guess we are calling a locksmith. And it’s coming out of your college funds!

Elijah, who is used to my idiotic tantrums, said, “Dad, there is a hole in the wall between your garage and Mommy’s garage. Do you think we could crawl through?”

I could kiss that beautiful face, if it wasn’t covered in egg sandwich.

Luca, Eli and I walked to Diana’s garage and, yes, behind the kyak Diana bought to explore the wilds of the North Shore Canal, there was a little hole in the plywood. Probably created by a friendly woodland creature and not a disgusting rat.

I shoved at the wood a little bit and expanded the hole to be Luca sized. I said, “Get in there, Luca!”

Luca looked at the cobweb ridden, filthy, jagged hole and said, “No way.”

I told him he was being a big baby and it was perfectly fine. As I bent down to brush away some filth, a spider jumped on me. That’s not a HamannEggs fib for comedic affect. A spider lept from the wall and onto me. Presumably to act as official guide to hell.

I screamed and ran around the garage.

It look a little while to convince Luca to crawl through the hole. And a bribe of a new Cubs hat purchased from Target. But eventually he did get through and opened up the door. But he came out covered in gunk and crying. Much like the day of his birth.

As we drove through the rain, I happily offered to buy Luca whatever lunch he wanted. He just silently stared out the window, a changed man.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Flag Man

I love Luca’s soccer games. I view it as my own personal HBO comedy hour. I spend the entire time working out my new sports related material. “Good job, kid whose name I don’t know!” is my bread and butter. I also do quite a bit of shouting out non-soccer cheers. “Touchdown!” is my favorite.

The other parents hate me.

A couple Sundays ago, we were setting up our lawn chairs and I was doing some light crowd work (“It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about not losing by 13 like last week, know what I’m saying?”) when our coach approached.

“I need a parent volunteer to be line judge.”

Everyone got really interested in their phones. I raised my hand enthusiastically and the coach gave me a yellow flag.

“Basically, you raise this whenever the ball goes out and you say which team gets to do the throw in.”

Cool. Cool. They whistled the start of the game and the kids commenced with kicking each other in the shins.

Suddenly, the ball whizzed out of bounds. I raised my flag and realized I had no idea which team had kicked the ball out.

I immediately and confidently gave the ball to Luca’s team. Both teams simultaneously said, “Really?”

The dads behind me said, “Really?”

The coaches said, “Really?”

I ignored everyone, acted all serious and said, “Silver ball! Let’s go.” I shoved the ball into the nearest Silver jersey and tried to move past my obvious mistake.

The game continued and every time the ball exited the field of play, one of the kids would let me off the hook and say, “I think it’s red’s ball.” I would nod like a judge sentencing a man to the electric chair and say, “Red ball. Red ball. Definitely Red.”

No one seemed to care that I was the worst line judge in the history of volunteer parents. Mostly because Luca’s team got absolutely creamed. But I was glad when the final whistle blew and I returned my flag.

After demonstrating my amazing marching band flag dancing moves for all the parents.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cool Work

When Elijah was little, he would say, “I want to be a sea animal helper when I grow up.” Over the years he’s stuck to this life goal with little variations like, “I want to be a ticket taker at the Shedd Aquarium.”

My career has given me a lot of awesome experiences (I’m writing this on a flight back from Dubai) and hilarious adventures and affords us a very Evanston lifestyle, but I lost sight of my own sea animal helper dream somewhere. I want Eli to hold onto his.

A few Sundays ago, I had to run into the office to check in on a hard working team who had burned the whole weekend trying to solve a particularly vexing advertising problem. Eli begged to come with. His number one reason was so he could get out of going to Luca’s soccer game. I tried to talk him out of it. He’d be bored and he’d have to sit in my office while I worked with the team in a conference room. But he preferred sitting in my office watching YouTube over giving his brother an ounce of morale support.

We got to the office in record time (the streets were free of idiots working on a Sunday) and checked Eli in at security. Seeing the look on his face, I remembered how easy it is to forget big office buildings are kind of cool. There were automatic doors and elevators that make your ears pop and giant windows overlooking Lake Michigan and absolutely massive bathrooms.

As I worked, Eli discovered the company’s free candy and the creative department games. He spun around in expensive office chairs and drew “Eli is great” on one of the many white boards.

The weekend team had done marvelous work and blessing it took far less time than I thought. I brought Eli to say hi to the team before we headed home. Eli was stunned. There was leftover Chipotle in the corner, and a bevy of other snacks and gum strewn about. The team itself was a collection of hip young twentysomethings. One of the guys had a ponytail! Oh, and get this. They had Nerf guns!

We walked to get a post work smoothie and Eli said, “Your job is the coolest.” I tried to explain that we were working on a Sunday, which was the opposite of cool. Eli nodded as he ate the free sucker from the 24th floor candy jar.

Maybe he can make ads about sea animals when he grows up.

Monday, October 2, 2017


A week or so ago, we attended another Luca soccer match (Game? Pitch?). Luca was coming off his nasty flu, but had accomplished 2 straight days of faking symptoms to get out of stuff. So we thought running in 90 degree heat for 60 minutes would be healthy.

During one of the breaks where the referees remind everyone to tie their shoes, Luca asked his coach to sit out. The team was getting pummeled, so the coach said sure, why not? Luca draped his piping hot, sweaty body over me and panted. Yuck.

I told him to go sit by his team.

“No. I don’t have to.”

I could barely breathe under this 7 year old ball of humidity. “Yes, in fact you do. Be a teammate.”

The idea of team didn’t register with Luca. I guess I can understand his confusion. Until this point, the concept of being part of team didn’t exist in his single player X-Box, single twin bed, single bathroom toilet world. When you are seven, the world revolves around you. Who cares about other people, let alone the other 8 kids sweating on the soccer field?

Rather than calmly explain the merits of being part of a team and rah rah, I totally yelled at him in front of the other parents. Luca told me I was mean and began crying as the other parents slowly scooched their beach chairs away.

My lecture must have had some effect beyond emotional abuse, because Luca suddenly and passionately became a Cubs fan. Last week he immersed himself into every televised game. He hid in our living room, headphones on, and stared at the streaming broadcast like it held some deep secret beyond Geico commercials.

One night, I found Luca perched on the edge of our bed watching the Cubs again. I told him this game was special because if they won, they’d be in the playoffs. I explained this was the best time to become a fan and not during the hundred other boring games.

As we watched the game, Luca peppered me with questions. What did “Clinch” mean? How many wildcard teams were there? How many divisions were there? What signal does the ump use for balls and strikes?

I told him I needed to check my computer for some work stuff and then suddenly became an expert in baseball. Thanks Google!

The Cubs won and Luca leapt up, screaming. He ran around the house shouting, “Cubs win! Cubs win!” For kid who had seen a grand total of 3 games, he was delightfully diehard.

We then went outside and played catch, like a father and son team.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bad Sick

For our anniversary, I was a big boy and made reservations for Diana and me and fetched a babysitter and actually made real plans. This is a fairly monumental deal for a man who hasn’t ordered his own wine in 13 years. I was feeling pretty proud of myself and looking forward to a rare night out with the missus.

Then Luca got sick.

He had some vague complaints about a stomachache and was a little grouchier than usual. But Luca has this habit of fabricating stomach issues when he’s bored or nervous or hungry or has a raging case of the flu.

On Saturday, Luca complained about a stomachache on the way to our weekly kid dinner at the Firehouse. I was dubious since he had just spent the last 3 hours racing around with his cousins, on top of earlier running around and eating cotton candy at the school Fall Fest. I said just suck it up and eat chicken fingers like a man.

I looked in the rearview mirror and he was slumped over in the back seat. Rather than respond like a human being by being concerned and caring, I lost my temper and said I didn’t believe him.

I grouchily drove home and said if he was sooooo sick, he had to go to bed immediately. I also made him some cruddy, tepid soup and scowled while he poked around the bowl. I called the restaurant and the babysitter and canceled our plans and stomped around like a big baby.

I looked over at Luca, who had begun to cry.

A little voice inside me tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey Rick,” it said. “You’re acting like a total a-hole to your little son. Do you want Luca’s lasting memory of you to be that time when you didn’t believe when he had the flu? Do you want him to recount the famous story of ‘The Unbelieving Flu Dad’ at his wedding and your eventual funeral?”

I raced across the kitchen and held Luca as he wailed. I apologized over and over for being a bad dad.

I then took him to his room and laid beside him for the next 12 hours, while he thrashed and cried and moaned and occasionally threw up. Diana came in from time to time and offered to take over, but I was determined to prove to Luca I believed in his flu so much that I wanted to bathe in his flu germs and get zero hours of sleep.

It was pretty awful. But I took every sweaty, shrieking moment as retribution for my jerky dadness.

The next morning, Luca was exhausted and sick and moan-y and I said, “Hey Luca. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you last night about being sick. Sometimes I make mistakes. I try to be a good dad, but I screw up every once and a while. I’ll try to be a better dad. And I’ll stay with you all day to make you feel better. Is that ok? Do you forgive me?”

Luca said, “I want my mommy.”

Friday, September 15, 2017


One of the great mistakes I’ve made in the Fathering Arts is assuming my sons are just miniature versions of me. I made ½ of them, so of course they will only like Star Wars and video games and engage in a lifelong struggle with hair that sticks up in the back. Why would they be independent and unique kids when I can simply think of them as tiny Ricks?

Imagine my surprise when Luca wanted to play soccer this year. What? No. Hamanns don’t play soccer. One of my defining jokes around the office is, “Hamanns have yet to meet a ball they couldn’t drop.” We don’t play sports. We’re brainy. We’re funny. We’re nerds. Sports. Sports are for doofuses.

In the weeks leading up to the first practice and game, I could see the appeal. There were cool, European style uniforms to wear. There were cool, brightly colored cleats to clomp around in. Luca went so far as to learn how to tie his shoes on his own to capitalize on the new shoes. There were also cool weird socks and shin guards. But no jockstraps. Yet.

When it finally came to the first practice and first game, we ran into the Luca nerves. Luca hates not knowing what to do. He needs to know every single detail and get it straight in his head before he can participate in anything, including board games, school, eating and especially sports.

It didn’t help that, through some weird soccer birthday math, Luca was on a team with a bunch of kids who were two years older. These 9 year olds had been playing for years and walked around with that easy gait of David Beckham.

Diana tried to explain Luca’s situation to his coach. “Hey. Luca has never done this. So he needs a little extra help.”

The coach, not looking up from his phone, simply told Luca, “Get on out there.”

On the day of his first game, Luca was not happy. What was he supposed to do? Where does he go? What’s defense? What’s off sides? Do you dump Gatorade on the coach’s head before or after the game?

By the time we got to the field, Luca was in full anxiety mode. It didn’t help that the opposing team was filled with glandular giants they bussed in from the nearby penitentiary.

Diana again approached the coach. “Hey Coach, I think you gotta, you know, coach Luca.”

The coach said, “Get on out there.”

Luca burst into tears and Diana wanted to strangle the coach with his lanyard. The coach finally understood his job and knelt down to explain to Luca what he needed to do. Exactly. Which was basically, “Get on out there and kick the ball.”

And that is what he did. Luca ran harder than anyone on the field. It didn’t help that he was half the size of everyone. But it was amazing to see him race around, flopping on the ground and bouncing off the giants. He had this wonderful look on his face. Determined joy.

Diana and I screamed our support. “Go Silver Lightening! Go Silver Lightening!”

One of the nearby moms said, “Um. The team name is Silver Fire.”

“Go Silver Fire!”

Luca’s team got crushed. Even though you don’t keep score in AYSO, it was 13-0. But Luca didn’t care. He had fun and was so exhausted when he got home he was an absolute nightmare the rest of the evening.

I am proud of my little jock.

Monday, September 4, 2017

God’s Bladder

Like every family, we look towards the end of summer with a fond sense of, “Waaaaait! We have stuff we wanted to dooooooo!” One of which was suckle off the teat of all our friends with lakeside cabins.

One such cabin belonging to friends at the end of the block featured, among other things, a pontoon boat, a speed boat, kayaks, and hundreds of beers that magically appeared in coolers everywhere.

Eli proclaimed it the best vacation of his life. I reminded him that we just paid for he and Luca to visit castles in France. He looked at me with an expression that said, “Did I stutter?”

I had to agree it was pretty great.

At the far end of the lake sat a gigantic Christian summer camp. Families gather throughout the summer to connect with each other and God. I was not about to make fun of them using my Ned Flanders voice because the camp also lets heathens play on their incredible collection of floating structures, seemingly designed by God himself. There were inflatable towers, inflatable rafts, inflatable trampolines, and other odds and ends. It was amazing.

But the centerpiece was this massive floating bladder. Next to the bladder was this huge wooden ladder tower. The purpose of which was to leap from the top and onto the bladder. And then the next Christian leaps onto the bladder, shooting you high into the sky and I think into God’s arms.

Eli and Luca were overcome with that combination of really wanting to jump on the thing and utter terror. I appealed to their manhood. “Come on you big babies. Jump on it. Sheesh. What a bunch of babies. Babies.”

Luca and Eli, who are definitely NOT babies, eventually climbed the ladder and leapt onto the bladder. I shouted my congratulations and proclaimed them not babies.

“Dad, now you jump on!”

Come again? Oh no. That was a kid activity. Dads just stand nearby peeing in the lake. Dads don’t climb wet, slimy wooden ladders.

After a cavalcade of “Please????” I found myself standing on top of the wooden God structure. Luca was waiting on the God bladder below (Eli had bailed, tired of my wishywashing). I suddenly remembered I was deathly afraid of heights.  

But I sensed this was a defining moment in my dadness. I needed to prove that I was no baby too. We Hamanss may be slightly nervous neurotics who hate change and aren’t great at sports, but we are not babies.

So I reminded God that technically I am a Christian and I do go to church sometimes and I leapt. I landed awkwardly on the bladder and I twisted my ankle, but I sent Luca soaring into the sky and into the lake with the splash.

 The expression of pure joy on his face reminded me that maybe the Christians might be on to something.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Santa bought the boys season passes to a local amusement park for Christmas. Because Santa discovered local amusement parks are desperate for money in winter. Santa thought Elijah and Luca would go once, maybe twice, over the summer and pretty much break even.

Santa didn’t anticipate Steve.

My brother has taken it upon himself to break the record for most bologna sandwiches eaten in an amusement park parking lot over the course of a summer. The boys are well into double digits on visits.

But when your roller coaster anxiety is high, combined with an aversion to baby rides, that kind of limits the amount of stuff to do. The kids found themselves riding the same 4 things over and over, and that introduced the dreaded word “bored” to their weekly trip.

As a result, the kids began dipping their toes into roller coasters. They’d ride the kiddie coasters, which are only slightly scary due to the fact they were built in the 80’s and are more rust than coaster.

I am a wooden coaster man, myself. Mostly because of “Smokey and the Bandit II.” So, I’ve been pushing the boys to ride the big old ancient wooden coaster in the back of the park. I have fond memories of holding hands with Kristina Liu in 7th grade on that old rickety, creaking pile of wood and screws. Every time we walked by the entrance, I would say, “Huh? Huh? Anyone want relive 7th grade?”

I was always met with a firm “Nope.”

Last time we were at the park, we walked past the ride entrance and saw the wait time was a glorious 15 minutes. Mostly because no one cares about big old wooden coasters anymore. When I was met with the kids’ usual refusal, I kind of lost my temper.

“Come on, you babies. This is the least scary ‘coaster in the world. You have to face your fears. You know what? I am going on this coaster. If you don’t want to go, you can wait here at the exit. Just don’t talk to any kidnappers.”

Eli, who had already ridden several other scary rides on a previous visit with the neighbor girls, was on board. Luca was terrified. But he was more terrified of kidnappers, so he clutched my hand and we walked the ¼ mile to the ride entrance.

By the time we made it through the turnstile, Luca was in near hysterics. I stooped down and told him we didn’t have to go. I was kidding about the kidnappers. We could go back to the kiddie coasters.

Luca cried even harder. “I…want…to…face…my…fears.”

Once the attendant locked us into the ride, Luca knew there was no turning back. Tears streamed down his face and he silently sobbed. He crawled into himself and I realized I had made a huge mistake.

As we climbed the first impossibly long hill, Luca found his voice and began screaming in terror. Oh man. I  made a huge mistake. I thought I broke him. I held his hand, which was clammy and wet, not like Kristina Liu’s, and assured him everything was ok.

Once we hit the first drop, Luca’s screams of horror could be heard all over the park. Tears filled my eyes as I realized I would always look back at this moment as the time I turned my son into a vegetable. I imagined trying to explain what happened to my son at future family gatherings.

We immediately hit a second drop and Luca screamed, “You didn’t tell me there were two drops!” Oh yeah, this was bad. Years from now, people will ask me, “When did Luca stop speaking?”

Once we hit the tight turns, Luca’s screams changed. He began screaming, “This is the greatest day of my life!”

Luca had come out the other side of his horror. He loved the ride and begged us to ride it again. Which we did three more times.

Now all Luca can talk about is his love of the big ‘coasters.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Vive La Illustration

“Okay, okay. I get it. Paris is beautiful. Do they have to keep rubbing our noses in it?” These are the thoughts of an exhausted dad at the end of an impossibly beautiful vacation. We’d been up and down the Sein, raced by priceless works of art to squint at the Mona Lisa, shushed each other at Notre Dame and ate frog’s legs enveloped in second hand smoke from real Parisians.

When Diana suggested we check out a new Paris neighborhood, I balked. Ehh…Is it just going to be another charming street lined with picturesque houses and restaurants? Can’t we just lie in bed and watch that movie about the dog dying over and over Luca downloaded from Itunes?

Diana sealed the deal by saying this neighborhood, Montmarte, featured street artists who would do your portrait for a small fee. Vanity overruled my exhaustion. We cabbed up the big hill and, sure enough, found ourselves immediately accosted by (mostly) men with chalk and rolls of paper.

After some shrewd negotiation where we agreed to the first price the artist suggested, Diana and I, and Luca and Elijah paired off for our sittings. Our artist was just perfect. Rumpled shirt, floppy hat, cigarette stained fingers. Eli and Luca’s looked more like an investment banker on the run from the law, which had its own charm.

I was pleasantly surprised at how serious they were. The artist and the boys. Eli and Luca stood perfectly still, so as not to ruin the artist’s concentration. The boys wanted to present the best possible subject. I was more in the mugging for camera camp. I’m not terribly photogenic, so I didn’t have high hopes for our illustrator.

When our artist was done, he presented a drawing that was definitely of two people. While not exactly Diana and Rick, he had done a marvelous depiction of Obi Wan Kenobi and Twiggy. Later that evening, Diana “accidentally” lost our drawing at a cafĂ©.

Eli and Luca were presented a perfect illustration of two 1970s girls. Much to my utter delight. The boys weren’t quite sure what to make of it, but decided to be flattered and happy. Luca held on to the drawing for the rest of the trip and it now resides in our dining room.

And hopefully it will remain in the family for generations.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Vive La Pee

When we arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport, we realized we had too many people for one rental car with Di’s Dad and his new wife. For a brief moment, we contemplated driving a massive tour bus the rental agency had no problem offering up. Despite Elijah and Luca’s fierce begging, I wasn’t confident in the strange European stick shift. I think it involved the metric system and ravens.

We decided to rent these two little sporty French cars. They weren’t Renault, but they were some kind of brand the makers knew would never make it in the United States. Mostly because the drink holders wouldn’t accept a 14 liter Big Gulp. They were so French they smoked and drank coffee and kind of hated me.

But I simply adored buzzing around the French countryside. The roads near our little farmhouse were built for a single horse, or maybe a single girl on a bicycle carrying a baguette, so they made driving a thrill and a terror.

Paris roads, on the other hand, were designed to welcome invading armies. Huge, sprawling, impossible to navigate. Our little GPS voice (British accent, not Pepe Le Pew) would simply inform us we blew right past our round about over and over. But since it was the most beautiful city in the world, I was enjoying the heck out being lost.

Eli and Luca, on the other hand, needed very much to pee.

As we concentrically circled our hotel, Eli became more and more agitated. “I have to pee. Now!” But there was nothing we could do. Downtown Paris is absent of McDonald’s you could justify peeing in because that’s why they make McDonald’s.

Finally, Diana just suggested Eli go in one of our water bottles. I’m fairly sure this was what he was angling at the whole time. Because there is nothing more freeing than whizzing in a foreign country in a foreign water bottle.

The European bottle opening was elegant, but not conducive to effective waste management. So while I was trying to locate the impossibly narrow alley where our hotel was located, Eli literally peed over every inch of our cool little French car’s backseat.

I shouted, “Not on the wine!” and Luca’s screams are still echoing off the walls of Notre Dame.

However, this pee incident pales in comparison to my own brush with bladder issues a mere 24 hours later. But because I am the writer and editor of this blog, you will never know my embarrassment.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Vive La Bee

We rented this impossibly French little farmhouse when we were in the Loire Valley. Next door to the hilariously small beds and showers with impossible controls, there was a little enclosure with two goats, a handful of chickens, and a donkey who would love nothing better than to eat you. When we were checking in, the owner of the house pantomimed losing a finger when referring to the animal. The boys loved it and took every opportunity to pet “Mr. Donk.”

Because of the barn, our farmhouse was also home to 400,000,000 flies. They were everywhere. In our baguettes, our Chenin Blank, our frogs’ legs, and our berets. We didn’t care because we were in friggin’ France and it was beautiful.  So we learned to live with our insect friends.

Except for the bee.

On the second to last night we were there, the families had all gathered at the outdoor big wooden table to eat cheese and drink whatever treasure Diana had found on her daily wine exploration. As is custom, right hand was for wine glasses, left hand was for fly shooing. Luca, who had recently become addicted to stinky cheese, came running up for another fist full of funk.

He grabbed onto my chair and very matter of factly said, “Oh. I just got stung by a bee.”

And for nearly half a second, everything seemed fine. After that half a second, the pain started. His eyes became huge saucers of agony and he grabbed his finger in a death grip. The sound that came out of him was pure horror.

I scooped him up and ran into the house so as not to disturb everyone else with Luca’s screaming. But the farmhouse was seemingly built to amplify children’s wails and I turned and ran out into the field with him.

My heart broke as Luca hyperventilated and screamed, “JE-SUS! JE-SUS! I can’t live! I can’t live! JE-SUS!”

I wondered for a moment if we would be spending the evening searching for a hospital among the tiny little towns called “Blou” and Blu,” but Luca didn’t seem to have any allergic reaction a la “My Girl.”

We treated his wound like we do every Hamann injury: unlimited screen time. My French brother in law also assured Luca that the bee was murdered for his offense. By beheading.

Luca was fine and now carried a healthy, and I’m sure lifelong fear of bees. But not donkeys.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Baby’s First Transatlantic Flight

The Hamanns are going to France! I mean, The Hamanns went to France! I’m in the process of downloading the 4,000 photos we took on our adventure. I have lots of fun stories to tell about wine, castles and at least 2 pee pee accidents.

But first things first. We had to get to France.

By the time we arrived at O’Hare International Airport and Chili’s, I had sunk into a coma-like state of dread. Elijah and Luca were not seasoned business travelers. They did not know how to balance their wine and Ambien intake to get the most grooviness out of their flight. Also, we were flying coach, which is for suckers.

As we made a little pile of lettuce and tomatoes from our airport sandwiches, a dude in a blue jump suit and neon yellow vest approached.

“Do your sons want to come with me to see the cockpit?”

I realized at that moment all you have to do to kidnap my sons is wear a neon yellow vest because I blurted, “Yes!” without even blinking. He told me that Diana and I could come as well and I said, “Oh, yeah sure. That works too.”

The pilot and co-pilot seemed totally fine dropping their pre-flight checklists and letting two knuckleheads yank and push whatever they wanted. We snapped photos and proclaimed our love of American Airlines and eventually found our seats.

Elijah was particularly disappointed we weren’t in First Class. Tell me about it. Luckily, we were in the bulkhead and spread out our seventeen iPads.

Next thing you know, we were in the air!

Things went smoothly for the first couple hours. The boys watched movies and played games and peed many many times. Eventually we beat the sun and the flight attendants turned off the lights. I suggested the boys do like Diana, who was already fast asleep.

Eli pointed to his in flight entertainment and said, “I am not sleeping.”

I had slightly more control over my seven year old. I made Luca a little nest of blankets and told him to try his best to get some shut eye. For the next 5 hours, Luca thrashed in his seat. Occasionally flopping his legs or head into the aisle, or shouting, “I CAN’T SLEEP!”

At one point, he raised his sleepy head up, hooded in his blankets and simply groaned. Eli remarked, “He looks like the Emperor from Star Wars.”

I decided sleep was beyond reach for all of us and caught up on an HBO show I’ve been meaning to watch.

We landed in France, totally shredded from lack of sleep, but excited for our adventure.

More to come.