Sunday, December 28, 2014


I spent the first five years of my life in Tulsa, followed by four in St. Louis and one in suburban New Jersey. But Durango is my hometown.

Durango is where I went to junior high and high school, where I fell in love and learned to drive a car and ran cross-country and wrestled, where I discovered slow dancing and French kissing and Tickle Pink wine and ELO and Billy Joel and The Cars, where I filled loose-leaf notebooks with creative ramblings about love and sex and the absurdity of religion and how great my life would be if only I lived in New York City instead of Durango.

How nice it is to be back in Durango, to be with a family I love and that loves me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

About this year's photo

If only Dion would have me, I'd actually be in a doo-wop group. But you gotta start somewhere, and we have an album cover.

The photo was inspired by album covers of the late '50s, like these...

I loved the line "They sing...they swing" in that perfect '50s font.

Mello-Kings, anyone? Bueller?

Pink dress and a red curtain background? Had to have it.

Jennifer doing her karaoke version of "At Last."

We used a stock image for our background, but we shot ourselves individually against the burgundy drapes in our living room, to make the Photoshop cropping less noticeable.

Don't ask me how I happened to have a vintage blue sparkle smoking jacket in my closet. Let's just say this probably confirms for you how cool I am. But I only had one, so we had to share.

Little grown-up boy. Looks like Kevin Bacon in "Diner."

"Ticket please? Enjoy the show." Samuel's audition for "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

"When that shark bites..." Todd's audition for "Beyond the Sea," in which an aging Kevin Spacey tries to play a 37-year-old.

I will leave you with some uplifting holiday music. Long live Dion. Long live Doo-Wop. Long live Rock'n'Roll.

Monday, December 22, 2014

And the holiday photo looks like...

Putting the final touches on the newsletter (, will hopefully be up by tomorrow night. And now...bedtime.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bailey is sad

He's sad that we're throwing out the last of the Ethan's PJs. Ethan is too cool and grown-up for PJs now--only boxers and tees. But these monster and robot PJs were still in his drawer when I was putting laundry away, and I laughed imagining him wearing them.

But it was a wistful laugh.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Decorating the tree in the lobby

It's an annual building ritual, similar to the Halloween party. Everyone meets in the lobby and decorates the tree. The kids (and those of us who wish we were kids) cut out snowflakes and paper chains.

For some reason, the Christmas tree committee (which consists of one person) decided the tree should be in the middle of the lobby this year instead of in the alcove by the front window--which is the obvious place for it, hence the word "alcove."

But I'm not gonna be all Grinchy about it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Busy weekend

I took Samuel to a doctor's appointment on Saturday morning so that Jennifer could sleep in. Afterwards we had donuts and hot chocolate. Nice to hang out with that boy.

Saturday night he and Ethan went to a school play with some friends from Calhoun School, which is on Ethan's list of possible high schools. Meanwhile Jennifer and I got a Christmas tree from the corner, lugged it home and set it up in the living room.

Jen decorated it while I worked on concepts for our holiday photo. Usually we bounce around three or four concepts, but given the late date, I honed in on one, then stayed up 'til 4am creating the background in Photoshop. Next weekend: take family photos and insert...

Shhh! Keep this a secret!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My Ethan Saturday

This is actually a good picture of Ethan, because when you look at him, this is generally what you see.

Jennifer is in Illinois this weekend visiting her parents, so it's just me and the boys.

Ethan and I had a high school admissions interview yesterday--one person interviews him while another interviews me. It's like on "Law & Order" where they interrogate the suspects separately.

He's got nine schools on his list: four public, one specialized public, and four private. Don't ask--it's a complex process involving Nobel Prize-winning economists and game theory. I believe there's a 99.9% chance that he'll go to high school somewhere. So we're not stressing about it.

Last night Samuel went to a movie with friends, so Ethan and I had a sushi dinner at Haru.

Yeah, he spent a fair amount of time playing a game on his phone, but it gave me a chance to check the scores in the Iowa-Michigan State wrestling dual. We got plenty of time to talk--about high school, politics, philosophy--things we don't talk about on a regular basis.

He's a good guy to be around. He's a good guy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Little visitors

We had visitors this weekend: Ella and Fin, little bundles of super-charged energy who bounced around the apartment swinging swords and socker boppers.

Miraculously, no people or dogs were maimed, and no lamps were broken.

But we tried, dammit.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I have a homework assignment

Ethan: "I have to draw a picture of someone in my family."

Todd: "Who are you going to draw?"

Ethan: "Myself."

Monday, November 10, 2014

Wild things

Ethan: "Hey, Daddio...what animal would you like to get attacked by, and by how many?"

Todd: "Cocker Spaniel puppies. About a dozen."

Ethan: "I thought you were going to say human babies."

Todd: "Oh, I didn't know they counted. But, yes, I would choose to be attacked by a swarm of toddlers. What animal would you like to be attacked by?"

Ethan: "It's too hard to decide."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

You are who you hang with

The secret to happiness is to find people who exemplify who you want to be, then find a way to be near them. If you surround yourself with joyful people with good hearts, you'll be better for it.

I spent the weekend at a lodge in the Adirondacks hanging out with authors and editors who create magical things called children's books. Children's books are magical because they facilitate bonding moments, they instill a love of reading, they create lifelong memories--and most important, they make toddlers giggle.

I need to figure out how to spend more time with people who create magical things, and less time with self-absorbed butt-heads who suck way too much oxygen from the world.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Ninja Layouts

Final page layouts for "My Grandma's a Ninja" are in and headed for the printer this week, according to an email today from NorthSouth. We're still on track for a March 2015 release.

Sneak peek:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

No Parents on the Bridge

This is the place where parents drop off their kids to take the NYC specialized high school exam. I just dropped off Ethan and am standing here with other helicopter parents at the end of the bridge, looking at our kids as they stand in line a hundred feet away waiting for the doors to open. We're standing here in case they suddenly realize they forgot something, or suddenly have a question, or suddenly panic and bolt out of the line and say, "Dad, I can't do it! I need you!" We have no idea why we're standing here, but we have nowhere else to go.

This is a stressful day. The test takes several hours, and is the sole criteria for admission to the city's top public high schools. Ethan didn't get to bed last night until midnight because he had friends over for Halloween, then at 11pm he couldn't find his admission ticket. Then he crawled into our bed at 4am because he couldn't sleep. We got up at 6:30am. It was still dark outside, and raining.

On the way to the subway Ethan said, "This is going to be one of my worst ten days ever."

But it was his choice to take the test, and all you can do is be supportive and try not to add to his stress.

I just called Jennifer and said, "I'm on my way home, I just dropped off Ethan on the bridge with a thousand other stressed-out eighth graders and parents."

Monday, October 27, 2014

5 Great Things About Holding Someone Else's Baby for 10 Minutes

1. You get the fresh baby smell without the poopy baby smell.

2. You get a baby smile and a baby hug without baby vomit.

3. You get a sweet baby giggle without 2AM baby shrieking.

4. You can tell yourself you are the BEST CAREGIVER EVER. You're like, "Look how much this baby loves me! Quick! Take a picture before he gets snot on my sweater."

5. You can tell everyone how you'd take five or six more babies--without having to actually raise them or put them through college.

(Sigh. I'd take five or six more babies.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The pegleg they call Gitche Gumee

A few nights ago Jennifer tried to trim the jungle of wild fur around Bailey's front paws, but she went too far.

That inspired me to sing him a karaoke song tonight.

Turns out the line is actually "the BIG LAKE they call Gitche Gumee."


Does that ever happen to you?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Let the countdown begin

For 16 years I have been the not-shortest person in the Tarpley household. Jennifer has a half inch on me; like Tom Cruise and Michael J. Fox, shortness is part of my sex appeal. But it's going to be weird being the shortest of 4.

Samuel usurped the #2 spot AND #1 spot in the span of a few weeks sometime in 2012, and now he towers above both of us.

Now Ethan is poised to overtake me for the coveted #3 spot.

Can I hold him off until 2015? We'll see.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mixed emotions

I'm happy that Ethan is riding the bus to school by himself this week.

It was his idea. He's going to be in high school next year. This is good preparation.

I'm worried about him getting off at the wrong stop.

I'm worried about him not having enough money on his card.

I'm worried about him not looking both ways when he crosses the street.

I will miss riding the bus with him every morning, the same way I miss holding his hand.

I will miss listening to him tell me what he dreamed about last night, how he got in trouble yesterday for talking in class, how his classmate Lulu actually likes homework, how there should be a reality show about people being forced to live like cavemen.

I'm happy that he's growing up.

I'm sad that he's growing up.