Fright Week: Back Up, Mr. DeMille

Fright Week: Back Up, Mr. DeMille

I was up late last night playing Dungeons and Dragons (I’m just a level 2 bard, so don’t think I’m all hardcore or anything), so I decided to sleep in this morning.

Except, of course, I didn’t clear that with my son, who woke up at 6 and didn’t believe my wife and me when we told him it was still the middle of the night. It was dark out, so we thought we had a shot.

As the day brightened and the sun eventually came up, I realized that I neglected to post a pic of my freshly shaven face yesterday, the first of November/Movember. So here it is, freakishly close, to preserve some of the mystique of what I actually look like when I’m not a dimorphic-eyed doodle (for those of you who don’t know).

Wife, if you’re reading this, you can pretend I’m coming in for a kiss. Enjoy it while you can, as the stubble’s about to get painful.


Fright Week: Freaky Friday: A Close Shave

Fright Week: Freaky Friday: A Close Shave

I don’t like to be clean shaven.

I also don’t like to walk around with just one style of facial hair for too long.

So I’ll cycle through a full beard, then a goatee, then a moustache, then all-over stubble, then whatever. My facial hair grows pretty quickly, so I don’t have to wait long for a new look.

But even a short wait with a bare face makes me uncomfortable—and not just because I need something there to define my jawline. Fluctuating facial hair is a big part of who I am. I deliberate over what to do with my razor almost as much as I do in choosing my underwear.

I’m rarely ever without sideburns or a soul patch at the very least. (I’m rarely ever without underwear, either. Rarely.)

So to be clean shaven on Nov. 1 is no small deal. I’ve watched other guys participate in Movember before, and I’ve always wanted to join in, mostly for the unspoken camaraderie, the connection built by a commonality: in this case, moustaches.

If you don’t know, Movember is a means of raising awareness of—and money for—men’s health, primarily when it comes to prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental issues. The organized effort encourages men to grow a moustache (there are rules for the parts of the face to which it can and can’t spread) throughout November, making for an increasingly obvious facial statement that will hopefully prompt questions of the “Why would you ever willfully decide to wear a moustache?” variety. Then we can answer, “Well, I’m glad you asked.” And then we can talk about prostates, and why they’re awesome, and why everybody who wants a functioning and healthy one should have a functioning and healthy one.

Participants can also garner pledges, like my kids recently did (in theory) for a jog-a-thon at their school. Oops.

Despite the fact that I recently sold a car of ours that we no longer needed, I am not a salesperson. Money makes me uncomfortable, mostly because I don’t understand it. So I’m not going to do a huge pitch to get you to put up cash in exchange for me doing something I frequently do anyway. If you want to, though, that’s great. You can check out my Movember page, where you’ll find plenty of details.

Since I’m new to this dad blogging thing—though I don’t really feel like a dad blogger, per se—I also recently joined a dad bloggers group called “Dad Bloggers.” They’ve got a Movember team going (called “Dads/Bloggers”), and I just sort of invited myself to join. Actually, they put out a call for participants, but I still fell like I sort of snuck in.

My surreptitious decision hasn’t been great for my face, however, since I just shaved everything off less than a week ago for the sake of my Halloween costume: the magic mirror from Disney’s Snow White. I’ve got a healthy layer of stubble going now as I write this at 11:15 on Halloween night, but I’m anticipating pain tomorrow morning (this morning, as this post goes live—like time-travel magic!) when I scrape it all off my face again, just six days later.

There will be blood, I’m sure, which is the tangential reference to today’s Freaky Friday doodle. My 6-year-old likes blood. If I remember correctly, she said this while drawing someone bleeding, and apparently needed to focus intently as she eroded her red crayon down to nothing.

I’ll be posting about my moustache progress throughout the month, and next week’s theme will likely be devoted to Movember and/or facial hair and/or men’s health on the whole, but to get an early jump-start on that, allow me to ask: What do you think of facial hair? How about moustaches in particular?

Fright Week: Bonus Monster

Fright Week: Bonus Monster

For those of you celebrating a late (9:50 by my clock—ha! How my life has changed!) Halloween, here’s a Creature from the Black Lagoon in a Speedo from my 2002 Monster collection. I tried to give him a swimmer’s build.

Note that most of my drawings depict figures sticking out of water, and yet this aquatic character is as dry as toast. Maybe that’s why he’s unhappy looking.

Fright Week: Happy Halloween!

Fright Week: Happy Halloween!

I chose to spend Halloween Eve carving pumpkins with my family as opposed to crafting a clever and thoughtful post on whatever subject came to mind.

My girls each got to design a face for their own pumpkin, and while my firstborn doodled a 6-year-old take on the classic circle eyes, triangle nose, and jagged smile, my 4-year-old scrawled an elaborate and practically uncarvable (uncarveable?) “spooky ghost,” which proved a challenge to my promise to finish the jack-o-lanterns while they slept—but a challenge I was up for.

So as I write this at 11 p.m., the pumpkins are carved, despite the little flimsy blade breaking off the handle partway through the first eyehole. I just used the mini-saw with my bare fingers, no handle needed.

Then I put some battery-powered candles in the girls’ creations and left them in their room. I hope that if they get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water, they’ll be delighted, not terrified.

(Shallow Note, by the way: This creature is from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands. I have a variation on this guy, in which he has two legs and is wearing a Speedo.)

Fright Week: Worry Wednesday

Fright Week: Worry Wednesday

(Shallow Note: This vampire is from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands. These turned out OK, I guess.)

We get a lot of mosquitoes in our house for some reason.

Fortunately, West Nile Virus has dropped significantly down on my worry list. It’s not like I’m unconcerned about it, and it’s not like there aren’t any birds around—because just a couple of weeks ago a hawk sat on a fence that runs along our front walk and methodically devoured a dove, much to the delight of my daughters, who later went out and retrieved a grimy chip of bone, probably from a skull.

My germaphobia kicked in there for a minute, but I quickly cooled back down. Lots of handwashing—theirs, then mine, since they handed it to me—helped.

I know West Nile Virus can be bad, but that’s what I’ve been working on lately: the “can be.” Because “can be” is not “will be,” which is a mental translation I tend to make.

A mosquito “can be” infected from biting a diseased bird and “can be” a carrier. Someone bitten by an infected mosquito “can be” infected themselves and so “can be” at risk for a variety of complications, some of which “can be” serious.

Make my typical mental translation for yourself (also change “at risk for” to “getting”) in that preceding paragraph and you’ll get a sense of how I live. Or at least how I’ve lived, because as I’ve said before, I’m working on it. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job.

It also helps that I did some research about West Nile Virus, and I learned that it’s not the biological terror our media—and I say that as a member myself—have made it out to be. I mean, I still don’t want any of my kids to get it, but I bet they’d ultimately be fine if they did.

I’m slowly learning the difference between healthy caution and worrying. But I’m reminding my girls to keep doors and screens closed anyway, because I still don’t want us to get mosquito bites. West Nile or not, they itch.

Fright Week: Date Night

Fright Week: Date Night

(Shallow Note: This Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster are from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands. The sketch of the big guy initially didn’t have any hands. I left the cuffs blank, copied it several times, and drew a variety of attempts before I got them just right. Ish.)

Last night was our night to watch the kids. We had seven of them—from a year to 6 years old—running around our house for two and half hours.

My wife and I participate in a kid swap with two other couples, meaning that if everything works the way it should—people aren’t sick or out of town or whatever—we spend one night a month babysitting a baker’s half-dozen of children, but we get two nights a month when we don’t have any kids at all.

The system is pretty awesome, plus we’re gaming it a bit, since we have three kids and the other couples only have two each.

It’s awesome because on our date nights, the children are all at someone else’s house, meaning we can go out, stay home, or go out and then come home before picking them up. You can’t do that with a regular babysitter. Well, I guess you can, but I think the average college student would feel pretty awkward if we were to tell her to help herself to some dinner in the fridge, remind her about the girls’ bedtime, and then go upstairs.

While seven kids can be several handsful, they also do this weird thing where they start entertaining themselves. Groupthink is a powerful babysitting tool. Food and projects help, too.

Last night, my wife had them all make mummy pizzas on English breakfast muffins, then create glowing ghosts out of empty (and washed) milk cartons. There was very little bickering. I just opted to let them interact over blocks and coloring while my wife took the baby out of the mix for his bedtime, and they all did so well, I was able to get started on the dishes—only occasionally intervening with reminders to share or use our words.

On previous nights, we’ve arrived at our friends’ houses to pick up our kids to find they’ve been making ice cream or painting. It’s great.

We’re so grateful to the other couples in our group, and we highly recommend the strategy—especially if you don’t have immediate family nearby to, in theory, watch your kids on a regular basis.

Because if there are two of you and you’ve got kids, someone should be helping you get alone time. As a couple. Whether you use that time to take advantage of happy hour or you spend it not worrying whether some little hand is going to knock on your bedroom door, you need it. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the children. In the long run, it keeps you from turning into monsters. (Get it? Because Halloween?)

Fright Week: Zombies

Fright Week: Zombies

(Shallow Note: This zombie is from a series of monsters I drew in 2002, back when I was still trying to draw hands.)

As a father, I’ve always got a plan. For certain scenarios.

I frequently rank the objects and people I’m holding from most fragile to hardiest, in case I get tackled or the earth starts shaking and I need to drop something/one to keep my balance to protect the rest. The baby and eggs are priorities.

Some of my plans are decidedly less practical.

When I spot a secluded area with an overhang, I note it and tuck it away into the “if we’re trapped outside and need someplace dry to stay for a while” mental file. This wouldn’t be a case of our getting locked out of our condo. This is like “disaster is upon us and martial law has been declared.”

I don’t stock up on fresh water or anything. I have a hand-crank-powered lantern/radio combo, but I’m not sure where it is. So yeah, maybe I don’t have a plan for most things. But I don’t think I’m alone as a husband and father in latching onto some odd and unlikely or impossible aspect of survival and running with it. I’ve talked with other dads who do the same thing. Maybe moms do it too, but I’ve yet to meet one who brought it up.

When my wife and I found ourselves to be the only guests at a country bed and breakfast (even the caretaker was out for the night; we were seriously alone), I laid awake for quite a while after my wife fell asleep. Every time the crickets and other night creatures all went silent at the same time, my heart started pounding. I began devising strategies for what I would do if I heard someone breaking in and coming up the stairs. The best I came up with: Quickly move aside some of the bulk packages of toilet paper under the bed and have my wife slide between them, moving one back into place to shield her so if anyone looked, all they would see is two-ply. Unplug the lamp, hold it like a club, and hide behind the door so I can whack anyone over the head as they come in. In case of desperate emergency—e.g. I take out a scout, but more attackers start to come in—we go out the window over the Jacuzzi tub (no screen to kick out) and inch along the sliver of roof.

That’s as far as I got before the sun came up. When I told my wife about my (theoretical) heroism over breakfast, she wasn’t knocked off her feet by my (theoretical) actions, like I hoped she would be. She was amused. And a little annoyed, I think, that I didn’t get as much sleep as I should have.

To my credit, however, we’d been seemingly followed by a truck for the whole drive after leaving the restaurant in a nearby town where we’d had dinner the night before. I didn’t want it to follow us all the way back to where we were staying, so I pulled off the main road and down a dirt lane to a driveway a few turns before the bed and breakfast—and the truck continued to follow us. I did a three-point turn at the random house and drove back out past the now darkened vehicle, which was either filled with bad guys I’d just outsmarted or a creeped-out family wondering why I inexplicably acted like I was leading them home, then turned around and left.

In the years since, I’ve learned that my wife isn’t into romantic acts of bravery. She prefers a living, accessible coward.

When we saw the preview for World War Z—about a man who gets his family off of the zombie-ravaged mainland and then leaves them on a ship to go back in and try to find a cure for the undead plague—my wife turned to me and said, “You will not go back. When we get out, you will not go back.”

I later learned that *spoiler alert* the guy is forced into action by a government that will kick his family off the boat where they’re staying if he doesn’t cooperate. So I explained the situation to my wife in a pitch to try to get her to watch the movie with me.

“I don’t care,” she said. “You don’t go back in.”


“You don’t go back in.”

“He has no—”

“You don’t go back in.”

“We’d get kicked off the ship.”

“You don’t go back in.”

“But in your scenario, we’d all go back in.”

“Yes, we’d survive together. You don’t go back in.”

I appreciate her loyalty and tenacity, but I must admit that I have a hard time picturing my kids cooperating in a survival scenario. As soon as I told them to be quiet, one of my girls would start whining that the other one got a bigger piece of emergency rations or that the knife we issued her had the wrong colored handle. The more I tried to shush her, the louder she’d get.

Either that, or my son would see a zombie shambling in the distance and shout “Doggie!” as he does at everything that moves that’s not a ball. “Doggie! Uff uff!”

When I told my wife about what I was writing for this post, she laughed. Then a few hours later, she said, “I’m really good at walking quietly.” I didn’t know this about her.

As parents, we like to think we’re protectors, that we can shield our kids from the world. But we can’t. Even the best of us can’t. So I think that in order to cope with the unpredictability of car accidents and disease and other scary but real things we have no control over, we enjoy exploring threatening scenarios in which we can do something tangible and effective. By we, I mean me. I do this.

So I make myself the hero in the zombie apocalypse. In my nightmare (dream) scenarios, my family is always tucked away somewhere safe, barricaded on the second floor of our condo after I’ve taken out the stairs. I have roof access via a ladder that can be pulled up and down. I scavenge for food, plot escape routes, protect us from raiders, and pretty much keep us alive.

A global doomsday scenario would be horrible, horrible, but there’s a part of me, and not a small part, that wants to know if I have what it takes to bring my family through. So I get a little excited about hints of such disasters.

When the power went out one evening earlier this year, I lit some candles and briefly entertained the thought: “Is this it? Has it started?” Then I worried that the flickering light in our kitchen window would draw whatever was out in the dark like moths.

I’m not alone in this, am I?