This will be one of those not-short posts. Because life has been ongoing while I have not been telling you about it. I’ll try to limit the volume of words so as not to disrupt the narrative continuity as you ignore them in favor of the pictures.
We’ll start with a castle. Every year, at the end of summer, we take a trip to Pennsylvania Dutch Country for a daylong visit to Dutch Wonderland. It’s something the kids anticipate all year long.
Part of the ritual is the height-check. Vertical inches are rewarded with access to color-coded rides. Poor Kato seems eternally stuck in emerald, a distinction that renders him ineligible for the bumper cars.
Augie, deemed emerald by a whisker, was excited.
Dutch Wonderland is a relic of a former, better time with superior typography.
We spent a good part of the day on the Frog Hopper, a ride for which all three kids qualified. Though you cannot tell by looking at this photo, it was Augie’s favorite. I know this because, late in the day when the lines were short, he rode on it eleven consecutive times.
If there was a theme for the day, other than heart-popping glee, it was Augie pretending to be having an awful time.
Alden went on her 27th (or so I estimate).
And, in case you were wondering, we were not so reckless as to assume the risk of equine activities. A family must draw the line at some point.
What else? We celebrated summer’s end by grilling irresponsibly delicious salmon.
I crossed the bridge at daybreak just after the rain stopped, and the bridge was even more beautiful than usual.
Robbi drew stuff. It’s what she does.
After watching his siblings learn to kick and punch with style and precision for several years, Kato decided to slide into a dobak and try his hand at Tang Soo Do.
We attended a dinner party at which we discovered that Jesus even loves the baby dinosaurs. Did you know? We did not know.
I got up close and personal with the stained glass awning of our local theater. It’s really quite lovely.
August and I built some bookshelves for my mom.
Mickey and his various clones had a rowdy night and woke up feeling woozy.
We visited with friends on the other side of the bridge and blew bubbles.
I sorted and stacked and packaged books for the annual Small Press Expo. Suddenly, there are more than 60 books in our combined Idiots’ and Bobbledy catalog. Getting ready for shows is now a study in what not to bring.
Ironically, the one book we needed to make more copies of in advance of the show was the original version of Babies Ruin Everything, which we are contractually allowed to keep on producing and selling, even as its distant cousin prepares to enter the world next July.
Robbi cleaned her desk, in the process answering the burning question of where in the hell all the glasses were.
Kato, persevering through his first three Tang Soo Do classes and learning to count to five in Korean, was awarded his first belt.
I spilled a bunch of Cheerios.
While I was cleaning them up, I became the victim of identity theft.
Kato started kindergarten.
August learned that one doesn’t necessarily have to brush one’s own teeth.
We met the baby of our dear friends Dahna and Sarah and contemplated claiming him off waivers.
We ate Ethiopian food for the first (and definitely not last) time.
We arrived at the Small Press Expo with Kato in tow. Alden and August each spent the weekend with different friends in Chestertown. It was the first time in their lives that all three kids have been separated from one another for a few days in a row.
Robbi and I set up our booth. Kato established his domain under the Bobbledy table.
Though he did emerge periodically to hang out with Annie Koyama, the matron saint of the independent comics world and Kato’s dear friend since their chance meeting last spring in New York City. Inspired by Annie’s love of Star Wars, Kato made her a book starring “Darth Vader’s Mom.”
A few hours after we arrived, our booth was set up, comprising a Bobbledy table and an Idiots’Books table, set perpendicular to one another.
Though the show had many highlights, meeting this excellent person whose t-shirt matched our crappy thank you thank you thank you thank you bags may have been the crowning moment.
Unless that honor goes to this moment, in which a fellow named Matthew bought a copy of my masterwork, Matthew Draws.
Or maybe it was this stretch of beautiful minutes, during which Kato invited a fellow small person into his domain and taught her to play Doodle Jump while her parents browsed above.
Or was it when this kid payed honor to my words and Robbi’s illustrations by affixing one of the speech bubble stickers from this year’s Bobbledy Make Your Own Book contest to his own cheek, in a flourish of genius that ranks high in the annals of performance art?
I also submit for consideration, the blissful five minutes I walked the floor of SPX as the temporary guardian of Charlie, whose apparent skepticism should not be interpreted as a referendum on my company. Again, I contemplated acquiring him, but his parents refused to trade him for books, which was all that my budget allowed.
Once the thrill of Doodle Jump wore off (as it tends to at the 11-hour mark), Kato noticed that he was surrounded by finer forms of pleasure. And so he started reading.
And eating Oreo milkshakes, which is how we roll on the breakfast front when it comes to special weekends out of town with one’s parents and no siblings to have to share with.
Sunday at SPX brought another highlight, a chance to catch up with old pal Kate Beaton, who we met as a co-panelist when she came to Washington College for the Pen World Voices Festival many years ago now. Since then, Kate has gone on to full-on rockstar status. Her new book, Step Aside, Pops sits across the New York Times Bestseller list at the moment. Her work is a smart, hilarious, and perfectly-tuned balance of humor and history. We think she’s a genius, and we’re so happy to hug her once or twice a year.
Not to be forgotten is our interview, late Sunday afternoon, with SPX legends Joe and Rusty, who are the only people I know cool enough to have their faces printed on microphones. We talked for about 30 seconds about making books and for about 9-and-a-half minutes about the pleasures of being ridiculous.
Then SPX ended. We went home. Someone spilled cereal, but this time it wasn’t me.
We had the latest iteration of our weekly alphabet-themed meals.
The nachos were sublime. We went around the table and noticed various things (Augie’s shirt was dirty, Alden’s tooth was just slightly looser than it had been the day before). We nominated one another for awards. I was recognized for being “nice,” though this may just have been an attempt on the part of Alden to stick with the theme.
Between dinner and nectarine cake, we got down to the ninja moves.
Kato did his best tree pose.
Augie flailed about in a manner that cannot be described as graceful.
Alden did a graceful quadro limb flourish.
Robbi kind of sort of looked like she new what she was doing.
And I…well, I leave it to you to determine. Let’s just say I owned the Storm Shadow GI Joe figure in my youth and leave it at that.
As is the tradition at the end of each alphabet meal, we draw the letter for the following week.
We did a little C-themed brainstorming and never got past dessert: cookies, candy, cotton candy, cheesecake, cobbler, crumble, cannoli, creme brule. It’s going to be quite a feast.
What else? August kind of halfway shouted and halfway yawned.
We took a trip across the bridge to pick up the latest Bobbledy Book from the excellent people of Indigo Ink.
Never one to miss the opportunity to visit Costco, I took my three ninjas for some bulk shopping while Robbi stayed home and drew stuff.
It’s what she does.
What else? It seems we must be coming to the end. But not quite yet. We went to the Kent County Public Library and found ourselves pinned to the board by the front door. Apparently, we are speaking there a week from Wednesday. I hope we do a good job.
Kato’s best friend moved to Colorado over the summer, an otherwise lamentable fact that has had the silver lining of spurring an eager epistolary conversation. In fact, Alden’s and August’s best friends ALSO moved away this summer, so we’ve been burning through even more stamps than usual this fall.
This weekend we went to a birthday party in which toilet paper chucking was a sanctioned activity. With prizes.
We left the party, and headed north to Canadensis, PA, where my dear friend David has a house on a mountainside. I love Chestertown, but I miss woods and rolling mountains. Augie and I sat by the window and watched the morning come.
And when the others woke, we hopped in the golf cart and drove the length of the runway. David is a pilot, and his property is actually a public airport built in the 1920s (it’s the oldest airport in the Poconos). He and his partner, Aaron, have made a wonderful website that features the history and future of the place.
When I got home, Robbi (who had been drawing stuff) joined me in preparing the latest Bobbledy mailing.
I’ll be dropping many bins of envelopes off at the post office later today. Which is to say, mailboxes throughout this wide nation (not to mention those in Belgium, France, Scotland, and Sri Lanka) will soon be filled with the tale of a misunderstood garden snake named Marvin.
Oh yes. We also watched the moon do its thing last night.
Our favorite part was the knowledge that so many others were doing the same thing at the exact same moment, craning their necks skyward, hoping to see something rare and wonderful.
And that’s the update. Happy Monday to you all.