In addition to finalizing the illustrations for our next Bobbledy Book (Robbi has a great post up that walks step-by-step through process of putting one of her illustrations together), we got the next Idiots’Books mailing ready to send out.
The book in question is a wire-bound mix-and-match book, which makes it one of our more complex binding challenges. Once the pages are printed, three pieces of equipment come into play: two trimmers and a hole puncher/wire-squeezer combo we call the Offi-Wire.
Each book has to be collated, punched, and trimmed into three horizontal strips. Then I hand the strips to Robbi, who feeds them into a wire comb, places a cover on top, and clamps the wire shut to create a finished book.
This process repeats hundreds of times, of course, a proposition made even longer when Robbi stops to photograph the action.
But eventually, as in all cases of putting one foot endlessly in front of the other, at some ungodly hour of the night, we get there.
But not without some casualties.
The book is called Sex to the Third Power: 1,000 Ways to Get it On. A send-up of The Joy of Sex and other home guides to the sexual experience, it is an interactive manual of sexual possibility, offering ten basic positions that recombine (through the wonders of the mix-and-match format) into 1,000.
We’ll show you some pictures of how it works soon. For now, rest assured that Sex is on its way.
In unassuming manilla envelopes.
Those of you who are new to the subscribership will see Robbi’s cheerful notes of welcome on the envelope.
One of the benefits of mailing a whole lot of something is that, instead of waiting in line at the post office, we get to take our bins full of books around back. I ring a bell, a postal worker appears, and the bins are carted off into the eye of the postal maelstrom.
I bid a tearful farewell and send them on their way.
Please let us know when Sex arrives and what you think of it. If you get it, that is. Not everyone does. Though anyone can, of course. If you’ve been meaning to subscribe (or resubscribe, for that matter), there’s no better time than the present.
Another week has come and gone. It’s startling how little time it seems to take to move from Sunday to Sunday. Part of the motivation behind our recent weekend roundup posts is an attempt to be more deliberate in taking note of the contents of our lives, hoping that looking back on recent happenings might help them find a sturdier place in our memories.
As some of you know, Robbi and Alden have both gotten serious lately about Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial arts form practiced by Robbi’s Dancing With the Stars partner Mark Pagano. Saturday was the big end of year picnic and promotion ceremony. We were to eat some hot dogs in the sunshine and Robbi was to be presented with her yellow belt in recognition of her promotion to the rank of 9th gup.
When we got to the picnic, the Tang Soo Do-ers were practicing their forms.
August was stunned.
All his life, has known is mother as a loving, gentle giver of life.
Suddenly she was a nimble ninja who could break your wrist with a casual glance. The contrast was so jarring that he needed a change of scenery. So we wandered down to the water to give him some time to process.
In no time, he found a fishing pole.
And proceeded to use it.
When Alden finished practicing her forms, she came down to join us by the water.
Eventually the aforementioned hot dogs happened.
As well as some badminton. In our actual game play, the BAD was emphasized, and so I will limit the photographic illustration of this sad stretch of the day’s events to this shot of Robbi posing alluringly with her racquet. Which matches her shirt, if you hadn’t noticed.
After hot dogs, Alden conned some older kids in to giving her a tour of the swimming pool while pretending to be a queen.
Good work, if you can get it.
Later that night, to quench a sudden craving, August helped me shop for seltzer.
This is a recap of our week. I didn’t say that all of it was exciting.
On Sunday, we got up early and headed to the Baltimore Zoo. The occasion was Iris’s birthday party. Iris is now five. This, too, is startling. The last five years of Iris’s life have passed about as quickly as this week has passed, which is to say, without my even noticing.
August spent the entire party climbing up this yellow ladder. By Robbi’s count, he scaled it 31 times.
Kato spent the entire time consulting his zoo map. His goal was to see the polar bears, and yet, all he could find was the playground. It was galling. He grew increasingly agitated.
But then the cake was served, and the agitation evaporated. Cake is amazing in this way.
After the cake, we were off. To explore the zoo in style. Alden and the birthday girl set off in search of adventure.
The first stop was the tram that took us to the far end of the zoo.
Before we got to the polar bears, we took a detour into the petting zoo.
The petting was a big hit, especially with August, who almost never meets anyone shorter than he is.
He begged us to let him bring the baby goat home.
But when we said no, he contented himself with whispering sweet nothings into the ear of any goat that would listen. Apparently, goats have very low standards, so August made a lot of new friends.
Like cake, goats are awesome.
As are polar bears.
The zoo has a train. It takes you on a short loop through the trees.
Kato loves the train. I almost wished that I had made him choose between eating cake and riding on the train. It would have been fun to see the internal conflict play itself out.
As it was, he got to ride on the train and eat his cake, too.
It was that kind of day.
As I was saying, trains are great. But, apparently, I make an even better conveyance.
But perhaps not quite as good as a lion? the kids loved sitting on the lion.
I said, the kids loved sitting on the lion.
Here’s my advice. If at first the claim you want to make is refuted by the photograph, simply take more photographs. Eventually (as with the infinite monkey theorem, which states that if you give a monkey sufficient time, he will eventually write Hamlet), the exact photo you desire will come along.
There’s a moment that I’ve dreamed of for a long time, ever since I decided that I wanted to be a “writer.” It goes something like this: The mail arrives, and in it a box. In the box is a copy of a book that I wrote and someone else published. In the dream, the box might look something like this.
In a really good dream, a “wildest fantasies” sort of dream, the label on the box might bear the name of Chronicle Books, the world’s finest publisher of beautiful printed matter.
Seeing that label on the box, my wife and collaborative partner Robbi (because this is a dream, I get to imagine a really hot wife and collaborative partner) pauses wistfully, beholding the box with a pleasant mixture of gratification and wonder.
As if to say, there is something amazing in this box. This box contains a dream.
I, of course, can empathize. In this dream, I am humbled and amazed. Holding the box, it’s all I can do to keep from crying like a kid. The box is so light in spite of all that it contains, years of work and hope, late nights and mountains of doubt.
The box is a problem. It is a box, but also it’s a symbol, an emblem of something that Robbi and I have held in our minds as the highest mountain. We’ve been dreaming of opening this box for so long. The dream of this box has been pushing us forward.
Once we open the box, we can never open it again.
And so it sits on the work table, unopened and unspoiled. Three days and counting.
We will open the box, and probably someday soon. After all, it’s just a box, and what’s inside is just a book.
I’ve been encouraging the boys to think about careers. The job market is so rough these days. I figure an early start might provide the competitive advantage they need. And so they both have been weighing their options.
Kato seems born to play the politician.
Look at that winning smile, that affirming affect. Policy bedamned! Give me a candidate who seems to have the answers.
He’s already picked his running mate. Clearly, she’s sold on the sunshine campaign.
He even has his victory stance perfected.
Too bad about the presidential minimum-age requirements.
If politics don’t pan out, Kato might consider horticulture.
Or competitive swimming. Now that Michael Phelps has exited the scene, Maryland needs a new aquatic sensation.
August, on the other hand, is considering animal husbandry.
Though I don’t think it’s likely he’ll stick with it. He complains of always moving away from the fires in question.
Golf is also an option.
But all of the clubs we’ve found are taller than he is.
The other day, he seemed to have found the answer. Lollipop taster.
I mean, someone has to do it, right? Otherwise, how would anyone know if they were good?
He briefly considered auto racing.
But was frustrated by restrictor plates. “I’m an all or nothing kind of guy,” we recently heard him say.
One thing we know for sure…
…competitive jump roping is not the answer.
At least, not yet.
His lack of vocational prospects has him blue.
I try to tell him that he has a few years yet, but he will not listen. “I’m basically finished,” he said. “Washed up. Just waiting for my first Social Security check to arrive.”
But then we had an idea. A great idea. A wonderful idea. What about baking?
He seems to have the curly hair needed to do the job well.
Look at the resemblance. It’s (a little too) uncanny.
He starts his apprenticeship tomorrow. I hear he’ll be on sun bun duty.
As we were leaving New York City last Sunday morning, we were driving south along the West Side (perhaps we were on Hudson)? The streets were quiet and deserted as they always are on a Sunday morning in New York.
From a distance, we saw what seemed to be a great ship at full sail, which was surprising, because even though we were near the river, it was still a few blocks distant.
We got closer and saw that the nylon sheeting had come off of a building under construction. We stopped our car in the middle of the street and just stood there for a while and saw the wind exerting its will. Like I said, there’s nothing moving in New York on a Sunday morning.
Except for the wind, of course.
It reminded me of that scene from American Beauty, where the kids watch the movie of the bag being blown about for 15 minutes. They say some wonderfully poetic things about the power of wind and what it reveals about the essence of life.
Last week was a good one in the studio. Robbi spent most of her time painting in the black and white sketches for our upcoming Bobbledy Book The Imaginary Dragon. There are 40 illustrations in the book, so this took a while.
But luckily, she had plenty of time to work. The skies conspired to keep us all indoors.
She even found time to create this painting for this week’s Bobbledy drawing prompt.
But we had another big project in mind for the week.
For a long time, we’ve been meaning to write a letter to the various folks who have been our subscribers in the past but whose subscriptions have lapsed for one reason or another. Just to remind them that we’re still here, still making books, and still in need (or is it just want?) of their love and support.
I wrote a very nice letter filled with heartfelt sentiment and well-constructed sentences. As is her usual tendency, Robbi took my words and scribbled all over them, crossing out the ones that didn’t suit her and adding her (usually derisive) commentary.
Here’s what we came up with. Click the thumbnail below to see a larger version. Warning: if you read this letter, you are almost guaranteed to subscribe to Idiots’Books, so powerful and moving are the words and images contained therein.
Once the letters were complete and printed, we had to put them in envelopes.
And apply mailing labels.
Fortunately, we had some help. Suddenly, and without warning, Alden developed the useful skills of gathering…
We were elated. Finally, and at long last, the pains and trials of parenthood were starting to bear fruit. No longer just a consumer of resources, Alden was giving back to the family industry.
Unfortunately, at some point, Alden stopped to inspect the contents of the envelopes she was so dutifully organizing.
What she found was not to her liking.
I was informed that I was not, under any circumstances, to throw Robbi in a volcano. I asked her why and she replied, “Because it isn’t nice.”
She has a point.
Alden stormed off in protest, but it turned out we had a backup helper. He was enthusiastic, if slightly less skilled.
The following afternoon, I put stamps on envelopes while watching The Walking Dead.
Nothing pairs quite so exquisitely with postage as zombie slaughter. Kind of like chocolate and peanut butter.
After the mailing was done, Robbi went back to her Imaginary Dragon paintings. She realized that she had forgotten to ink one of the finals, so she printed out her sketch on what she thought was a blank piece of paper.
Alas, we still had the label paper in the printer from the day before.
Such are the inefficiencies and wasted materials that keep Idiots’Books from making a leap into the Fortune 500.
Though we may not have shareholders, dividends, and a proper CEO, we do have a king.
Happy belated Mother’s Day!! I hope it was a great one. Thanks to Alden and Kato being at Friendship Montessori School, this Mother’s Day has been weeks in the making.
First, there was the invitation to Mother’s Day Tea this past Thursday:
Then, there was the relentless whispering and secret-sharing that went on every day over breakfast and dinner. There was lots of excitement and stage-whispered talk about surprises. On the day of the Mother’s Day tea, I woke up to find the kids already dressed in their Teatime best:
Upon arriving at school, Alden gave me a lovely butterfly bracelet she had made and led me to the teatime circle.
Songs had been rehearsed for weeks, and were sung with alacrity by all the kids. My favorite was one in which the kids sang, “Mama, I love YOU” and pointed to their respective moms.
That might have been my favorite SONG, but I have to say my favorite part of the whole event was getting my cookie and strawberries.
I also liked looking down the row of well-dressed moms, perched cheerfully in their toddler-sized chairs with cookies and tea balanced carefully on their laps.
I think Alden’s favorite part of the event might have also been the cookie part:
Though giving me my Mother’s Day present might have also been a highlight:
We were asked not to open our presents until after leaving school, given that many of the presents looked the same and might get mixed up in the chaos. We then all convened outside on the playground for some running around and fun and photos, and Alden made me a dandelion crown.
Kato also celebrated Mother’s Day tea, and invited Annie from across the street to be his stand-in mother (she’s pretty much his stand-in mother in all other ways as well). He handed me his gift casually, on his way to the slide. I saved the presents for Mother’s Day proper.
Alden gifted me an awesome shrinky-dink pin with smiley hearts and flowers on it, and a lovely painted shell (which she subsequently asked for, to “add to her collection” – a collection of one, as far as I can tell):
Kato made an awesome stepping stone, which I plan to put in the garden in front of the house. You have no idea how many times I have trampled our curbside garden trying to get various things out of the car. It will be put to good use (Kato decided before I could grab the camera that it was way too heavy for a photo shoot).
Alden had also decided to make me an actual Mother’s Day card – when she makes a card, she doesn’t mess around:
This one featured me, holding a flower, with her and her friends Liza, Madeline and Mary Jane, floating in a sea of diamonds, with the occasional flower, heart, gift bag and present thrown in. The picture of Alden features a lollipop she’s just gotten from the bank. Everyone else is holding hands. We all feature belly buttons and gigantic ears with earrings. Quite a coup, if you ask me.
Our Mother’s Day outing was a trip to Turner’s Creek. We got a short but sweet hike through the woods:
Down to the beach for a picnic gourmet pizza lunch from Evergrain (THANKS, DOUG THE BAKER!!):
August refused to share and demanded his own slice:
We hadn’t planned on going for a dip, but it’s pretty hard to say no when the sun is shining and life is good.
There were some rock-throwing demonstrations:
And lessons learned:
And a whole whole lot of laughs:
Soon enough, the kids started getting cold, and demanded to be dried off and bundled up.
We headed back up the trail towards home.
I couldn’t have asked for a better Mother’s Day. And I couldn’t be a happier mama. I sure do love my babies.
And I see my own mama in all three of them.
Happy Mother’s Day, all. Even a day late, give your mamas a big hug.
We are off to New York City for the day. A quick up and down and in and out. Just a brief hiatus from the uncluttered byways of Chestertown. Yes, we have a hankering for that exotic city air, its teeming populous, and the chorus of taxi cab horns.
We should be on our way home this time tomorrow and back to small-town life as we know it by tomorrow afternoon.
Yet, we cannot discount the possibility that we will be so taken with the city that we will stay. I’ve long been curious about whether I might thrive as a hedge fund manager, and Robbi has always wanted to be a Rockette.
If we don’t return (I consider the prospect unlikely, but possible), will someone tell Doug the Baker to ship up some sun buns? And will someone please feed Oscar? And water the plants? And make our books? Oh, and raise our children as upstanding, yet independent-minded citizens?