Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas

We survived our first Christmas all by ourselves in NYC. It was nice not having to brave any airports, but we missed being with family. Well, we had Grandma and Grandpa Kemp via live webcam, and several family phone calls throughout the day.

Samuel got a Fly Fusion Pentop, which, as he describes it, is a pen that is part computer. Ethan got a Harry Potter Lego castle. It was a good Christmas.

Roll tape for highlights.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Ethan's Nightmare

Ethan had a nightmare the other night. He said he dreamed that he looked in the mirror and he had turned into an old man.

I said I have that same nightmare every day.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Samuel and I made a voice recording at, then added a slideshow from last year's Christmas photos.

Samuel's Sweetness

Samuel, at 9, amazes me with his sweetness. He has been sweet his entire life, and he has not yet grown jaded, and I am very grateful for that.

Tonight I took the boys to another medicore movie, "Alvin and the Chipmunks." I swore I wouldn't pay to see it after watching the preview, in which a chipmunk eats another chipmunk's turd, then says, "Dude, you owe me big time." (When I don't respond favorably to potty humor, you know something's gone terribly wrong in the universe.)

At the end of the movie, as the credits rolled, there was the usual mad dash for the exits. Samuel, the sweetest boy in the world, sat transfixed in his seat...and clapped.

I have absolutely no idea why I find that so touching, but I do.

I worry that as he grows older his sincerity will be taken advantage of, that his heart will be broken, that his faith in the goodness of people will erode, and he'll become like the rest of us.

But until then, I have a boy who claps at the end of movies, and that is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hawkeyes Top #1 Cyclones

If you heard a brief whoop about mid-afternoon, it was when the Hakweyes won the heavyweight match in the closing seconds against Iowa State, securing the dual victory and nabbing the #1 NCAA ranking.

Kahlua and I were very excited.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Today's Run

I went for a run this afternoon. I usually like to run fast, but because of the snow and the fact that I hadn't run since before Thanksgiving, my goal was simply to break a sweat and not pull any muscles. So I kind of jogged along like Joanne Woodward in a made-for-TV-movie, and at the end of the run I realized this is what it's come to: my athletic goal is "to not pull a muscle."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tarpley Holiday Photo 2007

He-he-he. I'm so excited. It's time to shoot our annual holiday photo. I got the first costumes and props in the mail today from my eBay purchases. Still waiting on two wigs. I'm being a little ambitious with the Photoshop this year, but every year I grow a little more emboldened.

Here's a hint:

What do Richard Dawson, Eva Gabor, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Paul Williams have in common?

Dancing With the Stars

Thanksgiving in New Jersey. As always, a family video. This year it was a "Dancing With the Stars" parody. As always, it was just off-color enough to get someone fired or blacklisted from future political office. Damned Internet.

Here's the only scene I can show you. Otherwise I will not be able to run for that Senate seat I've been coveting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ice Skating in Bryant Park

It was Jennifer's idea, and a good one. No snowflakes, but the unmistakable first feel of winter, with crisp November air. A girl from Samuel's class and her sister and mom joined us, as well as what appeared to be the entire freshman class from Yeshiva High School for Girls, all in long, gray dresses. Sinatra was piped in over the loudspeakers. What could be more New York?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mr. Magorium's Vomitorium

We went to see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium last night. Not since Thomas the Tank Engine and the Magic Railroad have I been so anxious for a movie to end. Samuel and Ethan both liked it, which I suppose is a victory. But they represent a pretty low bar to clear, frankly.

(When the movie ended, Samuel started clapping tentatively. There was silence throughout the rest of the theater. Victim of a slow clap that never catches on, he stopped after a few seconds.)

This was the cinematic equivalent of Britney at the VMAs. I kept hoping Natalie Portman would at least take her shirt off.

Not even.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


I've eaten almost all of the boys' remaining Halloween candy. They have short attention spans and haven't checked their candy bags in a week. I'm wondering if they will ever notice, or if Halloween has already faded into their memory, and I will successfully have pulled off the greatest heist of all time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I've Outlived Elvis

Holy cow
I’m 45
Am I the oldest
Man alive?

I’ve outlived Elvis
Yeah, that’s cool
I’ve not yet died
On a toilet stool

I’ve outlived Lennon
So I’m told
I always thought
He seemed so old

I’ve outlived Tupac
Sorry, buster
Bruce Lee, Sam Cooke,
General Custer

Karen Carpenter
Marilyn Monroe
Mama Cass Elliot
Anna Nicole

Clemente, Roberto
Gehrig, Lou
Kennedy, John F. Junior—

Buddy Holly?
He was nice
But by my age
He’d been dead twice

John Belushi
Malcolm X
Crocodile Hunter
(Stingray hex?)

Bobby Darin!
Princess Di!
Jesus Christ!
How old am I?

Ritchie Valens
And James Dean
Combined would still
Not reach my mean

They made their marks
But don’t forget
They’re all quite dead
And I’m not yet

Getting old?
Yeah, it’s a pain
But still beats
Being Kurt Cobain

Saturday, October 27, 2007

New Belt

Ethan has been taking a martial arts class since the beginning of summer. So far it is the only activity of any type in which he will remotely follow instructions. He even shouts, "Yes, Sir!"

The reason? Incentives. Every third class he gets a new stripe on his belt. Today--8 stripes later--he got a new belt with a yellow stripe. This is a very big deal for him. A very, very big deal.

I've suggested that we follow this Skinnerian model with regard to all aspects of his life--from getting up in the morning, to getting dressed, to eating, to sitting still and paying attention in school, to going to bed. I could wear a whistle like the dad in "Sound of Music." Every third day he makes it through school without jumping out of his seat and writhing around on the floor, he gets a stripe.

So far I've been out-voted by Jennifer and his school teacher and principal, who are helping him learn to WANT to behave in a socially acceptable way. Uh-huh. Good luck with that.

Roll tape.


"I don't get how walking helps you find a cure."
--Ethan Tarpley

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, Donna

My Aunt Donna is what you'd call a trooper. Every year she hosts the entire extended family for Thanksgiving, and every year we all tromp through her house for a day or two, eat all the food in the house, dirty all the sheets and towels, track mud across the floors, then depart with full bellies and a merry little, "Thanks for everything."

If she secretly harbors any ill will over this grossly unfair arrangement, she's extremely good at hiding it.

As my way of "giving back"--note the quotes--each year I produce a video featuring every family member. The only rules are that the video must be written, shot, and edited in less than 8 hours, and it must be just inappropriate enough that Jennifer refuses to let me post it on You Tube, which is why I haven't yet scored that gig with Comedy Central.

But tonight I'm able to give you a glimpse of the range of roles that Donna has taken on over the years. Truly spectacular.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Donna: you are the greatest.

Roll tape.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Ethan was playing on the computer. Jennifer and I were in the next room. All of a sudden--

"I hate this f---ing game!"


(Louder) "I hate this f---ing game!!"

Apparently he'd overheard Jennifer telling Samuel it was okay to curse now and then in private. We had to explain that that doesn't include that particular word. Especially when the f---ing windows are open and the neighbors can hear every f---ing word you say.

Monday, September 24, 2007


"It would be hard to walk on water without God training you."
--Ethan Tarpley

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Samuel Magic Trick

Okay, I'm only 10 months late posting this, but it's Samuel in his element. From The Studio School talent show, November 2006.


"Why do people have to do yoga instead of just taking a sleeping pill?"
--Ethan Tarpley

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bonus Summer Day

We had no babysitter the week before the boys started school, so I used a vacation day from work to cover one of the days. Even though it was legit, it still felt like I was getting away with something--playing hookey at the water terrace while everyone else in the city was working. Ha!

This is the view as you come upon the water terrace. Anticipation, like cresting the top of the roller coaster. I had to stop and snap this picture, because I wanted to go hug that little girl. Woo-hoo!

Samuel demonstrates his rubber band-shooting technique.

Aaron learns from the master. No children were permanently injured.

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe.



Ethan amidst the planets.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Giggling Sam

I saw a toddler on the subway this morning, with big brown eyes and the sweetest little smile. It reminded me of Samuel when he was that age, and how I used to write poems to him, including this one:

There's nothing like a giggling Sam
To pull me from depression
I tickle him, he giggles back
My giggling Sam obsession

Sometimes I go from toe to head
Sometimes from head to toe
Sometimes I tickle back and forth
And sometimes to and fro

He squirms and writhes and writhes and squirms
And laughs and screams and squeals
Who knows the depth of giggleness
That tickled Sam reveals

Sometimes I kiss his belly
Sometimes I kiss his ear
Sometimes I kiss his armpit
Sometimes I kiss his rear

It doesn't matter where I kiss
A giggle he'll emit
And then I find I cannot stop
It's much too fun to quit

No war, no fear, no hatred,
No sadness could withstand
The healing power of one half hour
Of tickling giggling Sam.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


"My dream is to stay at Great Wolf Lodge for a few days. My other dream is to have a clothesline outside."
--Ethan Tarpley

The End of Summer

Summer is my favorite season. Every year I anxiously anticipate its arrival, and every year I hate to see it go.

It's nothing grounded in reality--it's not like we spend all summer at a beach house, with the kids selling lemonade from a red wagon while Basset puppies nip at their sand-covered toes. We manage to do a few fun things every other weekend or so, in between laundry and bills, and maybe squeeze a mini-vacation in there somewhere, but it's basically like any other season, with a little more daylight.

But summer represents the potential for fun...if I had enough money, and a wagon, and some lemonade and at least one Basset puppy. And there's always waterparks--given a whole summer I believe I could visit every waterpark in America, and wouldn't that be cool?

I could make dozens of You Tube videos with the kids--a re-make of "Officer and a Gentleman" starring Ethan and Samantha, for starters. River rafting? Definitely. Sliding down natural rock waterslides in the wilderness? Let's get a map of every single one in the Eastern United States, and buy an old convertible, and just go for it. Are there any drive-in movie theaters left in America? How many? Let's hit 'em all--cheeseburgers are on me. Waterskiing? Absolutely. And don't forget houseboating on Lake Powell, where you sleep on the roof and look up at the stars and see the ring of the Milky Way. Toasted marshmallows, watermelon, homemade ice cream, cotton candy, the sound of the Mr. Softee truck.

I was meant to exist in a Fantasy Summer like that, where smart people don't have to work, and you never run out of Coca-Cola Zero or frozen Snickers or dogs or kids. Nobody barfs in the car, sand fleas don't exist, your arms don't get sore from paddling a canoe, nobody ever gets cranky, and your 9-year-old doesn't miss a spot on your back with the sunscreen.

Here are the highlights of my summer of 2007:

10. Canoeing the Hudson marshes in Piermont, NY
9. Day trip to Fire Island
8. Great Wolf Lodge overnight trip
7. Rye Playland for Father's Day
6. Playing softball with Jennifer
5. Day trip to Old Greenwich Beach
4. Day trip to Splash Down waterpark in Fishkill, NY
3. Making the "Say Anything" movie trailer with Ethan and Samuel
2. Weeklong trip to Myrtle Beach with family and parents
1. Signing a contract for my first children's book

All in all, I can't complain. I'm thankful for the summer that I actually had, still wistful for Fantasy Summer, but most important, still happy to be alive.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Ethan (screaming after falling on the sidewalk and skinning his knees): I hate these Heelies!!!

Samuel: Then why do you wear them?

Ethan (bawling): Because they're fun!!!

Jen's Softball Debut

I wish I had a photo of this, but you'll just have to use your imagination. On Monday we played sissy liberals WNYC Radio for bragging rights to not being dead last in the NYC Media League. This was the rubber match, each of us having defeated the other previously. I think our season record was something like 1-75.

We needed one more female to field a full team, so with less than an hour to game time, I frantically called Jennifer at home and begged her to grab her old softball glove (and Samuel and Ethan) and meet us at the field.

Not only did she show up, she went 2 for 3 at the plate (hey, .667 season batting average) and scored twice, securing our margin of victory. Most important, she looked hot doing it.

I married her because she was one of those rare Valedictorian/Homecoming Queen combos you only see in John Hughes movies. But I knew that, 17 years down the line, she'd come through in a clutch situation like this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Tooth Fairy Visits

I know, I know. All Ethan, all the time. We'll try to get a little screen time for Samuel and Jennifer and me. But meanwhile, Ethan lost his first tooth while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, and what was I supposed to do, NOT have a camcorder in his face the next morning? Roll tape.

Myrtle Beach Things

(Sung to the tune of "My Favorite Things")

Dixie flag beach towels and cigarette lighters
Hunting knives, taffy and cheeseburger sliders
Mini golf, Magi Quest, buffalo wings
These are a few of my Myrtle Beach things.

Soft sandy beaches and warm summer breezes
Hank Williams Jr. and NASCAR and Jesus
Pool-peeing toddlers with new water wings
These are a few of my Myrtle Beach things.

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I want a tattoo
I simply remember my fav'rite red state
And then I don't feel so blue.


"Here's a tip: Always be calm when vomiting. Otherwise the vomit will come out your nose."
--Ethan Tarpley

Friday, August 17, 2007


We're in Myrtle Beach, SC. Day 2 of a 5-day mini-vacation. Why Myrtle Beach? Because we love to hang with overweight smokers with mullet cuts and Dixie-flag boogie boards, sure, but also: Myrtle Beach is the home of (angels chorus) MagiQuest.

It's like Dungeons and Dragons for the pre-pubescent set.

It was a success.

Dead Store Walking?

Two weeks ago they had an IRS seizure notice posted on their door, and next to that was an eviction notice for non-payment of rent. In the window was a hand-written sign that said "Don't worry, kids. We'll be open again soon."

I'm an eternal optimist, but even I spoke in hushed tones about this one. Sorry, they ain't coming back, I said to Samuel.

About a week ago I passed by and saw the colorful flags in front, and I smiled. Maybe they still won't make it in the long run. But, as Keynes said, in the long run we're all dead. Life is a series of short runs, so I'm calling this one a victory for the underdog.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

"Say Anything"

Okay, you've been waiting very patiently. Here's the remake of the movie trailer from the 1989 John Cusack/Ione Skye classic.

Ethan Tarpley handles the Lloyd Dobler role, while his former schoolmate (and my favorite girl of all time) Samantha Scheffler IS Diane Court. A superb supporting cast includes Samuel Tarpley, several of his school friends, and even our 4-year-old neighbor Alex, whom we kidnapped from the lobby one evening.

(Look for me as Diane's crusty father--a late replacement due to a camcorder malfunction during filming of Samantha's dad. At least that's the official story.)

And, yes, I know what you're thinking: "John Cusack/Ione Skye classic" is redundant.

Cell phones off. Roll tape.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rollercoaster Dream

Last night I dreamed that I missed the last rollercoaster ride of the summer because I was goofing off in line. Which neatly sums up all my angst, ambition, and insecurity in one sentence.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What was on Ethan's mind this week...

Ethan talks non-stop. I tried to transcribe the tiniest fraction of his thoughts this week:

"It's kind of weird, these people who don't believe in Santa. Because if they don't believe in Santa, then how did they get all those presents?"

"Wow, you're sweaty. Why do you take runs? Are you a professional at running?"

"School of Rock isn't all that appropriate. Because Jack Black said a bad word...'You are a little grain on my big rear.'"

"Once Spongebob walked into the bathroom and said, 'I'm not taking a shower with you looking. Close your eyes.' Then he went into the shower. Then the screen was black. Then he came out and said, 'Squeaky clean. Squeak, squeak.'"

"In cartooning when they want to show that someone is a baby, they only show one tooth, right here."

"I wanna go on Nicktropolis!"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pretty in Pink

Ethan needs a haircut. Badly. Last week at his Tae Kwon Do class a mother sitting next to me asked if he was my daughter. When I said, no, it's a he, she said, "She's so cute."

Later that day the woman at McDonald's gave him a "My Little Pony" toy in his Happy Meal.

I asked him why he won't get a haircut. He said, "I'm growing it long for a movie role." When I asked him to elaborate, he said he planned to play the part of a girl. I asked him if he would get a haircut afterwards. He said yes.

I said, I have an idea...

Unfortunately, now he says this is not the movie he wanted to be in. He wants to be in a movie in which he plays a female spy, not Molly Ringwald. Oh, and the movie has to be shown in a movie theater, not YouTube. Duh. (Dads are idiots.)

Bottom line: no haircut yet.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007



Todd: Come on, boys, let's go to bed.

Samuel: Wait, I have to finish this one thing on

Todd: It's 10:30.

Ethan: Let's look at girls' butts.

Samuel: Huh?


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Gnarly Weekend

We canoed the big waves near Piermont, annoyed the locals with our boorish restaurant behavior, played in the fountains at the Museum of Natural History, and topped it all off with a late dinner at EJ's.

Monday, June 18, 2007

If you ever doubt that kids remember commercials

Ethan wants to buy Life Alert because "you can live alone without ever being alone." Samuel wants to buy a Tempur-pedic memory-foam mattress because, in his words, "it absorbs motion and doesn't transfer it like other mattresses."

Is Cartoon Network's ad sales team incapable of cracking the Kelloggs account?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Liza Campbell

This is a long story, but stay with me.

One of my more embarrassing teenage moments was when I attended an NYU summer session in 1980. I had just graduated from Durango (Colorado) High School. I was 17, had long, permed hair and a tiny little goatee like Errol Flynn. Simply put, I was extremely cool.

The class was Writing for Film & TV. The professor, Irving Falk, looked like Ray Walston ("Mr. Hand" from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High").

Now the exciting part:

There was a girl in the class. Liza Campbell. She was a classic blonde beauty, with a British accent. I would've married her in an instant without ever speaking to her.

For one writing assignment, I conveniently added the character of Liza, a beautiful exchange student from England, whom the hero (a genius teenage male) wins over in the end. So true to life.

At the next class session, Professor Falk suddenly decided to read my script to the class.

My thoughts: This is great. He likes my script. I'm a great writer. Oh, crap. He's not actually going to read it out loud. Is he?

He did. So I sat there and pretended not to feel Liza's eyes on the back of my head as I slunk down deeper in my chair feeling like a complete idiot.

About a week later, she sat at the desk next to mine, and after a moment or two of awkward silence, gently said, "You shyved your bid."

I said, "What?"

She repeated, "You shyved your bid."

"Huh?" Sweat. Nervousness.

"Your bid," she said, pointing to my chin. "You shyved it ofe."

Ah, the beard. Yes, yes. I shaved it off. 'Cause it made me look like an idiot. But the fact that you noticed makes me want to marry you again.

Fast forward. 2007. A book. A familiar-looking name. Liza Campbell, Liza Campbell, where do I know that name?

So I read the jacket cover. And it turns out she's the daughter of a Scottish Earl and was born in Macbeth's castle. I'm not up on my royalty, so I don't know what it all means. But she's still beautiful at 47.

And that's my story for the day.

Children in the Surf

I'm having a Dead Poets Society moment.

I found this old film of Coney Island from 1903-04 on YouTube.

The first thing I thought when I saw it was, "Look at all the cute litle toddlers playing in the water." The next thing I thought was, "That was 1903. All those little toddlers are long-since dead."

I love toddlers, and I would love to have been playing in the water with them 100 years ago. And so I can't help but think about the toddlers from 1903, and this wonderful little moment of happiness they shared, and the fact that it's permanently captured on film for a lucky stranger to see 100 years in the future.

Which of them died first, and how? Disease? Accident? War? Did any of them, later in life, look back and say, "I remember my parents taking me to the beach at Coney Island, and I played in the water, and it was one of the happiest memories of my childhood"?

How many really great moments like this did they have in their lives? 100? 1,000? How many will I have? How many will you have?

These are the moments of unadulterated joy that make a life worth living--not only experiencing them personally, but seeing them experienced by others, by my own kids, by complete strangers. It's one of the things that has made being a dad so fulfilling--or maybe the experience of being a dad is what awakened my appreciation of joy; I'm not sure which happened first.

The fact that these little moments of joy were the same in 1903 as they are in 2007 is comforting. I can't quite explain it. But they make the universe a teeny bit less scary.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Spring Cleaning

Tarpley's Law of Thermodynamics:

The introduction of an object into an apartment of fixed square footage requires the simultaneous removal of an object of equal mass. Otherwise apartment will eventually resemble that of crazy Aunt Harriet, who passed away at 90, leaving an estate of $159 in pennies, $713 worth of candles, and 1,236 rolls of toilet paper.

Jennifer excels at introducing new objects into the apartment. So while she is in Illinois this weekend for her nephew's graduation, it's up to me to make sure the universe gets back into whack by paring down our inventory.

Here is a partial list of items removed so far:

- Spider-Man Hover Disc with a hole in it.
- Bob the Builder play tent.
- 10 pounds of assorted bed sheets and bath linens, circa 1990-95.
- 8 pounds of size 3 & 4 kids shirts, shorts, pants, and pajamas, including a pair of size-3 shorts with the tags still attached. (Ethan is 6.)
- Assorted half-used tubes of toothpaste, shampoo, teeth whitener.
- 10 tiny pieces of 10 unknown toys, from unknown time period.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Guest Blog by Samuel Tarpley

Today me and Dad went to Chelsea Piers while Mom and Ethan went to a birthday party. We went to the bowling alley arcade to win a Wii system (which Dad says looks like WWII, and he says it in the voice of the Grampa from Rugrats).

We didn't win the Wii, so then we decided to play golf instead.

I learned something from all this. Bacon tastes really good with orange soda.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Softball, Week 2

We got beat last night by "High Times" magazine, 11-4. How humiliating is that, to get your ass kicked by a bunch of stoners?

Dude, the lacing on that glove is, like, so amazing.

I went 0 for 2 at the plate, pulled muscles on both sides of my groin, am having trouble walking. Any worse and I could be a starter for the Yankees.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Dinner at Fred's Saturday night. Jen's request--to "beat the Sunday rush." Always the practical one.

The food is just okay--but you can't not like a place with pictures of dogs all over the walls.

Sunday morning Samuel tiptoed in and woke me up at 7:45--part of our prearranged plan. He and I snuck out to Columbus Bakery with Kahlua and brought back breakfast in bed for Jen.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I played a friendly game of slow-pitch softball--softball!--on Thursday for the first time in 20 years. Here are all the muscles that still hurt on Saturday afternoon:

My hamstrings.

The place where my hamstrings connect to my butt.

The outside of my thighs.

The inside of my thighs.

The place right above my knee where the quad connects.

My right shoulder (throwing arm).

My middle back.

Please swear you will not tell anyone.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Coney Island Birthday Party

I accompanied Ethan to his classmate Adelaide's birthday party on Coney Island on Sunday. We rode the subway with eight other kids.

We ate hot dogs at Nathan's, then walked along the boardwalk to the Aquarium, where the party was held.

They got to see the shark tank from the top (rather than through the glass on the sides, like the general public).

I rode the Cyclone twice with Adelaide's dad Nick, who lost his keys on the ride.

Then we met back up with the group in Astroland, where the girls rode the Tilt-a-Wirl while the two macho boys rode the boats.