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.