Friday, October 30, 2009

Kids. Making.

Look at these fantastic little people. Look at them I say!

The two boys in blonde you may recognize as my progeny. The artist to the right with her back to us is Stella, eldest daughter of my friends Tim and Julie. Here they are gathered around, each with a pumpkin before them and a table full of paints, brushes, pipe cleaners, glue, and lotsa googley eyes. Everything a little person needs to transform an ordinary little pumpkin into something fabulous. This was the activity for Henry’s fourth birthday party last weekend. The original idea was full-on pumpkin carving, but after a wee bit of thought, we ended up realizing that the grown folks would end up doing all the work, and you know, why mess with the kid’s fun and the grown-up’s beer-drinking like that?

And no, you’re not imagining things. Simon’s smock is what you think it is.

I know, he’s only been hardcore since ’07, but whateva.

I love watching little people make things. I love going back and looking at pictures taken of little people engaged in the act of making, crafting shit outta other shit. Like when they’re really in it, you know?

They ain’t thinking about whether or not anybody’s gonna like it. They ain’t stressing being misunderstood. They’re not wondering what the hell they’re gonna do with it when it’s done. They’re just doing. Making because making is fun. They’re all process -- product is secondary, if at all. The whole project can be all but forgotten once the making part’s done and over.

Childwen and Cweating - peas and carrots, methinks. Which makes me think that People and Cwe - ahem - Creating also go hand in hand. All ages and sizes. It ain't a shirt with a firetruck on it, you don't outgrow it. I’m a believer in the idea that everybody’s got a healthy dose of creativity in them. When people say they’re not very creative, I have a hard time buying it.

I’ve started writing again. To clarify, yeah, I never really stopped putting words down on electro-paper, but I’ve found my way back to the form that most influenced my desire to do this word-slinging thing in the first place: playwriting. It’s been a while since I pulled some people out of my head, dropped them in a jar and gave it a good shake. In fact, it was during the run of last play that we discovered we were going to be parents. So yeah, been a little while since I rock and rolled.

But now here I am, at it again. And my god, it feels good. I can’t really say I’ve missed it, as I think maybe I needed some time away. I don’t know what I needed. But I’m back in a place where I’m full of story, full of pictures, full of these people that want to talk and interact and love and fuck and grow and change and sing and rap and all the other shit that us humanish types do. I feel like I’m doing good work, but more importantly than that, it feels good just to be making again.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Go Fly A Kite

My Mom came to visit us a few weekends ago, and among all the things that she brought with her, she brought a kite, a gift for Henry that she had promised on her previous trip. He had originally asked for a rainbow kite, and I believe her when she says she looked everywhere for it because she is the type to look everywhere for just the right gift. But in the end, it was a giant lizard kite, and from the way Henry reacted, you would think it was all he'd ever wanted. Any thought of a rainbow kite was completely forgotten.

The three of us, my Mom, Henry, and I, walked down the street to the elementary school at the end of the block. Next to the building, they have playgrounds and a  basketball court, but beyond that is a giant field, empty save a bit of plant life, plenty of room to let the wee folks set loose with their imagination. Or, as in our case, try to catch a bit of wind. The wind wasn't raging, but it wasn't exactly still either.

The funny thing is, most of what I remember of that day's kite-flying is repeated frustration. Again and again we tried to get that lizard up in the air, but most of our attempts ended with the kite slamming itself back down to the rain-softened planet. We had a few successes, but most of those were short-lived.

But now as I flip back through the few pictures I managed to snap that day, just about everything I see shows that kite in the air. Selective documentation at its finest.

Then we went and sat by a dinosaur. Good day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Happy birthday, my amazing little fellow. May you always have that amazing smile. You will always be The Hamster to me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gun For The Whole Family

I need to get some blood pellets...

My son has guns that he keeps strapped to the ends of his wrists. He sticks out his index, pops up his thumb, then curls in the other three fingers to create the universal sign for firearm. He shouts out his shots like BANG! BANG BANG BANG! BANG! Sometimes it’s out of anger, the barrel of his gauge aimed at the object of his ire, be it baby brother, Mom, me, some stranger who gave him a funny look, not funny ha-ha, but funny BANG BANG! Other times he does it to amuse himself. He blasts with a laugh, giggling with every trigger pull.

I know he didn’t pick this up at home. That may sound defensive, but it’s not intended as a defense of our parenting, just a statement of fact about how things are around here. We don’t keep guns under this roof. The Ash and I don’t play-shoot each other. Aside from a spacey looking bubble blower, the boys have no toy guns. And I never quite got the hang of that two pistols greeting thing that some guys are so good at. Maybe he picked it up at school, I don’t know. And you know, so what if he did? Now he’s the one passing it on to other kids. To be honest, I have a hard time getting myself too worked up about it. I’m not even sure that he “picked it up” anywhere. I think back on my own experience of being a boy, of boys I was friends with, and the boys I taught for all those summers, and gunplay was always present in one form or another. Flip through a picture album of me as a kid and you’ll see picture after picture of me carrying toy rifles, pistols, machine guns, uzis, laser blasters. I might not have been wearing anything more than tighty-whiteys and a cowboy hat, but I was strapped with my gat.
I’m not saying all this as some sort of “boys will be boys” defense, or to suggest that it’s healthy in some way. All I’m saying is that It Is. Gunplay is there, er, here, no matter how the wife and I may feel about the reality of guns. I don’t remember what kind of thoughts went through my head back when I was a kid going around everywhere armed. Maybe they weren’t the kind of thoughts that made their way up to the surface enough to be articulated so as to be burned into memory. But what I do remember is that the fascination with guns among boys (probably some girls too) bordered on near universal. And when you think about it, why not? Guns represent instant power, something that most kids are pretty short on. Power to do what you want, power to move obstacles out of your way, power to make the world go your way. And yes, that power comes from the ability to dole out death, but I wonder if maybe that understanding dawns a bit later on. Or hey, maybe these kids know exactly what they’re imagining, but they know they’re just imagining it. Maybe my son knows perfectly well that he’s pretending to install the contents of his clip in dad’s chest, but that it’s just pretend. Chill out old people! We’re only play killing here! Jeez!

Or not.

I have faith that this kind of thing works itself out in the long run, provided we do our jobs as parents. There are a lot of important lessons to be taught, and sometimes you have to get creative with how you instill those lessons. So I’m going to get some blood pellets, and, along with a bit of inspiration from Arrested Development, I'm going to set up a little lesson about the reality of what guns can do. Next time we're sitting at the dinner table and Henry points his little hand cannons at me and BANG BANG BANG!s away, I’m going to drop my silverware and clutch my chest, smashing those pellets open so that bright red blood runs down my shirt. I'll scream “MY GOD! YOU’VE SHOT ME!” I’ll have a pellet ready in my mouth to bite into for some instant internal bleeding. I’ll fall to the floor, smearing blood all over the white tile, clutching at the sucking chest wound out of which my life force is leaking. I’ll ask over and over again “Why, Son? Why?” I’ll get the wife in on the act too. She’ll kneel down by my dying form and cry out to the heavens, “No God, please don’t take him from us! My son knows not what he does! We tried to tell him not to shoot people but he wouldn’t listen and now he’s shot his father and there will be no one to take care of us and we’ll have to live on the streets and I’ll have to sell my body just for a loaf of bread, which I will in turn trade for crack to feed the drug habit that I will now inevitably pick up!”

And then, I’ll sit up and look my son in the eye and tell him, with all the gravitas I can muster, “And that’s why you never pretend to shoot people!”

Of course, the little punk may be laughing his ass off.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Rainy Day Donuts

I own an umbrella now, but I didn’t when I woke up last Saturday. I swear we used to own umbrellas. Two beat-up little fold-up numbers, black, full of holes, but still more protection than any halo could ever afford. We spent the summer forgetting we ever needed them, but now that the rain has found its way back, we realized that our old umbrellas are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they felt unappreciated. Maybe they found each other in the dark depths of our closet, fell in love, and moved somewhere where they could be of use. Maybe we’ll get a postcard from Seattle.

The Ash and I were in Fredericksburg last weekend on something of an all-day date/one day vacation while the boys stayed with my Mom. It was raining and we were umbrellaless. It’s true, there’s a certain romance to being a couple in the rain, darting hand in hand from awning to awning, giggling at each other’s soggy dog impersonation. But after a while it gets old and you ask a kindly shopkeeper to point out the nearest umbrella vendor. We bought the last two umbrellas that this little store had on the rack. They were the long kind that The Penguin was so fond of with a J-hook handle for catching wayward geese and a point at the end for pressing elevator buttons from a whole three feet away.

My umbrella was in my car this morning when I awoke to the sound of rain. With both boys ready and myself as ready as I’d ever be, I ran out to get it, then ran back to the house, then walked the two of them out to the car. It was Friday morning, so we had to get going, for Friday is Donut Day. Donut Day is something of a tradition I’ve established with the little guys ever since Pablito’s, the little family-owned bakery up the road, opened their doors. The people there know us, and they know to expect us every Friday morning. Donut Day gets Henry to bed on Thursday nights and wakes him on Friday mornings. Donut Day does not get put on hold just because of a little rain.

I managed to get both boys strapped in while holding the umbrella mostly over my head. Now that I type this, I realize I could have done the actual strapping part from inside the car, but obvious solutions, much like witty retorts, have a way of escaping me when they’re really needed. We pulled into the parking lot of the strip center where Pablito’s is located and they were….closed? Their doors were open, but it looked like a bunch of their furniture was outside, their Open sign was turned off, and the place was full of carpenters. I have no idea what was going on, but they didn’t seem to be open for business. I sincerely hope that’s temporary because there’s nothing quite like the neighborhood bakery.    

Pablito’s aside, there was still the question of Donut Day. Pablito’s may have inspired Donut Day in the first place, but Donut Day is bigger than that now. Donut Day lives on with or without Pablito’s. And besides, the baby was crying. “I’m not crying,” Henry pointed out. Thanks buddy. Daddy needs the break.

A baker’s dozen or so minutes later, we were at another donut store. It was completely out of our way and not quite as good as Pablito’s, but they had donuts dammit. I was already late for work, so our donut consumption happened in the car rather than in the doughy oveny warmth of the donut shop. I dropped the boys off at daycare around the time I normally man my cube. Another Donut Day, successful in spite of the odds.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Happy Cure JM Awareness Day

Kevin of Always Home and Uncool is a hell of a guy. I've never actually met him in person, but from what I know of him, I still feel pretty comfortable saying that. I first "met" him when he joined the crew over at DadCentric, and since then, I've enjoyed his writing both there and on his own blog. The guy's funny, friendly, and as his blog title suggests, he doesn't take him self too seriously. He's just plain likable. Between stories of hanging out with Linda Carter and getting hate mail from his son for Father's Day, you'll find posts and links related to the subject of juvenile myositis, a rare autoimmune disease that his daughter was diagnosed with on this very day seven years ago. Coincidentally, this day also happens to be his wife's birthday. Kevin asked me and a bunch of other bloggy types to post this as part of his effort to raise awareness in the blogosphere. So without further ado, here's Kevin:


Our pediatrician admitted it early on.

The rash on our 2-year-old daughter's cheeks, joints and legs was something he'd never seen before.

The next doctor wouldn't admit to not knowing.

He rattled off the names of several skins conditions -- none of them seemingly worth his time or bedside manner -- then quickly prescribed antibiotics and showed us the door.

The third doctor admitted she didn't know much.

The biopsy of the chunk of skin she had removed from our daughter's knee showed signs of an "allergic reaction" even though we had ruled out every allergy source -- obvious and otherwise -- that we could.

The fourth doctor had barely closed the door behind her when, looking at the limp blonde cherub in my lap, she admitted she had seen this before. At least one too many times before.

She brought in a gaggle of med students. She pointed out each of the physical symptoms in our daughter:

The rash across her face and temples resembling the silhouette of a butterfly.

The purple-brown spots and smears, called heliotrope, on her eyelids.

The reddish alligator-like skin, known as Gottron papules, covering the knuckles of her hands.

The onset of crippling muscle weakness in her legs and upper body.

She then had an assistant bring in a handful of pages photocopied from an old medical textbook. She handed them to my wife, whose birthday it happened to be that day.

This was her gift -- a diagnosis for her little girl.

That was seven years ago -- Oct. 2, 2002 -- the day our daughter was found to have juvenile dermatomyositis, one of a family of rare autoimmune diseases that can have debilitating and even fatal consequences when not treated quickly and effectively.

Our daughter's first year with the disease consisted of surgical procedures, intravenous infusions, staph infections, pulmonary treatments and worry. Her muscles were too weak for her to walk or swallow solid food for several months. When not in the hospital, she sat on our living room couch, propped up by pillows so she wouldn't tip over, as medicine or nourishment dripped from a bag into her body.

Our daughter, Thing 1, Megan, now age 9, remembers little of that today when she dances or sings or plays soccer. All that remain with her are scars, six to be exact, and the array of pills she takes twice a day to help keep the disease at bay.

What would have happened if it took us more than two months and four doctors before we lucked into someone who could piece all the symptoms together? I don't know.

I do know that the fourth doctor, the one who brought in others to see our daughter's condition so they could easily recognize it if they ever had the misfortune to be presented with it again, was a step toward making sure other parents also never have to find out.

That, too, is my purpose today.

It is also my birthday gift to my wife, My Love, Rhonda, for all you have done these past seven years to make others aware of juvenile myositis diseases and help find a cure for them once and for all.

To read more about children and families affected by juvenile myositis diseases, visit Cure JM Foundation at

To make a tax-deductible donation toward JM research, go to or