Our kids are constantly put under the lens. The camera lens, that is. If it’s not the camera lens, it’s the iphone lens. All three kids have done some extensive documentary photography themeselves using the phone – we’ve found megabytes and megabytes of images after the phone has disappeared for a while. (I’m sure we are not alone in this).
But this week Kato got his hands on the actual camera, our Canon SLR. He started out, not surprisingly, with a photo of his co-conspirator in all things:
She upped the mug factor in photo number two:
At that point, apparently, I discovered he was using the camera:
After a few stern words about holding it carefully and a short tutorial on how to use the camera (which he obviously did not need) I set him to work taking photos – curious about what he would choose to photograph.
Apparently, the first thing one wants to record, given the opportunity, is one’s bookshelf.
Then, one’s toy airplane, which has fallen out of favor in recent times. Ah, nostalgia photography:
Then, of course, one’s backpack.
Once you’re done with the detritus on the floor, it’s a good idea to capture the state of the light fixtures:
And then the outlets, of course:
And finally, the wall anchor for a screw for a picture that is no longer hanging on the wall because various children at various stages would remove it and toss it unceremoniously to the floor:
Obviously a paean to times gone by, to the glorious olden days of unheralded triumphs over cross-stitch.
I was starting to wonder about his framing skills and lack of subjective focus. I must, frankly, admit that I was unimpressed. I considered taking the camera away from him and telling him to stop wasting his time and get back to the things he’s good at, like eating cherry tomatoes and pushing his brother to the ground.
But then he took this picture:
Which might just be my favorite picture of his sister, who most often looks at the camera with a weird plastered on semi-smile.
I suppose Kato was just exercising that skill that kids are really the best at: surprising you just after you’ve finally given up.
The folks at Chronicle had told us that our book might pop up on Amazon sometime in early May. Today I was Googling about to see if that day had arrived and found this instead, the Ten Thousand Stories page on the Chronicle site.
It is a humbling thing indeed to find my name on the site of my dream publisher, a moment made even stranger and more sublime by seeing Robbi’s name there beside mine. This dream come true is coming true. One step at a time.
As you’ll see when you click on the link (we flatter ourselves to think that you might click), the book is now available for preorder.
And let’s have a closer look at that cover, shall we?
It’s a little more magnificent than the one Robbi and I cobbled together for our Idiots’Books version.
Amazing what a difference an actual designer (and a Chronicle designer, to boot) can make.
Apparently things are going to start happening more quickly now. We’ll get our copies of Chronicle’s catalog in the next week or so. And our advance copies of the real live printed book are due to arrive any day now.
I wonder if that’s the moment when this whole crazy dream will somehow seem real.
Or maybe it never will. Robbi and I, illustrator and author of a Chronicle Book? What?
I’d sooner believe it if you told me we’d walk on the moon.
On Fridays, while Alden is at school, both boys spend the day at home, which makes it a good day for adventuring. Last week, Robbi painted pictures of dragons and Kato and August and I drove out to Eastern Neck Island, a beautiful little nature preserve with a number of kid-friendly trails.
One of which starts with a long wooden boardwalk.
At the end of the boardwalk is a cluster of trees. And in the cluster of trees are big black snakes.
I’ve been taking the kids out to Eastern Neck for years, since Alden was just a tiny thing, and this was my first encounter with the big black snakes. Here’s how it went down. I was carrying August and Kato was walking a bit ahead of me on the path when we heard a heavy THUMP on the ground about three feet away from us. I turned to look and saw the snake above, which had just fallen out of a tree.
The boys were stunned but calm. I let out an appropriate sound of surprise, scooped Kato up with my free arm, and got away from the snake. But after a few minutes of careful observation, it was clear that he wasn’t interested in attacking us directly, so I crept back to take the picture above. I’m guessing he was a bit winded from his fall.
I just can’t help what might have gone down had we been standing a few paces closer to the tree.
Disaster avoided, we hiked on. To the viewing platform. Supposedly for viewing birds, I’d guess, though I’ve never been to Eastern Neck when critical masses of viewable birds were present.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed the view of the wetlands, and the bay beyond.
Not far from the elevated platform is a little hut with slits cut in the walls for even more stealthy (if slightly less elevated) viewing.
We hung out on the platform for a while, convinced that the big black snake couldn’t climb up all those steps.
But eventually it was time to come back down.
When we passed by the site of “leaping big black snake incident,” the offender was no longer in sight. Most likely he was climbing another tree, I figure (though how a snake climbs a tree is a puzzle I do not care to contemplate).
As we headed back along the boardwalk, we left memories of his long black body far behind us.
It was Friday, the sun was out, and we still had hours and hours to play.
And so we did.
After what has been the longest, coolest, most comfortable and least sticky spring in the history of my life in Chestertown, it’s finally that time of year again – the peonies in front of the barn have bloomed!
We mark this time of year with a photo of the kids in front of the gigantic, beautiful blooms. Its a fun little marker of the time going by.
This year, 2013:
August’s first year in the mix, 2012:
Alden and Kato, 2011:
Kato’s debut, 2010:
Alden was in KC when the peonies bloomed, no photo, 2009. (In retrospect, this makes me so sad! No more spring trips, I guess.)
Alden’s first year, 2008:
If having kids has done nothing else for us, it has reminded us to stop at least once a year to smell the flowers.
Oh my. What a week it has been. I have been furiously working away on the next Bobbledy Book (check out the Bobbledy Blog to see how it’s been going) while Matthew has been doing housework, wrangling kids, and feeding me snacks to keep me fortified.
But in looking back on this past week’s photos, it appears we actually did much more than just drawing this week.
Kato found a super elongated egg in our Friendship Montessori School free-range chicken egg fundraiser delivery:
August wrestled his way into but not out of Alden’s Tang Soo Do sparring helmet:
Alden met Minnie Mouse in the slightly less Magical Kingdom of Costco:
Which, evidently, made the excursion totally worth it. The boys, on the other hand, sulked because their favorite, Donald Duck, was not in attendance:
We enjoyed another family bike ride in the late afternoon sun:
August enjoyed his first lollipop from the bank:
And Kato graduated to sitting forward in his car seat, which meant that Alden finally got her wish to sit next to August, instead of in the back row by herself (Kato is perfectly happy in the back row, because now he can watch our car’s progress on the GPS. Before, facing backwards, he only got periodic reports on it from Alden):
August also graduated, in a way – he apparently gave Matthew his first eye roll while swinging at the playground:
The weekend brought two major projects. First up was some gardening. We planted some seeds early in the week and have been dutifully watering them.
Kato believes that if he looks at the dirt through his hand binoculars, he’ll be able to see the non-existent sprouts:
The endeavor had the kids itching to do some REAL gardening, so this weekend we decided it was time to put something into Matthew’s mom’s raised beds (did you know Matthew’s mom bought a house up the street from us? Yes! We are taking over Chestertown!) Our sad little plantlings aren’t quite ready for primetime, so we headed to the Kingstown Garden Center right across the bridge. I love the garden center. It is the best. Everyone who works there is the nicest. But any of you folks out there who would ever be in the neighborhood and in need of a garden center already know that, so, ahem, back to it.
One of the perks of the Garden Center is getting to pull around a wagon to collect your wares. Of course, if you’re going to be at the Garden Center pulling around a wagon, you may as well dress for it.
There was a little bit of a kerfuffle when I told them that we were only going to take one wagon. After a heated discussion, Alden won out by convincing Kato he could be her co-pilot (every princess needs a co-pilot). Being co-pilot apparently means that you get to steer. You can see Kato takes his job very seriously:
We filled our wagon with some choice plants (tomatoes, cukes, peppers, a couple flowers for Alden, and an artichoke plant. I can’t wait to kill them all) and headed back to the counter to pay.
The counter had all kinds of pamphlets on it about dog food and cat food and plants and whatnot. Typical garden center things. Oh, and it also had a basket full of cat.
What cat? Oh, that cat.
We got the plants loaded into the car. Iggy was unimpressed – or maybe just uninterested. I think she was actually slightly worried about that cat, which was just in a basket, behind two wide-open doors. Any minute that cat could decide to jump up and scratch Iggy’s eyes out. It’s best to stay on the alert. Which is pretty much how Iggy views everything.
Shopping done, we headed over to Matthew’s mom’s to start planting. But first I had to mow the lawn. While I was dumping out grass clippings, I noticed some sort of conspiracy happening on the porch.
I spent the rest of the afternoon warily looking over my shoulder, expecting the worst. Iggy looked at me and said, “I know! That damn cat! I haven’t had a moment’s peace since we left the store.”
Once the lawn was mowed, it was time to do some planting. Alden decided that since she was dressed the part, she may as well act the part.
Luckily, this princess wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty after bossing everyone else around for a bit.
Kato’s job was to put the markers in.
He is especially excited about his Lemon Boy tomatoes, which he expects will bear lemon-flavored fruits by tomorrow.
I’m looking forward to killing those as well.
So, that was project number one. I have noticed, on several occasions, that there are a couple of rabbits that like to hang out in the back of Matthew’s mom’s yard. I expect that if I don’t kill all of our new little plant babies, those rabbits probably will. We’ll keep you posted.
The second project was installing the kids’ new mailbox. They have been getting the occasional piece of mail, but since we usually check the mail while they’re at school and then just toss it on the table and forget it, some of their mail has been getting lost under laundry or dinner or any number of things that also get tossed on the table. So, we thought it might be useful (and fun) for them to have their own mailbox.
First, we had to hammer in some wallboard anchors. Kato went first.
Alden quickly learned that it’s much better to stand idly by if your maniacal baby brother insists on hammering in your wallboard anchor.
Just wait till he’s done, and then carefully fetch the power drill to screw in your screw while he wanders back and forth with the hammer cackling.
Once both screws were in, the mailbox was ready to hang.
Kato was quite disappointed to discover that the mailbox didn’t come out of the shipping box with mail already in it.
I sent them to their room to count to twenty three times, which gave me enough time to dig through the heaps of mail on the table to seed the new mailbox.
There was some bickering about who got the mail that was addressed to them both, and we settled on letting Alden open it:
if Kato got to pull it out of the envelope and see what it was first:
An invite to a party! To Iris’s party!
The kids ran out to the mailbox to check to see if there were any more parties coming their way.
So – our second major project of the weekend got two enthusiastic thumbs up. Amazingly nobody got anything smashed while August staggered around with the hammer. There were two screws to put in, so Alden and Kato each felt some ownership for the project. But though it has been a wild success so far, I must admit it’s getting a little tiring with Alden and Kato jumping up every five seconds to rush out to their mailbox to see if they’ve gotten any more mail. It took them an extra ten minutes to eat dinner, what with all the running back and forth.
Believe it or not, we also went to a party on Saturday night that involved a moon bounce and people throwing sledge hammers. But that adventure deserves its own post, so stay tuned.
Iggy, for her part, continues to have concerns about the wayward basket cat. She spent the rest of the weekend hiding behind her very menacing bear hat, hoping for the best.
Some of you know Nasty Chipmunk, the lovable antihero subject of Volume 23. In the course of his adventures, Nasty runs afoul of his nemesis, Give Me Your Money Bunny. The ensuing standoff looks a little like this.
I tell you this to set the scene for the following, a lovely comic-style homage to Nasty submitted by subscriber Tara Scherner de la Fuente. In addition to having perhaps the finest name in the subscribership, Tara is wickedly funny.
Please join me in admiring her handiwork:
Thank you, Tara, for providing this glimpse into the continuing adventures of Nasty.
I just discovered that Nasty has a page on Good Reads, where several people have said embarrassingly nice things about it. Feel free to jump into the fray if you love…or hate…Nasty.
There’s little more inspiring than a truly withering review.
The latest auction item is up! Last week for our drawing prompt over at Bobbledy Books, we asked kids what their favorite food is. We got some great responses in, so check them out OVER HERE. Clearly we all need to spend some more time enjoying our food.
I drew some baby birds, waiting eagerly for their next meal. Too bad it’s probably not going to be mangoes or ice cream:
Go on and put your bid in for these tragic little birdies over here.
And: if you’re interested in getting auction notices by email, SIGN UP FOR AUCTION ALERTS HERE.
A while ago (holy crap! It’s been three years!) I posted on the “new” OK GO video and the awesome amazing huge Rube Goldberg contraption that it featured. I love Rube Goldberg contraptions, in part because when I was a super nerdy high school student, I was in a club called Odyssey of the Mind (which, evidently, hasn’t redesigned their website since I was a super nerdy high school student). OM (as the super cool super nerds called it) is a “creative problem solving” competition, in which you’re given a problem like “write a 3-minute play about Pompeii featuring 10 artifacts that you have recreated in an unusual way” (we totally won that one) or “create a skit featuring a balsa wood construction shaped like a bridge in which weights are placed on top of the bridge until it breaks – points given for creativity of skit as well as soundness of the structure” (we totally lost that one) OR “create a Rube Goldberg contraption with 12 triggers that can be assembled and launched in 10 minutes and some kind of skit to go along with it (I don’t remember the details)” (we totally lost that one too). Our Rube Goldberg contraption was a huge ramp made of pvc with lame triggers like “break through a flimsy piece of tape so a little toy soldier tied to the tape with a piece of thread falls to the floor” and “knock a notebook spring out of the way such that it lands in a giant bucket on the floor” and stuff like that. So, I’m always very VERY impressed when REAL nerds put together a totally legit contraption.
And so I was delighted to come across this video yesterday – featuring dominoes and popsicle sticks that somehow manage to throw themselves up in the air in joyful confetti attacks. This video is slightly less impressive than the OK GO one because there are two cuts (it’s not one continuous shot) but I have to say the things that they make popsicle sticks (and toast!) do are delightful. Have a look (“Tuna Melt” by A-Trak & Tommy Trash):
A-Trak & Tommy Trash – Tuna Melt from Pomp&Clout on Vimeo.
Incidentally, I entirely credit OM for my interest in making things and doing things over sitting in front of the TV or, say, eating competitively, so if your kid comes up to you at some point and says, “Hey Mom, I want to join this nerdy club called Odyssey of the Mind, but it’s full of nerds,” don’t say, “Nerds are the worst! All they end up doing is building space rovers for NASA or designing contraptions for music videos or god forbid sitting at their desks all day long painting – don’t do it! Join the football team instead!” Instead, just play it cool, and say “I know some nerds. Do it.”
When the time comes to illustrate a book, Robbi does a whole lot of not drawing. While she’s not drawing, she frets and stews and churns and cogitates. It’s unpleasant for her and it’s unpleasant for me. I watch her like a pot that will not boil, and the weight of my expectation seems to slow down time. This goes on and on and on, her stewing and me pacing back and forth until suddenly, with no warning, she sits down and begins to draw.
Once it begins, the production is like a gushing river. I have to put on my hip waders and try to stay out of the swiftest part of the channel. Because she is a human being, Robbi needs to eat, though she often forgets that this is the case. Yesterday I noted that she had been drawing for hours without lifting her head or taking a bite of anything. And so I asked her what I might bring her. The suggestion was not unwelcome, and yet she seemed unable to describe whatever it was she might want to eat. I presented her a number of seemingly viable options (lasagne, pasta, sandwich), each of which was waved off with an odd mix of impatience and gratitude.
I pressed her to tell me what it was that she did want. After a moment of reflection, she replied, “Little snacky bits.”
I retreated to the other room, still largely clueless, but with a tiny scrap of information to guide me. I poked through the cupboard in search of something that might qualify as “snacky.’
My search identified osembe, Japanese rice crackers, as the most obvious candidates.
But once I had removed the osembe from their plastic wrappings, I questioned whether they qualified as “little” or “bits.”
And so I took out our biggest, sharpest knife and set to work.
When I was done, I arranged them artfully on a blue plate. Robbi is an aesthete, after all.
I presented my work and got a smile in return.
A good deal of Robbi’s and my collaborative success stems from our ability to know what the other is thinking, even the answer is technically unavailable.
Little snacky bits, indeed.
Last week, I took a whirlwind trip to Jackson, Mississippi, rising at 4:00 and getting to BWI before the sunrise.
I dutifully followed the instructions on what to eat before getting on the plane, though it was a real struggle. The cinnamon roll might have been ok by itself, but when combined with the gigantic cookie, it set me back a bit.
Nevertheless, I had a great trip. Jackson was extremely welcoming.
I got home around 2:00 the next morning to find this waiting for me.
On Thursday, we went swinging.
With punctuated bursts of coy.
When I went to pick up Alden from school on Friday afternoon, August came along.
And spent a few minutes seeing how the other half lives.
Friday night, we went to Evergrain for pizza. I’m not sure why (or how) Kato ate his with such rage.
But moments later, he and Alden were dancing wildly by the espresso machine, so I didn’t have to worry for long.
On Saturday morning, Alden was promoted in Tang Soo Do, earning the rank of Jaguar and moving from a white belt with a yellow stripe to a yellow belt with a white stripe.
You might think the distinction too subtle to matter.
But you would be wrong.
Saturday afternoon, we headed to the Robot Festival in Baltimore.
August made a new friend.
Kato (literally) made a new friend.
We got to see 3-D printers in action.
And a robot that could write.
A friendly robot that rolled around making conversation.
And we discovered where Elmo has been all these years.
In spite of all the technical wizardry, the kids’ favorite thing by far was the make-your-own-rocket booth.
Three simple steps.
Plenty of tape.
And an ample dose of determination.
Yielded several fine rockets.
Kato was done rather quickly. He was more interested in flying his rocket than decorating it. Alden was more focused on making sure she had a beautiful object to send into space. While she drew flowers, princesses, and other astral ornamentation, I helped Kato load his rocket onto the firing tube.
He signalled his readiness.
And contemplated the firing switch.
By the time Kato was emotionally ready to launch his creation, Alden had finished hers as well.
One press of a button…
And two kid-made rockets took to the heavens.
Kato’s nearly hit a man with a hot dog, and Alden’s landed on the roof of the museum where Robot Fest was being held.
Undaunted, she set out to make another.
Kato fired his again and again and again. Before long, the nose cone was mangled and two of the fins were gone, but Kato was undeterred. His motto seemed to be, what goes up must have virtue, no matter how poorly it flies.
In the meantime, August was scoping out a robot tank. Or so he thought. Really, it was the other way around.
When the rockets were done, we had snacks. Snacks and skepticism. Have you ever seen three more jaded kids? Perhaps they should start a band. Or a youth movement.
From Robot Fest, we headed to Ellicott City, where our friends Christian and Emily (and Iris and Milo and Emmett) just bought a new house.
For whatever reason, August was in rare form.
On one hand, I wish he could talk, because I’d really like to hear what was on his mind.
On the other hand, perhaps I don’t.
He was, after all, with his two best friends.
If you didn’t happen to notice, they are identical twins. I was grateful for Milo’s alternative hairdo.
When Christian and I were roommates sophomore year of college, we certainly never expected to populate the earth. And yet, it seems, that’s just what we have done.
Today (Sunday), we headed out for more bicycle adventures. It was exciting. We were excited. Or so I believed. As it turned out, one of us was simply asleep.
We found ourselves once again in the gorgeous enclosure of Lover’s Lane.
And we headed back into Libby’s Nature Trail to see if conditions were any less wet.
They were slightly less wet, and we forged ahead to previously unexplored territory. We found a “tree house” (deer blind), and decided that it was the perfect place for a picnic. Alden and I went up first.
And then I helped Kato make the climb.
Kato was officially excited (and awake) at this point.
It was the perfect spot for a picnic.
There was a certain amount of envy from the toddler set.
Alden decided that August would probably have to be eleven before he could join them in the treehouse. To which I replied that she’d probably have to be 41 before she got to drive the family car.
I don’t think she got the joke.