This afternoon, we head to NYC. Tomorrow is a very big day. At 11:00am we have a rather exciting meeting with a prominent member of the publishing community. We are not at liberty to say more at this time but will hopefully be able to fill you in later. At 2:00pm, we are meeting with a producer from the MSNBC show Your Business who is considering doing a piece on Robbi and me and our various creative” business” ventures (apparently, he is willing to take the word “business” with a grain of salt as it applies to us). At 4:00pm we arrive at the Society of Illustrators to set up our projector and make sure all the technology is in place. And at 5:30pm. we take the stage, delivering the keynote for the biannual Educator’s Symposium (http://www NULL.societyillustrators NULL.org/Events-and-Programs/Special-Events/2014/Educators-Symposium-2014---Schedule/Educators-Symposium-2014--Schedule NULL.aspx).
Like I said, a very big day. And so we are driving up this evening in hopes of getting a decent night of sleep without children or dog (who insists on having breakfast earlier and earlier these days).
For now, I will share two old photos I dragged off the server while hunting images Robbi needed for a project she is working on.
Here is two-year-old Kato, loaded for bear on Halloween night.
And here is four-year-old Alden, curly as can be in the pumpkin patch.
Yes, I am excited looking forward to the good things ahead. But I also take such pleasure at looking at the recent past. So much has happened in the last two years. So much will happen in the two to come. For now, stuck squarely in the elusive present, I think I’ll pack the car. I often take comfort in the mundane when stuck in that space between nostalgia and imagining what will be.
Here’s how it goes in the barn. I get up far earlier than I want to, usually between 5:00 and 5:30, because it’s the only time I get to my damn self all day.
On a good day, I get at least an hour of writing in before the tiny herd of tiny boy feet thunders its way from the bedroom to the studio, demanding love, affirmation, and breakfast.
Usually, we eat breakfast at the table, because it is the civilized thing to do.
When all else fails, we at least attempt to be civilized.
Today, even civilization failed. I was working on a writing project that was due to my colleagues at the start of the business day.
I gave the boys the option of eating at the dining room table (I swear!), but they claimed to prefer to dine with me. And so we thumbed our nose at culinary rectitude and set up a makeshift mess hall on the floor of the studio.
Kato was game. August was not.
Sensing that his grasp on humanity was quickly slipping away, August smoldered in silent protest while I hammered away at my keyboard, attempting to say Great Things in a Transparent and Meaningful way.
The next time I turned my head, the herd mentality had taken over. Or maybe it was just his rumbling stomach.
Alden, who usually sleeps in until the last possible moment, is still civilized, so far as I know.
…Jodi has been printing and printing and printing. The Haywire studio will be open to the public for the first time during the River Arts Studio Tour (http://chestertownriverarts NULL.org/events/studio-tour/), which takes place over two weekends (Oct 25-26 and Nov 1-2). If you’re curious to see what we’ve been up to, please do stop by.
What else? I made a delicious smoothie.
And Alden had hat day at school.
And August had “Learn how to be smooth with the ladies” day at school.
Apparently, he didn’t fare so well on his maiden voyage. I’ve taught him all my moves. But wasn’t nearly enough.
Also, I have been binding hundreds of books. The next Bobbledy mailing goes out this week. If you have let your kid’s club membership expire, now’s the time to renew (http://bobbledyshop NULL.com/products/membership-renewal).
On Friday, I stopped at the world’s most beautiful and well-provisioned rest stop, the estimable Delaware House.
Even the stonework on the front patio is lovely.
Yesterday morning, I paused to notice how beautiful is the building in which I get to spend my days.
Later that afternoon, I took my children to a birthday party at a vertically impressive indoor playground.
My favorite part were the weirdo signs on the bathrooms.
Not only do you have to be a girl to go through this door, but you have to be wearing a clown dress with a huge collar.
And only use this one if you are a portly boy in a ski jacket.
The playground was in Smyrna, which is not far from Christiana. And so we were technically within the gravitational pull of Costco.
We did not fight it.
This morning, Alden found August in the laundry basket and used the opportunity to read him a story.
Contrary to how it looks in the photo, the book was not on fire.
Today (Sunday), we went to visit our friends Amy and Glenn. We paid a visit to Amy’s pottery studio, which is full of lovely, curated spaces. Like this hanging cabinet of small wonders.
And this shelf of glazes and other chemicals.
Glenn is a chef. An excellent chef. He served food that made me emotional. Our friend Ben was also there. The brunch invitation had included a suggestion that pajamas were acceptable fare. Apparently, Ben does not take suggestions like these lightly.
We gave Amy and Glenn a few of our sockeye fillets earlier this week, and in the mean time, Glenn has been curing them. Using a special knife made specifically for cutting thin slices of cured fish, he cut thin slices of cured fish.
Even more miraculously, a few minutes later, he let me give it a try. Robbi does everything she can to keep me away from knives.
If you don’t know, lox is among my favorite things in the world, along with seaweed salad and my children.
Glenn grilled flatbread on his Weber. He sliced red and green tomatoes from his garden. He pickled some onions. The assembled offerings resulted in the single most delicious lox-based sandwich thing I have ever experienced.
I ate it and then I ate it again. And then I ate it again. I finished all the lox and had to go back and cut more.
While I was embarrassing myself, Robbi demonstrated the proper way to be smooth with the ladies.
August might have taken a few notes, but he was too busy at the sandbox.
It was an excellent stretch of days, thanks to friends and fish and and the combination thereof.
Last week, we were invited to spend an hour or so at Alden’s new school, Henry Highland Garnett Elementary School (http://hhges NULL.kent NULL.k12 NULL.md NULL.us/) (site of the elementary education of one Robbi K. Behr).
Of course, we went. And, of course, we brought the whole family. Kato and August have been very curious about this strange new place where Alden has been spending all her days.
Our first task upon reaching her classroom was locating her desk. It took a bit of hunting about, but eventually we found some clues.
And I’m not talking about her name, of course, but of the self-portrait/puppet that was attached to her chair. I’m sure it’s impossible for you to tell which of these two heads is Alden’s and which is the puppet. I’d tell you, but I’m a bit unclear myself.
Our activity for the evening was to go around the classroom and review a series of color-coded posters, each of which dispensed some sound parenting advice. The idea was that we would check a box each time we read (and considered the weighty implications of) a poster. When all of the boxes were checked, we were to report back to the teacher as a means of proving our preparedness to raise a first grader.
The first sign we encountered gave us pause.
Although we do occasionally go to the library, I think it would be overstatement to describe our visits as frequent. Alden’s face makes clear her disgruntlement at discovering what the parents of first graders are SUPPOSED to be doing.
Her spirits couldn’t be kept down long, however. Soon we discovered another sign, this one purple. Surely THIS one would dispense some advice we were already following.
And, in fact, we DO talk to our children quite often, and we also do our best to listen to what they have to say.
But then we moved onto the black sign. And winced a bit.
While it is true that we don’t technically even HAVE a TV due to the fact that I disconnected our satellite in a moment of self-righteous frugality last winter, we do have streaming Netflix and we are occasionally guilty of handing them the controller, saying “here” and disappearing into the studio for a few hours.
I’d say “absolute limits” and we are not cozy bedfellows.
Which is why one comes to Back to School night after all. Not just to see your kid’s classroom, but to learn and stuff.
Onward to the orange sign. As everyone knows, Robbi takes no pleasure in reading.
The only magazines, newspapers, and books she handles on a regular basis are the ones for which she is drawing pictures.
Because of our natural aversion to books, we were collectively shocked (though none more than Alden) to learn that the right kind of parents are reading them to their children as much as 30 minutes a day.
It was shortly after this photo was taken that Alden asked her teacher if she knew of any families who might be willing to acquire an extra kid.
To preserve our flagging sense of self worth, we took a break from reading the signs and went over to check out Alden’s “bucket” into which a colorful fuzz ball is placed every time she does something good.
It was comforting to see that Alden had been good at least a dozen times since the start of school.
I requested details on the nature of her goodness but got only blank stares in return.
And so we returned to the rules.
We have to allow that our children are exposed to various “interesting experiences” by virtue of proximity to our unpredictable lifestyles. They go to Alaska. They’ve been to Japan. To get to the bathroom they have to venture down an unfinished staircase, through a gauntlet of rickety shelving and through a heavy fire door.
But what about the pink rule? Alas, Alden has never written a shopping list and I’m not sure she has ever attempted to read a restaurant menu. She does, however, make an attempt to read road signs, or at least to scan them for letters (when we are playing Alphabet Bingo on long trips).
And what about the blue rule?
The children do not yet set the table, but they are often encouraged to clear. Further, they are required to clean up the clutter in the living room before launching into unregulated marathons of Netflix streaming.
Admittedly, we do own a variety of books. The problem, of course, is that many of them are written primarily for the amusement of adults.
While we were bravely facing our parental shortcomings, Alden was admiring her winning set of school supplies.
Basically, there’s nothing that one can’t accomplish when equipped with a scissors, a glue stick, and a box of Crayolas.
Perhaps the evening’s most exciting discovery was the concept of the “mystery number.” Alden had come home talking about it in vague and shifting terms a couple of times, but any attempt we had made to discover the true meaning of the exercise were lost in the swirling winds of six-year-old obfuscation techniques.
Now we DO understand what the mystery number is and how it works, both from a practical and pedagogical perspective. And now we can tell you all about it.
But then we’d have to kill you.
Alden is lucky to have not one, but TWO teachers this year. In addition to classroom admiral Mrs. Hopkins (right), there is Mrs. Iller, who is a teaching assistant currently working on her degree at Washington College.
Alden seems very happy with her school, with her teachers, with her glue stick, and with the mystery numbers.
And so far as we can tell, these are the only metrics that matter.
As we were walking out the door, we saw proof positive that this school year will be (incredibly) “the best.” A seemingly outrageous claim, given the number of schools and the number of years in which schools have been happening.
And yet, it is a claim we are willing to humor. With great anticipation.
If only Robbi and I can rise to the occasion and figure out how to follow the damn rules.
Was shopping at the Acme with the kids yesterday afternoon. We were there for lasagna ingredients. Now that the morning temperatures are in the 50s, it feels like lasagna season again. And I do make a mean lasagna.
We found the onions and leeks (my secret ingredient); the noodles and the ricotta cheese (must be whole milk based for proper taste). We resisted the many tempting items placed along the aisles for the express purpose of inciting my children to new heights of consumer desire.
We were making our way around the final turn, the checkout line in sight, when we passed one of those end-of-aisle displays full of dish detergent.
Dish detergent and a terrifying zombie clown skeleton with polka-dotted shoulder pads and a festive red bow.
He was just sitting there, daring us to buy some Arm & Hammer Plus Oxi Clean. Or was he daring us NOT to? I’m still not sure. But whether or not it was the right move, I opted to push the cart quickly past before he could do further damage to my soul.
Kato, of course, needed to have him. I heard various arguments as to the necessity of owning the clown/skeleton as we unloaded the groceries onto the conveyor. The need was growing desperate when, suddenly, thankfully, it was replaced by the need to own some M&Ms. And then, moments later, by the need to run with Alden to the scratch-off lottery ticket machine to examine the wonder therein.
It has been a good stretch of days. Weather not too hot. Schedule not too busy. Plenty of time with the kids.
Perhaps my favorite moment was turning right from Water Street onto 213 and seeing these skies open up above me as I ran onto the bridge.
There was something in the light’s determination to make itself known through the blanket of clouds that felt vaguely holy. Some runs hurt more than others, and some runs (like this one) leave me feeling better than I did before I set out.
What else? The letterpress printing continues apace. New plates arrive each day. This one below is the black plate for a three-color broadside we’re making for the upcoming River Arts studio tour. We’re going to print the two color plates ahead of time and visitors will have the opportunity to print the black plate themselves on our Chandler & Price.
It should be fun. You can’t see the very fine print in this photo, but some fun is had at the expense of Kennedyville. For those of you not from these parts, Kennedyville is even smaller than Chestertown. And thus susceptible to reckless mockery.
Last week, Alden had a one-hour early dismissal, so she and I took the opportunity to loiter a while on High Street, getting ice cream from Stam’s.
And visiting with our neighborhood’s newest arrival: Willow Rae, tiny daughter of Doug the Baker.
I’ve spent a lot of time at playgrounds this week, a lot of time pushing small people eager to test the limits of their boldness.
I’ve spent a lot of time admiring Kato’s premature facial hair this week. Draw a kid a mustache, and you’ll have the pleasure of admiring it for a day or so. Teach a kid how to make his own scotch tape mustaches and you’ll get that same pleasure endlessly.
Alden had her very first gymnastics lesson this past weekend. For her, it was an affirming presentation of natural ability combined with a sobering reminder of all the skills she has to learn. The verdict: she liked it. A lot. We will be heading back next week.
Visiting a friend in Easton on Saturday, we had the good luck to come across (without stepping on) a surprisingly lackadaisical praying mantis. The kids kept close tabs on his slow and not terribly steady progress across a long front step.
For the most part, we’ve been leaving Robbi alone, and she has been getting a remarkable amount of work accomplished, which had been her hope, after all.
But a few times each day, we do see her, whether for an evening meal or a walk around the block.
And now it is Monday, and so we start it all again. I hope you all are well, whoever and wherever you are.