Posted tagged ‘parenting’

One Crazy Summer (The Not-Savage Steve Holland Version)

October 18, 2009

Jeez, where to begin.  The past few months have been ridiculously busy.  The saga of the Wedding Comedy now contains more twists and turns than a Six Flags roller coaster; we’ve got funding to the tune of $3 million, the Director is still on board, the script has been rewritten and tightened to her satisfaction and that of the producers and the financier, the production was budgeted and given a tentative start date of the first week in November… and then we hit a snag involving rights issues and one Big Studio which, to put it bluntly, is being a giant collective douchebag over the matter.  And because of this problem, we may lose our star for reasons too convoluted and tedious to explain.

Fortunately the financier is still willing to make the movie with or without this guy, but given that I’ve spent the past couple of years tailoring my original spec for him, it would be a bit of a drag to have him suddenly bail like this.

My work has been done since Labor Day, which was my deadline to turn in the latest draft for budgeting and scheduling.  (The two weeks previous to that holiday was one of the most intense writing experiences I’ve ever had, and worthy of its own blog post — but I was just too damned tired to write it at the time.  Hopefully I’ll get to it in my next post; given my posting pace in the past six months, that should be sometime before the New Year.  Maybe.)  Since then I’ve just been sitting on my ass, getting periodic updates from the producers and the Director and crossing my fingers that the whole thing finally comes together and they make the movie.

In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with the rewrite of my latest spec — the Domestic Comedy, one of the scripts that I jammed out before the Peanut was born in July of 2008.  For whatever reason, it’s been virtually impossible to focus; every other dumbass idea I’ve ever had seems more interesting than this script at the moment, but I’ve got to buckle down and get it done.  It’s been way, way too long since I finished a polished spec, and my writing partner and I have a tentative agreement to get our first collaboration going in January, so I want to clear the decks before tackling that one.

While I do battle with my own creative inertia, parenting has become even more of a challenge as the Peanut becomes a toddler… a very, very moody toddler.  If I had a quarter for every meltdown and tantrum I’ve witnessed, I’d probably have enough money for the down payment on a nice-sized house.  The Missus and I are exhausted every night, though after 15 months of being parents, “exhausted” has sort of become our default mode.  Factor in my day job and such distractions as the Xbox, movies, books, and, well, sleep, and sometimes I’m amazed that I can still  complete a sentence, let alone a screenplay.

But that’s bullshit, of course.  I finished my Wedding Comedy draft and it was well received (one of the producers told me I knocked it out of the park, which certainly gave me the warm fuzzies until I decided he was probably just blowing smoke up my ass for reasons unknown), and I did it in record time. I CAN finish the spec at hand.  I just need to believe that I can.

… And if that fails, I could just ask the Missus to nag me to finish it.   The only reason I even wrote this tonight is that she urged me to pay some attention to my “poor blog,” as she put it.  Yes, I can be guilted into anything.  Hopefully she won’t ever  get it into her head that I’d make an excellent bank robber.  Of course, maybe then we could actually afford to buy a home.


Motley Croup

January 20, 2009

This weekend was an interesting experience. We put the Peanut to bed around nine or so on Saturday night and then spent the next couple of hours basking in the glorious silence…. at least until we heard this harsh barking sound emanating from the baby monitor. Since we couldn’t remember acquiring a sea lion, we figured it was the kid, but we thought nothing of it… until she did it again. And again. And again. At which point we consulted the library of baby books we’ve acquired over the past six months and realized, Hey, maybe she’s got the croup. Oh, and according to everything we’re reading right now, it can be fatal.

I was on the phone with our  health care provider faster than you can say “overreacting first-time parents” and got a nurse on the line.  She asked a series of questions (“Is your baby turning blue?” “No.”  “Is she having trouble breathing?”  “I don’t think so, but I sure as shit am.”  And so on) and suggested that we bring the Peanut to the E.R. of a nearby hospital.  Meanwhile, the Missus was holding the Peanut in the guest bathroom, which was filled with steam from the shower — an anti-croup technique that the books recommended.  It was one in the morning by the time we piled into the car and zipped down to Woodland Hills with our car windows open to let in the cold air (another recommendation of the books).

We checked in to the E.R. and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I started falling asleep in my chair, at which point the Missus would smack my leg to wake me up.  Later she told me how she wondered how I could possibly sleep at a time like that, to which I replied that (as she knows all too well) I can sleep anywhere, anytime, and besides — we were at the friggin’ hospital.  If something bad was going to happen, at least we were in the right place.

Eventually we were escorted to an examination room, where we waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I didn’t start falling asleep this time, if only because there were no chairs in the room for me to sit in.  Finally, around 3:30 or so — by which point the Peanut was sleepy and slightly crabby but no longer barking — the doctor finally showed up, told us we did the right thing with the shower steam and car windows, and recommended that they administer steroids to open up her bronchial passages.  The nurse entered with a needle and shot up our baby, we paid the hundred bucks for the emergency room visit and headed home.  It was five in the morning by the time our heads finally hit the pillows.

Sunday was naturally a bit of a washout — what with the fact that we spent much of it snoozing and/or walking around in a Romeroesque, sleep-deprived stupor — but at least the Peanut no longer sounded like she had flippers and could balance a beach ball on her nose.  Of course, now she has a terrible cold, which is a bummer but probably won’t involve medical intervention.  Knock wood.

So yeah — we finally had our first emergency trip to the hospital.  God knows it could’ve been much worse and thankfully it wasn’t, but as the Missus put it, “We finally earned our stripes as parents.”  When I told this story to my boss — a father of two — and mentioned what my wife said, he replied, “Well, you earned your first stripe, anyway.  You’ve still got plenty ahead of you.”

Scarily enough, I’m sure he’s right.

Grindstone Cowboy

December 3, 2008

I seem to be in danger of becoming one of those bloggers who, you know, doesn’t actually update his blog on a regular basis. What the hell is wrong with me? I’ll bet you can guess. Let’s all say it together: “I have no time to write.”

Sadly, this does indeed seem to be the case, at least lately. The Peanut is approaching her five month mark, and just when the Missus and I think we’ve got this parenting shit down to a science, our offspring makes another developmental leap and screws us up all over again. Recent occurrences include such milestones as rolling from her tummy onto her back (a hilarious and weirdly touching sight), the beginning of the teething phase (decidedly less hilarious) and reaching out for random objects — for example, the catalog that Mommy’s holding while the baby sits in her lap — and stuffing them into her mouth. When the Peanut is sitting on my leg and we’re talking gibberish to one another, an experience that occasionally seems to resemble one of my more awkward prodco meetings, I experience a profound happiness that I previously never believed to be possible without illicit substances or religious brainwashing.

Unfortunately, a more active and interactive Peanut keeps me away from my computer for even longer stretches than before. I’m lucky if I have twenty minutes to work on the rewrite of the Apatow Rip-Off, which I’d hoped to finish in time for the tracking board contest and completely and utterly failed to do so. The get-up-at-4:50-with-the-wife-and-write plan is still in effect — unless the Peanut wakes up around that time, in which case it becomes the get-up-at-4:50-and-take-care-of-the-kid plan. A Thanksgiving trip to visit the in-laws in San Diego — traditionally one of my most creatively fertile periods of the year — yielded exactly zero pages this time around. Being stuck in the third quarter of Act II hasn’t helped, either: for the past two weeks, the little time I’ve spent at the keyboard mostly involved A) staring blankly at the screen, B) occasionally trying out and then promptly discarding ideas that I’ll charitably describe as half-baked, and/or C) writing vicious hate mail to myself, then deleting it before the Missus could read some of it and hide the knife block in the kitchen.

I now understand why pro writers often seem to take long stretches of time off for their families. Part of me feels like going on hiatus to let the well refill and enjoy the first year of my daughter’s life without the burden of shoehorning in writing time. I’m not going to do that, of course. The fact is, I’m not getting any younger — I’m rapidly approaching the age range in which most guys settle into whatever profession they’re going to toil in until they hit retirement, and here I am, on a career track to nowhere. Screenwriting is pretty much the only existential “Get Out of Jail Free” card I have to play at this point, which compounds my frustration when circumstances prevent me from putting in the time and effort I need to make my professional aspirations a reality.

I have to keep my nose to the grindstone, even if it ends up shearing off my face.

(Coda: The Missus made me promise to be more cheerful in my next post.)

The Better Half Speaks

October 25, 2008

This is great — I have a blog that I don’t even have to write for anymore!  Okay, maybe not, but as I deal with various issues on the writing and dadding fronts, the wife asked if she could contribute in my absence.  It turns out that she was only joking, but I made her do it anyway.  Take it away, honey…

Hello, it’s the Missus here. WriterDad has been too busy being a Dad and a writer to write about being a Dad and a writer, so I’m stepping in with a guest blog entry.

Of course, once I started writing this, WriterDad stepped in with suggestions. “Tell them about how becoming a dad changed my writing.” Or, “Write about how hard it is for me to find time to get anything done.” Well, WriterDad, that’s why you have a blog — so you can write about this stuff. 🙂 As for me, I’m no writer — my experience is limited to boring memos and captions for our various photo galleries of the Peanut. But today, I’ll be writing about this little star:

So, WriterDad and I are not the most outgoing people you’ll ever meet. You know those people who can just strike up a conversation anywhere they go? Yeah, that’s not us at all. But three and a half months ago, we were graced with the presence of our little rock star, who attracts attention wherever we go. As we left a fine dinner at Chili’s last night, we were stared at, smiled at, and even stopped by a random person, just to look at our little Peanut. It was enough to make the introvert in me want to drop my head and run screaming from the restaurant.

Everywhere we go, we hear comments about the cute baby. Even single young men, ones at an age when they’d rather be nailed to a wall and forced to watch an endless replay of Sex and the City than touch a baby, will smile in the presence of the Peanut. Older ladies have stopped us in the supermarket to look at our little one. Not that I blame them. Who can resist this?

Anyway, the Peanut loves the attention. She doesn’t pass up an opportunity to return a smile to a stranger (just ask the lady at the bar at Chili’s who had a good buzz going on and tickled the Peanut’s arm with her acrylic nails that were desperately in need of a fill). She’ll happily let anyone hold her. (And no, I’ve never let a stranger hold her. I’m not that crazy.)

It’s been challenging at times to have such a little social butterfly. Occasionally I feel a bit like I’m the baby’s entourage, while she’s out conquering the world. But I’m actually getting to a point where (with the exception of the occasional buzzed middle-aged woman in need of a manicure) I enjoy stopping to talk to people about the Peanut. I’m always amazed that people genuinely seem to want to meet her, or say hello to her. I mean, I think she’s the cutest baby in the world, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does, you know?

Since When Did Writing Get So Hard?

October 16, 2008

For the life of me, I can barely write my name lately, let alone an outline or a scene.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Oh, yeah, I’m a parent now.  Of course, who’d want to write when presented the chance to spend the evening playing with this little cutie instead: 

Somebody needs to market an adult-sized monkey rug, incidentally.

ANYWAY… so yeah, I’m feeling more than a little distracted lately.  I don’t think it’s just the kid, either.  Despite my best efforts, my attempt to rewrite the High School Comedy has ground to a dismal halt.  Just not feeling it.  So I’ve switched to another one of the scripts I banged out before the Peanut’s arrival — the Domestic Comedy.

Yeah, that one ain’t catching fire, either.

What to do?  I’m well aware that this is one of those situations that separates the men from the boys — you either resist the pull of real life and stay the course, or you drift away and eventually realize that weeks, months, maybe years have gone by and you’ve only written a page of your script or novel since that fateful night you said to yourself, “Eh, I’ll take tonight off and come back to it fresh tomorrow.”  (This scenario is very similar to a somewhat prescient subplot in the Domestic Comedy.  Life is apparently threatening to imitate my mediocre art.)

In my defense, I’ve been working every night, even if it’s for a few minutes while the baby snoozes.  Progress is being made, even if you can only track it with the assistance of a sub-atomic microscrope.  But I just can’t crack either script — I think I understand what’s wrong with both stories, but the solutions aren’t coming.  I suspect the issue is one of focus — or rather, the lack thereof.  The Missus’ sister is coming to town this weekend, though, so that should give me the chance to slip away for some serious solitude.  Hopefully.

I can only hope that the Peanut doesn’t give me a look like this…


… ’cause if she does, you can kiss that writing time goodbye. On the other hand, that’s the way it should be.  I’d like to think that that may make me a bad writer but a good dad.  That sounds like a fair trade in my book.

Bad Dad Strikes Again

September 3, 2008

We’ve been dreading it like cancer — day care for the Peanut.  It finally happened today.  The crying began last night and continued all the way over to the day care center.  The sound of that weeping broke my heart even further than it already was.

The baby, on the other hand, couldn’t care less; she just kept sleeping in the her car seat while the Missus continued her meltdown.

I wasn’t feeling so chipper myself.  Although I tried to console myself with the fact that day care is simply a given for many, if not most, parents these days, I couldn’t help but feel that it was still somehow my fault.  After all, it goes back to that choice I made as a teenager to pursue the movie dream no matter what; that’s great and all, but considering that I’ve gotten to my age and still can’t support my family, well, was it really worth it?  If a mysterious stranger had met us at the door of the day care center today and said to me, “All right, I’ll make you a deal — your wife will get to be a stay-at-home mom and you’ll make enough to provide your family with a comfortable living… but you gotta give up this screenwriting shit,” I would’ve signed that contract faster than you can say “Mephistopheles.”

But alas, there was no mysterious stranger to greet us, so into day care the Peanut went.  And — surprise, surprise — everything turned out to be fine; nobody beat her up or gave her a tattoo or turned her to a life of crime (yet).  The Missus felt better when she picked up our little girl at the end of the day.  Maybe it’s not the end of the world after all.

Still, this whole day care thing bugs me.  A lot.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in a Cosby-esque nuclear family with Mom at home and Dad this elusive figure I’d catch a glimpse of at night and on weekends; I hate the notion that my daughter would be deprived of that kind of traditional home life.  I even suggested that I give up my own job to become Mr. Mom, but the Missus would hear none of it, insisting that I wouldn’t have time to write; as she pointed out, the possibility that I could win the lottery with a spec sale or big assignment is really our only chance for her to become a stay-at-home mommy.  Sad but true.  And although I have about as much chance of striking rich that way as I do getting hit in the head by a meteorite, it’s a shred of hope that we’ll just cling to for as long as we can.

In the meantime, I’ll keep hoping the Peanut doesn’t learn how to make a shank out of a used diaper.

Plugging In, Zoning Out with Xbox 360

August 24, 2008

So the Missus bought me an Xbox 360 this past Christmas.  Her justification for such an extravagant gift was that it was our last holiday before we would spend most of our money on the baby until the day we died.  This made perfect sense to me and I happily accepted the most expensive time-waster I’ve ever owned.

Previous to this, the last gaming console I possessed was the Atari 2600.  (I had a Commodore 64, too, but since I had the PaperClip word processing software — anybody remember that one? — it wasn’t technically JUST for gaming.  Only 99% or so.)  My brother had a Nintendo 64 that I played a bit, but that was really the extent of my video game experience until I met the Missus.

My wife — then the New Girlfriend — had  an original Xbox that her sister had won in a raffle and given to her; she never played the thing but kept it around in the hopes that it would help ensnare any man she lured into her apartment.  Apparently her scheme worked, because after we got together I spent most of my free time at her place (okay, it wasn’t just because of the Xbox), and eventually I got around to playing the system.  Much to my surprise, gaming had come a long way since, oh, SUPER MARIO BROS 2.

To make a long story short, I started to get hooked on video games again, an interest that led to the purchase of said Xbox 360.  Not that I’ve actually bought many games since then — LEGO STAR WARS… um, LEGO INDIANA JONES.  And I’ve borrowed a few.  But for a variety of reasons too lame to mention, I had never plugged in and tried out Xbox Live… until now.

Today we went out, I bought an ethernet cable, we came home and put the Peanut down for a nap.  The Missus and I plopped down on the couch, I plugged in the cable and we proceeded to enter the 21st century.  Sort of.

First game downloaded?  FROGGER.



It was like 1985 all over again, minus the acid-washed jeans and Benetton T-shirts.  And it was great fun.

Finally the Missus downloaded a new game… BOOGIE BUNNIES.  Not exactly HALO, but these bunnies are pretty damn cute.  And she kicked ass (or bunny, as it were) at the game, too.

Toward the end of the afternoon I downloaded the demo of STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED and promptly had my mind blown: “Ah, so THIS is why hardcore gamers have no lives.”  I’ve played some amazing games recently (particularly BIOSHOCK), but this was particularly awesome and I couldn’t put down the controller.  The Peanut began to fuss and the Missus was working on dinner, so I strapped the kid into the Baby Bjorn and played standing up.  After a while, I noticed that the baby was dead to the world against my chest.

In fact, she looked… dead, actually.

I panicked and rushed into the kitchen, where my wife and I proceeded to poke and prod the Peanut into consciousness again — Coma Baby blinked, looked around like, “What the hell is going on, here?”, then sacked out again. 

Okay, maybe we — okay, maybe *I* — overreacted, but I was still relieved.  Every new parent is allowed to have a freak-out like that every once in a while, and I would have hated to have my daughter asphyxiate against my chest while I’m trying to cut an Imperial chicken walker in half with a lightsaber.

If nothing else, we confirmed that the Peanut has definitely taken to the Bjorn; now that I know I can play video games with her hanging off me like that, the next experiment will be writing.  Maybe I can put my PC on a dresser and type standing up.  After all, Hemingway wrote that way — only something makes me think his manly image would have been shattered if he wrote A FAREWELL TO ARMS and FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS with a baby strapped to his chest.  Then again, he was drunk — what would he have cared, anyway?