Sunday, October 15, 2017

Things to do on an October weekend

1. Watch Ethan sing at his high school "coffee house" event. 

2. Rent a big-ass Chevy pick-up truck, the kind men in Iowa drive.

3. Pretend it's still summer by going rafting. Eat hot dogs and frozen candy bars. Be the only ones on the river except for a trio of hardy kayakers.

4. Get pumpkins on the way home. Put 'em in the back of your pick-up. Put your wet swim trunks back there too, and when you get back to the city, wonder what happened to them.

5. Eat Domino's with Ethan on Sunday night and be creative.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Things I appreciate on a long weekend

I'm thankful for Brother Jimmy's BBQ, and conversations about life and love and nothing in particular. I'm thankful that he confides in me, tells me his dreams, hangs on my shoulder now and then, asks my advice.

I'm thankful for the sound of the buzzer at 10pm and I know that Samuel is home. I'm thankful that he still falls asleep in my bed sometimes, that he still finds that comforting after all these years. He can crawl into my bed and fall asleep when he's 45 and I won't mind.

I'm thankful for warm weather, long hikes, tired muscles.

I'm thankful for cold mountain streams that you dip your shirt in and put it back on and it gives you a cold, refreshing shiver like it's still summertime. 

I'm thankful for new adventures, new friendships.

I'm thankful for cold beer, sleepy train rides, a soft smile. I'm thankful that my heart still beats.

I'm thankful for Central Park. I'm thankful to be able to run--in solitude, to ponder, to work through things. I don't even care how fast my legs go. Okay, I'm thankful that I can still blow past the slowpokes, even when my knees are sore from hiking the day before.

I'm thankful for corn dogs at midnight, the sensation of thwacking a ball with a metal stick, and for this wonderful city that never sleeps.

I'm thankful for these boys that I love more than anything in the world. 

I still hurt. Deeply. So deeply that I can't even describe it, just a pit of emptiness, like there has been a rift in the space-time continuum and I've suddenly been dropped into an alternate universe where everything is the same and yet completely different. And Biff is president.

But there is much to be thankful for, and I'm not gonna piss it away. I'm gonna embrace it and be thankful.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Tom Petty tribute

Just to be clear, that's Ethan on the left, circa 2009. 

I can't even remember where we got the guitar. If I had to do it again I'd cheat and Photoshop in the same make and model as Tom's guitar. 

Like this:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Storm King hike

Meet Josephine, my hiking companion this weekend.

Destination: Storm King State Park, about an hour north of Manhattan, near West Point. Neither of us had ever been there, but we chose it because it was close to the city and was classified as a "strenuous" hike. Neither Samuel nor Ethan wanted to go.

It was, in fact, strenuous. 

We went straight up a steep mountain, down the other side, then back again. It took four hours including short breaks for lunch, scenic overlooks, and selfies. We were enshrouded in fog for the first half of the hike, but it eventually cleared for some great views of the Hudson.

I was sore this morning. I confessed to Josephine that I took Ibuprofen today. She confessed the same. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Second-generation deja vu

This is me and my niece, Mary, in 1988. (We both still pretty much look the same.)

I was single, living in Iowa, training and competing in freestyle wrestling. I had just met Jennifer and we were tenuously dating. I was at a point in my life where I was tired of being single. Holding my little niece Mary made we want a little girl JUST LIKE HER.

So this morning my little baby niece Mary had her own little baby girl: Freddie Hazel. 

She's just as sweet as my little Mary was when she was a baby.

(Shhh--let's not be judgmental about the name, okay? It's a perfectly fine name. If, when she grows up, she doesn't like the name Freddie, well, she can go by...her middle name...I suppose.)

As for me, nothing has really changed in the past 29 years. I'm alone again. I'm tired of it again. And I'd still love to have a little girl. JUST LIKE THIS.

Second-generation deja vu.

(I may go with a more traditional name. But...shhh, it's fine.)

Welcome to the world, little sweetheart. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lincoln Center reading

I did a reading at Lincoln Center this morning. There were probably a hundred people, lots of toddlers.

I read Ten Tiny Toes, Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep, and Three Grumpy Trucks, and talked a little bit about each book.

I noted that Ten Tiny Toes was dedicated "to Samuel and Ethan, my twenty tiny toes." I showed a picture of what they looked like when they were little and how they've grown up. 

I asked the kids to shout out the refrain of Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep whenever we came to that part. They obliged.

I said it was dedicated to "Samuel, who dreams of robots and time machines," and showed pictures of Samuel and his time machine.

Three Grumpy Trucks only has two illustrations done, so that required a little more imagination on the kids' parts.

talked about Guy Parker-Rees and how his animal illustrations from previous books look like exuberant toddlers, and that's why I like him. Everyone recognized Giraffes Can't Dance!

I asked the kids to stand up and try to stretch like a Guy Parker-Rees illustration. They obliged.

This is one of the illustrations Guy has done for Three Grumpy Trucks:

A new friend came to the event, and we had brunch afterwards, then hung out at the water terrace at the Museum of Natural History for a couple of hours watching toddlers play in the fountains. She was probably thinking, "He's nice but a little bit insane."

(Don't tell her, but when I got back to my building two little neighbor girls were drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, so I joined them, and eventually we had five kids drawing train tracks. Shhh.)

We call this a good day.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

It's 2AM

Samuel came home for the weekend. He's asleep on my bed, fully dressed. I went in and kissed his forehead and stroked his hair and whispered that everything will be alright.

Ethan is still up, playing a game on his computer in his bedroom.

I walked the dogs to the deli. The only people on Amsterdam were drunk twenty-somethings coming from the bars. I picked up an orange cream soda for Samuel to have tomorrow, and a diet root beer for me. I told Bobby at the deli that Samuel is home.

I need to go to bed. I'm just enjoying this moment of peace with my boys both here. It doesn't matter that they're in other rooms. They're here with me.

If I were giving advice to Samuel and Ethan, I would say love your own children unconditionally, but after that, spend your energy loving the people who love you back.

It sounds blindingly elementary, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

What I'm working on

I stayed up until 6am last night/this morning writing. Ethan was at Jen's, so it was just me and these loser dogs.

I finished revisions on Naughty Ninja Takes a Bath, which has already been sold and is scheduled for 2019 release.

Naughty Ninja emerged from the jungle after a long day of training. He was covered with river mud, smelly leaves, and beetle dung. Flies buzzed around him.

Crossing one last raging river in his backyard, he entered his secret ninja training camp.

"Ninja need food!" he announced.

“Pee-yew,” said Dad, holding his nose. “This ninja needs a bath first.

I also finished a second draft of Hug One Another, which has not yet been submitted.

Kitty and Kong
did not get along.
Neither could ever admit they were wrong.
[art note: cat and dog]

“You bark at the moon.”
“You sleep until noon.”
“Your fleas drive me batty.”
“You’re bossy and bratty.”

Coming up:

I have an outline of a middle-grade novel called Noodle Boy, about a teen who works at a waterpark, and I need to write the first chapter.

I need to complete a polished first draft of a picture book called Husky & Mac, about father and son diggers. 

I need to revise a picture book manuscript called Bananasaurus Rex, which I liked but my agent Rachel didn't.

Finally, I need to turn a prose manuscript called Helicopter Parents into rhyme. It's a sweet story but didn't sell as a prose book, and I'm thinking maybe rhyme will make it work.

Ethan and I are going to sit next to each other tonight and write until 2. Let's see what magic we can each conjure up.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

LC Kids Season Kick-off

Lincoln Center has an annual series of events for families called LC Kids. The new season begins in a couple of weeks, and I've been invited to do a reading at the kick-off. 

Little, Brown is a sponsor, and they invited me because I've got two LB books coming out in 2018 (Ten Tiny Toes board book and Three Grumpy Trucks). Not saying I'm not a major headliner on my own, just clarifying that it's not like Lincoln Center's VP Marketing burst into the President's office and said, "Great news! We booked Tarpley! And J.K. Rowling is our back-up if he cancels."

I have no idea whether there will be fifty kids or three, but I've always enjoyed doing readings. I love the energy of the kids, and it always makes me smile. There will be music, and I suspect there will be toddler dancing.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Last item on the summer bucket list

The boys had never been waterskiing. I hadn't been since 1989.

Ethan and I rented a car on Saturday evening. Samuel took a bus from Trinity to New Haven, we picked him up, then stayed at a hotel in Shelton Saturday night.

This is my tired big boy.

The hotel room had only a king-sized bed, so I had to take this picture.

We slept late on Sunday--no time for the hotel jacuzzi or even the complimentary breakfast. Just enough time for the Dunkin' Donuts drive-through.

The ski rental place was on a wide stretch of the Housatonic River, in Derby. A guy named Gary, who looks like a younger Christopher Lloyd, rents out his ski boat by the hour, including equipment and his services as the driver. 

The boys volunteered me to go first. I managed to get up on one ski after a couple of tries, and it felt the same as it did 28 years ago.

Ethan was next.

Gary gave him some instructions, and he got up pretty quickly.

Ditto for Samuel.

When the boys were toddlers we used to pretend to waterski in swimming pools. I was the ski boat. They'd stand on my bent legs in the water, facing me, and hold my hands, then I'd tell them to say "Hit it!" Then I'd pull them around the pool making motor boat sounds.

I have to confess, I got a little teary eyed yesterday hearing them say "Hit it!" in their deep teenaged voices.

My little boys. My big boys.

I never like to see summer end. But that's why we have summer bucket lists, so that we make the most of it. Cherish it.

I've said this many times, but I'll say it it again. When Samuel was born I vowed I'd never complain about anything for the rest of my life. There's so much misery and human suffering in the world, that to be blessed with this little human being...then with two little human beings....

Believe in God or believe in a cold universe, but don't be ungrateful for what you've been given.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Dropping off Samuel

Jen and I drove Samuel back to Trinity yesterday for the start of his sophomore year.

His new dorm is nice. He already knew his roommates. It was a much easier drop-off than last year. But still  poignant because so much has changed.

It was the first time Jen and I had spent much time together since she moved out in May. In a way it felt like we picked up where we left off: I insisted on taking a shortcut to the dorm, which turned out to not be a shortcut. (Jen just rolled her eyes.) Jen couldn't find her car keys at one point. (I just rolled my eyes.) And we went to Walmart to pick up a few things (of course), and Samuel and I lost Jen because we were fooling around (of course).

It was a good day. Wistful. I hugged my Samuel very tight. And when Jen dropped me off at my apartment, I said, "Thanks," almost adding "Sweetheart" out of habit.

Things change. People change. You find your equilibrium and move forward.

Monday, August 28, 2017


I'm grateful for this weekend. I'm grateful for my boys. I'm grateful for the life I have, imperfect and mangled and unrecognizable though it may be compared to a year ago.

The boys and I saw a movie in Central Park on Saturday night. The Central Park Conservancy set up a giant screen near 72nd Street.

The movie was "Spider-Man 3." Not that it mattered. But it was a story of good overcoming evil, and it never hurts to reinforce that message. It was a beautiful evening in the most beautiful park in the world, with the most beautiful boys in the world.

I miss...

I wish...

I think Jen would've enjoyed it.

Today I took the boys to Six Flags.

We hadn't been since last summer. 

We rode several roller coasters, had lunch, then rode a couple more. Ethan and I rode El Toro, the big wooden coaster, which turned out to be our favorite of the day. 

Ethan told me that he feels closer to both me and to Jennifer than he ever felt when he was younger. He said he knows that most teens grow farther apart from their parents, and that it has been the opposite for him. 

I'm grateful for that, and I'm grateful for him saying it. I'm sure there's some benefit to having more undivided attention from each of us.

When Samuel and Ethan and I were eating lunch, I said, "You know, all of these people here...a hundred years from now...they'll all be dead."

They both looked at me weird.

I laughed and said, "Sorry, I'm actually thinking about how life passes quickly and how important it is to celebrate joy. I was looking at that little girl over there, who's laughing and having such a great time. There were amusement parks a hundred years ago, and they were just like this one, filled with men in their hats and women in their long dresses and little girls laughing, passes quickly, that's all. I'm happy to share these moments with you guys. It was a positive thought, not a negative!"

It's the same feeling of life being short that caused her to go. I know that. I do.

We just have to move forward.