Thursday, December 31, 2009

5 Things I'd Do Over for 2009

I'm not yet ready to make New Year's resolutions, but I'll start with things I'd do differently in 2009:

1. I would've eaten about a hundred fewer candy bars. Yeah, they were good at the time, but my metabolism ain't what it once was.

2. I would've hired a real locksmith to install the hardware on the front door.

3. Before we got Bailey, I would've asked the breeder about any family history of medical problems such as cherry eye that might result in $1,200 surgery. For each eye.

4. I would've stretched a little more before attempting to run really fast to first base in the first softball game of the season.

5. It probably wasn't the best year, economically, to buy that blueprint of Elvis' Graceland racquetball building. know, I'd probably do it again anyway.

And, okay, I would've still eaten the candy bars too.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas with my family

Thanksgiving is the official holiday for giving thanks, but Christmas should be added to the list. The trick is separating all the hecticness of planning and gift buying and packing and pet-care arranging and traveling and all that other stuff that threatens to overwhelm you, from the simple realization that this is your life and these people you're hugging and laughing with are the people you love and who love you. And that's pretty much what this whole thing is about, isn't it?

Happy holidays.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Penguin Summer Catalog

There is a scene in the movie, "The Jerk," where Steve Martin runs around all excited because he has discovered that his name is in the phone book.

Well, I'm kinda feeling that way now, because The Penguin Young Readers Group summer catalog is out this week, and I'm on page 60, sandwiched between a teen vampire series and a young adult novel about a girl who goes blind. Yikes. Apparently "How About a Kiss For Me?" is among the softer, less angst-ridden of Penguin's summer releases.

I'm sure the thrill will wear off eventually, but for now I'm going to milk it for all it's worth.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Breaking News: Ethan no longer likes garlic knots

Ethan Tarpley released the following statement this evening:

"Uh-oh. My taste buds changed again. They change every six months. Now the taste of garlic knots just doesn't excite me anymore.

"The same thing happened with popcorn chicken a few months ago. I really hope it doesn't happen with macaroni. Because that's my all-time favorite food, and then I wouldn't like anything at all."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

If I had all the money in the world, by Ethan Tarpley

I would fix up Mars 2112, because it doesn't look so good anymore.

I would buy Dad out of his job so he doesn't have to work anymore and he could just write books and go for runs.

I would buy a DeLorean time machine for Samuel.

I would go to Funplex.

I would buy a playground.

I would buy myself out of school.

I would buy the police and the president so that I would be able to get out of school.

I would buy Mom out of work just part of the time, because she kind of likes it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Yes, Virginia

The boys had a school event this weekened commemorating Virginia O'Hanlon's 1897 letter to the New York Sun asking if there is a Santa Claus. Virginia lived in the brownstone on West 95th Street that is now the boys' school.

Samuel was chosen to read a letter he wrote to Virginia.

Ethan says he was NOT satisfied by the New York Sun's poignant but obtuse response ("Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!").

"That would make me believe LESS in Santa Claus," says Ethan. "It reminds me of what my teacher always says when I ask him a question: 'What do YOU think?' That's what he says instead of just answering the question."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dog Haircuts

Kahlua and Bailey finally went to the groomers. $200 later, they still look like dogs. But better looking dogs.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ethan's Tae Kwon Do psychological warfare

Ethan: I won my sparring bout today. And she was a purple belt, which is pretty good.

At first I felt really scared, and when I'm scared my eyebrows go up like this...

But I didn't want her to see that I was scared of her, so I tried to hold back my expression to make it like this...

And I think that worked pretty good, because then I looked at her and she was shaking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Writer's workshop weekend

I just got back from my first children's book writer's workshop. It was held at an old hotel on Lake George. It was like "The Shining"--nearly deserted, no cell phone service, socked in by rain and fog.

I had to take a 6-hour train ride, followed by a 20-minute cab ride from a woman who drove in the middle of the road and pointed out that the Novocaine had not yet worn off from her dental appointment.

Here, in a nutshell, is what I learned:

Never submit a manuscript about:

1. Bedtime
2. Monsters acting un-monster-like
3. Cats and kittens or puppies and dogs going on an adventure
4. Going green
5. Visiting grandparents
6. How much I love you
7. Overcoming boredom
8. First day of school
9. Dealing with disabilities
10. Baby bird learning to fly
11. Caterpillar turning into a butterfly
12. Okay to be who you are
13. Anything that rhymes

I learned this right before the book editor critiqued my manuscript, which was a rhyming bedtime story about being loved just the way you are. Fortunately I'd left out the part about the baby bird visiting the caterpillar who overcomes disabilities while visiting his grandparents who are going green.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sesame Street

Today is the 40th birthday of "Sesame Street."

I almost got a job with Sesame Workshop a few years back, and I still wish I had. I would've spent the past few years making digital media for kids instead of digital media for Wall Street traders and trade show exhibitors. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. God knows I'm a big, big fan of employment.)

Frankly, I wouldn't have been a perfect fit for "Sesame Street" personality-wise anyway.

I love toddlers, but in more of a let's-get-all-hyped-up-on-sugar-and-jump-in-a-ball-pit kind of way. Talking about feelings? Not so much.

I would like to have worked on the show in 1969, with Jim Henson. But, alas, I was pretty busy with kindergarten at the time.

In any case, I'm a fan of idealism, and creativity, and innovation, and passion, so I'll always root for "Sesame Street," and I wish them well.

BTW, here's my favorite skit of all time, from the glory days...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween haul

Ethan was "Jason" from "Friday the 13th," and Samuel was a 19th-century Jules Verne-esque "Steampunk" character (I'm not real articulate on the details, but it has something to do with "Back to the Future II").

Jen was a sexy vampiress.

Kahlua was an angel, and Bailey was a devil--he chewed off Kahlua's wings in about 30 seconds.

After trick-or-treating at our building we met up with more friends and terrorized the Upper West Side.

And there were enough princesses, fairies, and baby bunnies to neutralize evil in the world for another year.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Delorean Weekend

As you may or may not know, Samuel has been obsessed with "Back to the Future" for about six months now.

About three months in, I decided to embrace it.

A few weeks ago we joined the Delorean Mid-Atlantic Club. Okay, we don't technically own a Delorean, but we figured this was a first good step. There was a club get-together in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania this weekend, so, being club members and all, we went.

It was the first time Samuel had seen a real Delorean. About 15 of them, actually. He and Ethan got to sit in one and ride in one.

And the highlight was the one that was customized to look like the time machine from "Back to the Future."

And, of course, now I kinda want one too. And at our current rate of debt repayment, we should be able to buy one free and clear in about...calculate, calculate...117 years. Woo-hoo! (Not including garage rental and insurance.)

Well, as if seeing real Deloreans wasn't enough, we spent the rest of the day at "Hersheypark in the Dark," Hershey Park's Halloween-themed promotion.

It was a little wet--we waited out a couple of downpours--but the upside was that the lines were short.

And we had the arcade all to ourselves.

All in all, a big success.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dog Show

I took the boys to a dog and cat convention at the Javitz Center today. It was called "Meet the Breeds," billed as "the world's largest showcase of cats and dogs."

Sure enough, there were a whole bunch of booths set up, each devoted to a breed of dog or cat, and almost all containing a live specimen to be petted, or, in Ethan's case, engage in full-open-mouth kissing.

Our favorites were the English Cocker Spaniel, Bloodhound, and American Cocker Spaniel. We saw what Kahlua and Bailey might look like if someone actually groomed or even brushed them occasionally.

And of course there were little kids all over the place, plus Haagen-Daz, frozen lemonade, and popcorn. Yeah, we blew $50 or so, but we managed to avoid coming home with a Bloodhound or a toddler.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Samuel is home again

Samuel's back from his 3-day school field trip to the wilderness. He brought back two large sticks. He said the bugs weren't too bad. Ethan asked if any bugs had touched the sticks. Samuel said no.

While Samuel was gone a new video game came for him in the mail. Samuel ordered it because he'd found a website that converts it from "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" to "BTTF: Hill Valley." The cars become DeLoreans and Vice City becomes Hill Valley.

He's been on the computer since he got home. Every twenty minutes or so he shouts, "I found the junkyard!" or "I got the plutonium!"

It's nice to have him home.

The latest news

A quick run-down on the week’s happenings:

I got a “folded and gathered” copy of my first book, How About a Kiss for Me?, in the mail from Dutton for review. It looks like a real book. Publishing date is June 10, 2010. Hurray.

Jen has been very busy at work. She always seems to be getting up at 6:30am, and by the time the boys and I wake up at 7:15 she is walking around in a nice suit reciting lines from a presentation to herself. Even when she has a day off she is stressed about all the work she is not doing. I don't seem to have that particular issue.

Samuel left yesterday morning for a 3-day trip with his class to a nature/wilderness retreat in upstate NY called "Ashoken" (translates from Native American as "Damn, it's cold"). He was excited to go, but a little anxious about being away from home for 3 days, and a little anxious about the possibility of seeing bugs.

Ethan got a new book from Barnes & Noble-—the latest installment of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” which is his favorite book series. He is going to miss Samuel a lot for the next couple of days, but we’ll try and keep him distracted and give him lots of attention. He slept in our bed last night.

Bailey & Kahlua:
Well, Kahlua is doing fine, but Bailey had eye surgery yesterday to correct something called “cherry eye.” The vet called in the middle of the day and informed us that he also needed to have an impacted tooth removed. So...I'm just gonna have my paychecks automatically desposited to the vet's checking account.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Hugging Ethan

Last night I put Ethan to bed, and he asked me to put my arm around him to help him go to sleep.

Every time he does it I feel blessed: first, because it makes me feel needed, which is one of the best parts of being a father; and second, because I know that each time he asks may be the last.

He's eight years old, and like Samuel before him, he's at the tipping point between little kid and medium kid. It's a great time to watch him becoming stronger, more agile, more confident.

And yet it's nice to know that in the midst of all this growing up, I'm still needed now and then to bring him a sense of safety and comfort, late at night, when the monsters wage their last hurrah before their extinction.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Officer and a Gentleman" is done!

Ethan's friend Lucy came over today and we finished shooting the movie, edited it, and posted it on YouTube.

So until they delete it for music copyright infringement...enjoy.

House lights down. Roll tape.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Weekend in LA

I'm on the plane home from three days in LA.

I got in on Thursday, checked into the Beverly Hilton, went for a run through Beverly Hills, lifted weights, then ate the $6.50 Snickers minis in my hotel room mini-bar and went to bed.

Friday I helped lead a sales training session, which went well.

Business completed, I spent Friday evening with my sister April, her husband Marty, and their kids.

Ryan is 5. He likes Thomas the Tank Engine, pirates, and Bakugan.

Addie is 4. She likes princesses, the color pink,

Today (Saturday) April and Marty both had to work all day, so I babysat Ryan and Addie. I think April felt bad that she stuck me with the kids all day. I don't think she realized that that was my ideal scenario.

We had breakfast at Denny's (Ryan: "Don't tell Mom I had chocolate milk"). Then we visited Marty on the CBS lot in Studio City, where he works on the set of "CSI: NY."

(Sidebar: Stage 2, where "CSI: NY" is shot, was formerly used for "Gilligan's Island," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and "Roseanne." Funny to think that the "CSI: NY" interrogation room is probably in roughly the same location as Ginger and Mary Ann's hut, which is in roughly the same location as the WJM-TV news room.)

Ryan, Addie, and I had Happy Meals at McDonalds (I ate the rest of Addie's burger after she inadvertently ate a pickle, which she found disgusting).

Then we drove to Hollywood, where we met my 21-year-old niece Mary and her roommate, who are both dancers in a local ballet company.

We hiked in Griffith Park, got some color-changing ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, then the kids napped on the long drive back to the Valley.

I'm on the redeye back to NYC. It was kind of hard telling them goodbye, especially with the big hug from Addie. But anxious to be back home to my own little family.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"Officer and a Gentleman" production update

We shot a few more scenes from Ethan's upcoming remake of the trailer from "An Officer and a Gentleman." The location was a paper warehouse in Hillside, NJ.

Ethan's classmate Lucy plays the Debra Winger role, and she nailed all of her scenes in one take.

Three more scenes to shoot, then it's ready for YouTube. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

5 cool things about getting old

1. You can name at least 3 characters from "Knots Landing."

2. You know all the words to "Uptown Girl."

3. You could actually buy a Delorean if you still really wanted one.

4. Compared to everyone else your age, you get more attractive every year.

5. The older you get, the longer you haven't died yet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ethan's questions

Why does a grapefruit look like an orange on the outside?

Why do they call it a grapefruit? It doesn’t taste like a grape.

Which came first, a grape or a grapefruit?