Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween: When all of your parenting fears come true.

Light seeps in through the slivered gaps between the window shades, dripping little splashes of obnoxious sunshine right onto your eyelids. You strain to listen, but hear no sounds from the munchkin's room, so you stretch and turn over. Just for a few more minutes.

But despite the cheery transition from sleep to wakefulness, from shadowy night to revealing day, something unsettling tickles the edges of your awareness. You turn again. And then again. Is that a cry you hear? A faint, almost feline sound, too far away to be your daughter. Or is it? It sounds again, seeming to echo forlornly on another plane, a reality just barely touching your own.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Need something to creep you out till Halloween gets here?

Halloween: two days away. The truth is, I don't care much for trick-or-treating, or even for costumes, unless they turn my daughter into a Jawa. What I do like is a holiday or season that really embraces a certain atmosphere. This is the season for things that are unsettling. For things that make the hairs on your neck stand up (like my daughter channeling The Joker).

One of the best ways to make something creepy is to take something loved and make it just a little . . . off. Like snow-fort building.

Below is an excerpt of a project I worked on at film school, and it should be fine to show your kids, and hopefully it creeps the heck out of them too. They'll never look at Bambi the same way again.

And let me just say, planning scenes that involved untamed predators is no simple task. You've just always got to keep a few first-year film students on-hand to feed to the beasts when they get restless.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My pirate is gonna plunder your princess for Halloween

As Halloween approaches, Lindsay and I have been asked how we're going to dress Addison up. In some ways, it seems she might like to try "psychopathic killer," but we've been keeping pencils away from her for a while just in case.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What does dead mean?

Posts for the next week are going to be Halloween themed. Mostly because Halloween is a pretty great holiday. I don't mean in the Friday the 13th or commercial aspect, but more like if you take spookiness in a more literary direction, along the lines of Edgar Allan Poe or Coleridge or Hawthorne or more recently, something like Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Before I lose my train of thought and start talking about books (that's what my other blog is for), let me just get to the point:

My toddler just starting asking us about death. Perhaps it's because the house next door has a pretty intense Halloween setup, full of mummies in caskets with separated limbs, and huge spiders, and skeletons and gravestones. What am I supposed to say when she points to each and says, "What's that, dada?" I'd like to start in on The Raven or The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but something (my wife) tells me she's not ready.

She might also have learned the "death" concept from her Gramps, who reads her stories like Snow White and says "the dwarfs thought she was dead," instead of "the dwarfs couldn't wake her up" or "the dwarfs wanted to help her because they thought she had an owie."

In any event, here she is, asking her question, which she finishes off with a very emphatic declaration that she knows what she's asking and she will NOT be put off with half-way answers or chuckles and a bait and switch:

My wife fielded the question, which involved saying that "dead" is when a spirit leaves someone's body. Reasonable answer, and it didn't involve dessicated bodies unearthed from thousand-year-old tombs, or decapitated grinning skulls (she already gets enough of that from watching Fantasia). In a few years, however, I do look forward to introducing her to the concept of mostly dead. Quality entertainment will be had.

Since that conversation, we've been selectively pointing out things that are dead. Today, it was the tarantula at the pet store. It was curled up on its back, legs pulled in tight like the clenched fist of a skeleton. At dinner Addison told me, "That 'pider at the pet store was dead." Then she turned her sad little eyes up at me and said mournfully, "I yuv that 'pider so much."

I wonder if it would make her feel better about how many living 'piders there are in the world if I explained how many crawl over her body at night. Shudder. My protective fatherly impulses feel impotent when struck with the reality that 'Piders. Are. Everywhere. 'Tis the season to be creeped out.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Free samples are the gateway to New Age Religion

After our trips to the gym, Addison and I usually stop in at the health food store next door. It's where we sometimes buy soy milk for a treat. And they have samples.

Addison lives for the samples. She expresses roughly the same amount of glee about samples as she does Disneyland. When she's being a pill about getting in the car for some reason, all we have to do is mention "Trader Joe's" and she flips emotions on a dime. She runs in circles shouting, "Yay! Trader Joe's! Samples! Trader Joe's! Hooray!" Which still makes it hard to get her in the car, but glee is better than belligerence.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The joy of a sick toddler

I'm pretty sure my sick days would coincide with Addison's sick days. If I had a real job.

Addison snuggled with me through two whole movies while I stroked her hair and rubbed her tummy. Most productive use of my time in months. Hope she feels better tomorrow, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get up that wall! Go Go Go!

Your feet slap the concrete, a staccato beat overlapping the in-out rasp of your breath, which in turn overlaps the hammering of your heart. You inhale as one foot goes down and exhale on the other, just like they taught in high school track to fend off side stitches. Your arms pump at your sides, pistons in a regular motion, kidney punches to an invisible opponent. The whole coordinated operation is a series of layered rhythms which, when everything's working right, strike together in the athletic equivalent of an "amen!"

Finding these agreeable rhythms is a breeze for some people. For them, every run offers a smooth, reliable avenue for scoring hits off of their internal endorphin machine. I am not one of those people.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Endorphins: opiates that are even fun for the kids.

No broken bones. Just mysterious scrapes and bruises that I keep finding in odd places on my body. This is the third year I've run the Volkslauf, and I'm sure I'll run it again next year. Because isn't this mud run fad way cool?! Also, one of my superpowers is being a glutton for punishment.

We're still decompressing after the trip, but I'll write more about the experience on Wednesday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

On masochism and second thoughts

This weekend I'm running a 10K obstacle course mud run. It seemed like such a good idea when I signed up. I'll let you know how it went on Monday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On Footy Pajamas

Sometime between the first day of October and today, autumn became a reality. I can't pinpoint the moment; it probably came in the night, sneaking past the sun's sleepy defenses. I only know that one day it was hot and feverish, reaching temperatures which, when found inside the human body, mark the ruthless biological defense of self-immolation (to fight off invaders, our bodies deliberately burn themselves up). The next day, it was as though the earth's fever had broken, and a wisp of cool air brushed past my cheek. For a moment, I'd have thought I was mistaken. It was only a hallucination, a phantom memory teasing my senses. But then there was another touch on my skin, gentle and sweet like a cool cloth on a burn.

Of course, this is still California. The sun isn't going to go away. But soon we'll have days to remind me of the ones Charles Dickens described, days when "the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." Winter might still be a stretch here in Orange County . . . but I'll take what I can get.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cool winds of change

September, you've burned me one too many times. October, you screwed up once, but I'ma let it slide. Don't let it happen again.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Creepy kids

Sometimes it's the parents who are creepy. And sometimes it's the kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Duck, duck, dead

Addison and I went to the park today to feed the ducks. It's cute and fun, but as we're sitting there trying to bean the poor things with cheerios, I can't help thinking that it would be pretty dang easy to off one of these things and bring it home for dinner. Not that we'd know what to do with it. We can barely figure out how to cook spaghetti, much less something that has feathers all over it.

Don't get me wrong, I've never killed anything larger than a small frog before. And that was an accident for which I felt remorse for months afterwards. He hopped right under my foot as I was running. I'm not even joking. It wasn't my fault.

Nevertheless, the ducks were so close, practically eating out of our hands, and their bodies are so cute and plump . . . and really, if I'm trying to teach my daughter something about self-sufficiency and how to survive the zombie apocalypse, she's gonna have to learn how to break a little animal's neck sooner or later. Right? Much more efficient to teach her to do that than to plant, and nurture, and then harvest her own soybean crop. The girl's gonna need to get her protein from somewhere.

In other news, for every fun excursion we take during the week, I can think of about fifty ways for it to end scarring my child tragically. What to say? I have a wandering mind.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Too hot in the hot tub!

It hit 103 degrees today. Hot. To quote Eddie Murphy while channeling James Brown, definitely "too hot in the hot tub." To quote Addison, it was hot enough to "burn all the babies." In this picture, you can see the way Addison's hair is plastered to her head by sweat. She's tinged yellow because that's the nuclear power of the sun exploding through the windows. Hold me close, ebola bunny.

When we moved to California, I was growing my hair out. And then I realized that this coastal paradise that people describe as being so temperate and appealing is actually a desert. Not the kind you eat with a spoon and a cherry on top that makes you fat and happy. It's the kind that spontaneously catches things on fire and makes your whole body cry tears of sweaty sadness that stain the armpits of your shirts.