Monday, June 29, 2009


Dear Spike:

Your imagination is blossoming like a summer rose, full of color and life and fragrance — an absolutely beautiful thing to watch unfold.

This evening, as I was working on my computer in the shade of our porch, you came outside wearing a set of butterfly wings and one of your mother's silk scarfs. "Would you like to come to a birthday party, Daddy?" you asked.

Well, who could say no?

"You have to wear this hat," you said, handing me one of your mother's straw hats with a purple bow.

No problem at all. I dutifully put on the hat and followed you into our home to find a table with a Play-dough birthday cake and a gang of costumed animal sitting on pillows all around.

"We've been playing birthday for the past half-hour," your mother explained, herself wearing a funny hat and scarf.

"You set this all up?" I asked her.

"No, she did," your mother replied, gesturing in your direction.

Later in the evening, you were bouncing on our bed like a caffeinated monkey on a trampoline when you suddenly decided you wanted a change of pace.

"A cave!" you cried, diving under the blankets. "Mommy and daddy come, too."

We all ducked under the blanket together and you began to tell a story.

"Once upon a time, a long, long time ago..." you began.

The story was about Goldilocks, the Three Bears — and you.

"... and then they all cleaned up the house together," you explained.

You can make a telephone out of anything. Once when we were out to dinner with your Uncle Papa, you spoke to Barack Obama on a pickle.

This afternoon, your mother tells me, you were on the line with someone of even higher stature.

"She was talking to God," she told me.

I wonder what She told you. Maybe tomorrow you'll tell me all about it.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Dear Spike:

When we named your stuffed cat "Chairman Meow" we thought we were being quite clever. Turns out that the word for "cat" in Mandarin is "mao," (or so you tell me) so we could have named the little furry feline "Chairman Mao" and been just as savvy and ironic.

It wouldn't likely change the way you feel about him, which is to say that he's pretty much your best inanimate friend in the world — except for maybe your favorite blanket, a sea green knitted throw you've taken to calling "Special."

You go pretty much everywhere with Chairman and Special. And you won't go to sleep without them. Not without a fight, at least.

Which is why I am, at this moment, sitting on the folding table of the laundry room in the oh-so-posh Desert Inn Hotel, across the street from Disneyland, while you, just upstairs, are fighting sleep like a death row inmate being dragged down the green mile.

In retrospect — goodness, I say that a lot these days — we may have played up this Disney adventure a little too much. We've been talking about it since your birthday, nearly a month ago. And each day of this long trip, we've reminded you that your impeccable behavior would be rewarded with a visit to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Hell, we might as well have called it Mickey Mecca.

You didn't get much of a nap today after playing on the beach with your new friends in San Clemente (turns out you like the ocean after all, but that's another happy story.) So when it came time to put you down to bed, tonight, we thought for sure you'd fall fast asleep, visions of Tinkerbell dancing in your head.

As it turns out, though, you were a little too excited to slumber. In fact, you were pretty much bouncing off the hotel's wall paper.

But you were tired.

So you were a little upset.

And then upset turned into cranky.

And then cranky turned into sick.

And then you puked macaroni noodles all over the hotel bed.

And all over on Chairman.

And all over Special.

It fell to me to find a laundromat — and luckily there was one just downstairs from our room — to clean all that up.

But I've got the easy job. I really don't envy your mother, who at this moment is sitting at your bedside trying to keep you calm so that — in 31 minutes when this drier has run through my buck-fifty and I appear heroically at the foot of your bed holding your freshly-washed friends — you don't respond by puking all over your best buddies again.

If all goes well, though, you'll be curled up with Chairman and Special very soon.

And in any case, I've learned my lesson. I'm not saying the "D-word" again until we're walking down Main Street, U.S.A.



Dear Spike:

We'd been planning on spending the a good part of this week lounging on the beach, making sand castles, splashing in the waves and collecting shells.

You took one step into the ocean and decided otherwise.

"No!" you screamed. "I can't. I can't."

Your mother and I looked at each other with mutual — and utter — confusion.

First of all, where in the world did you learn to say "I can't"?

And secondly, what do you mean you can't? It's the ocean. It makes up three-quarters of the planet's surface. It's a sunny day in Venice Beach. What could possibly be the problem?

Maybe given a few more days, you'll find out that you really do like the beach. But it was a bit sad for both your Oregonian mother and Californian father to realize, in the midst of your panicked screams, that our Utahn daughter isn't going to have the same relationship with the ocean as we had growing up, chiefly because she's just not going to see it as much as we did.

OK, it wasn't a bit sad. It was a lot sad. A whole lot sad. My daughter's afraid of the sea — I'd never felt so guilty for moving our family to Utah as I did on Monday.

Still resolved to get you better acquainted with the beach, but not to scar you for life, we took a break today and instead took a hike a Malibu Creek State Park to the place where the show M*A*S*H was filmed. At the sacred spot, some volunteers have set about recreating the camp's footprint with ropes and stakes and helpful signs. They even recreated the famous 4077th camp sign, next to which we stood for a photograph that will stand as proof of our family's nerdy obsession with a show that ended nearly a quarter-century ago.

We then marched up the path of the old helicopter landing pad, found a patch of shade and sat on the hillside and listened to you tell stories about what you saw in the "camp" below.

"There's Colonel Potter," you said.


"Hiding in the trees... Hello Colonel Potter! I can see you!"

"Who else do you see?"

"Klinger!" you said. "And Radar and Hawkeye... Hello Hawkeye!"

Funny what you pick up from your parents. And funny what you don't.

You appear to have picked up our love for an old television show — but not for the ocean. I guess one out of two isn't bad, though if I had a choice, it would be in the opposite order.

But I guess parents don't really get a choice about those sorts of things. Kids pick up some passions and pass on others.

Tomorrow we'll try the ocean again. And I'll love you no matter what happens when we get there.


Today we decided to

Monday, June 22, 2009


Dear Spike:

What a trooper you've been.

Halfway through our trip, you're clearly starting to feel the strain of jumping from place to place, sleeping in strange beds and visiting pretty much every last one of the 37 million residents of California.

But you've remained in pretty good spirits — and for the most part, you've remained on your best behavior, too.

Keep it up, kid. Disneyland awaits.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Dear Spike:

We spent the morning at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Your mouth hung anchovy agape as you watched the tuna, sharks and schools of sardines fly by.

Now it's nap time. We blown up an air mattress in the back of the car for you, but — no surprise — you don't seem to want to sleep. 

Still, life is good. The sun is beginning to burn through the clouds. There's a cool southern breeze blowing over the bay. We've got nowhere to be and no schedule to keep. 

Life. Is. Good. 


Thursday, June 11, 2009


Dear Spike:

Your mother seems to be on the road to recovery. And barring a turn for the worse among the other members of our family, it looks like we'll all be on the road to California in a couple of days.

It's a trip that feels quite a bit overdue. Your cousin Stas was born way back in March and we still haven't met the little guy. How can you miss someone you haven't even met yet? Because that's how I feel.

While we're in Los Angeles, we'll take a turn through Disneyland — a belated birthday trip for you to the purported Happiest Place on Earth. Stas and his parents are scheduled to join us there, as will your Gaky and Papa.

Along the way we'll do a bit of sightseeing, hit the beach, pitch a few tents and, undoubtedly and repeatedly, listen to Uncle Mikey's song, "Keep Moving," — your favorite tune for drives both long and short.

Best of all, we'll all be together, having an adventure.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Dear Spike:

This is not the way your mother intended to start her summer vacation.

She called me from school yesterday afternoon. "Please come and get me," she said. "I'm sick."

Boy, was she ever. Green in the face and unsteady on her feet, she walked to the car as though she'd just been hit by a logging truck.

She was feeling a bit better today, but not enough to head back for the last day of school. Your Auntie Sue said goodbye to the class — a good third of which was missing, apparently having been brought down by the same bug your mother has.

It's because of the apparently hyper-contagious nature of you're mother's current ailment that we decided it would be best to keep you and her apart, today. So it was that, for the first time in the two years that you've spent on this planet, you went a whole day without a hug or a kiss from your mommy.

It took a while, but you ultimately seemed to understand the funny new don't-touch-mommy game we were playing — although you did attempt a few end runs around the no-contact clause of your contract, today.

"Mommy is very, very sick," you said.

"That's right," I said.

"She needs to go to the doctor," you said.

"Could be," I said.

"I'm a doctor!" you suggested.

One neat thing about this otherwise unfortunate arrangement is that it gave your mother a chance to watch us in action as we went about our daily routine. As I got your ready for a morning run, fixed your lunch and read you books before your nap, she watched from the sidelines.

"You know, you're a pretty good dad," she said a few times today.

I smiled and shrugged. I think I am a pretty good dad, but it felt good to hear her say that.

I don't usually get to watch over you from wake-up to bed-down, so today was quite a joy for me. I even got to take you on a date to the Lebanese restaurant down the street from our home while your mother rested. And you were absolutely lovely company.

I know the day was torture for her, though. She loves you like crazy cakes. And to have to spend an entire day without being able to nibble on your little toes or blow on your tiny tummy or nuzzle into your little neck was simply too much for her to bear.

She cried a lot today.

In the end, it might not matter that we kept you apart. Like a game of viral Risk, your little body might already have been conquered by the same microscopic army that's playing "When Johnny Comes Marching" with your mother's immune system right now. Mine, too, for that matter. Ugh.

I'm hoping, though, that we've managed to save you that pain. Not just for your sake, but for your mother's, too. She missed you a lot, today, and I'd hate to think that she'd gone through all of that for naught.

No matter what happens, though, you should know that your mother loves you so much that she's willing not to hug and kiss you.

And that's a lot of love.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Dear Spike:

Lately I've been wandering around this place and wondering just who owns it.

Your mother and I are ones whose names are listed on the mortgage, of course. But as I walk from room to room, I see less and less that belongs to us and more and more that belongs to you.

There's a soccer goal in the dining room. A tricycle in the living room. In the kitchen there's... a kitchen — a plastic replica that took me several hours to piece together (thanks again, mom.) The bath tub is filled with rubber toys. The front porch is home to two strollers (one that goes fast and one that goes really fast.) My office is staffed with your stuffed animals. Your mother's sewing room is littered with dress-up outfits.

Not even our own bedroom is our own bedroom. When I woke up this morning I was spooning a stuffed hippo. And I swear he had this funny little grin on his face.

I'm not complaining. When you're around, this stuff keeps you engaged and entertained. When you're not, it reminds me of you.

But, it's true, you do seem to have accumulated quite a bit of stuff in your two years on this planet. And that gives me a bit of pause because your mother and I aren't exactly "stuff" people. We're not into trinkets or gadgets or glam. We're not big on fancy clothes or expensive furniture.

I'm not too concerned that any of these things will turn you into a material girl, but it's probably worth noting, nonetheless: All of this stuff is nice, but none of it will make you happy.

For that you need freedom and enlightenment and music and love. For that you need fresh air and beautiful sunsets. For that you need quiet moments, a comfortable bed and good friends.

For that, you don't need anything or everything.

You just need you.

That's all I need, too — just you. And you're mother, too.

All the rest of this stuff is nice. But it's just stuff.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Dear Spike:

Even though she sometimes tries to push me off the bed when I'm sleeping, I love your mother.

It's an unconditional sort of thing.