« January 2008 | Main | March 2008 »

February 29, 2008

A Tough Call

Well friends, we need your help. The time has come to name our child.

We have considered--and ultimately, rejected--such fine suggestions as Trogdor, Pile of Coke, and Machine Gun Boner and have settled on a few alternatives with real possibilities.

For a Boy

1) Don Johnson Swanson (one has to admit, it has a nice ring)
2) Tarzan Swanson (with this option, no middle name is needed, I think. The sheer portent of those two lovely syllables in "Tarzan" obviate the need for accompaniment.

For a Girl

1) Dawnn Jawnson Swanson (it wasn't until recently that I realized that our homage to everyone's favorite mid-80s television actor wasn't limited to our having a man-child; I do think that the double-N of Dawnn and the surprising spelling of Jawnson help increase the delight of this particular choice).

2) Gramangela Gentlyfierce Swanson (this came to me as if from on high; so complete was my happiness when I realized that not only did such a lovely sequence of syllables exist, but that there was no law of man or God that would keep me from bestowing them upon my little girl. Nothing at all . . . except Robbi).

Friends, we are at an impasse. There are two valid choices for both possibilities. We cannot know for now whether or not young Swanson Jr. will be a masculine child, but we can be prepared for whatever fate the stork might throw our way.

Chime in, if you will.

Posted by bogenamp at 06:15 AM

February 26, 2008

Our New Brest Friend

Our friends Courtney and Scott had a baby about seven weeks ago. His name is David, and I must admit that he is a rather cute little thing.

Anyone who feels so inclined may view photos of the many aspects of David on the family blog.

Now, Courtney has spent the last few months in almost total focus on being a mom. She has read the books, she has done the research, and now she is an expert on the various tools and components of parenting. And so we were delighted when she presented us with a gift the other day, complete with assurances that it was the most crucial, helpful, indispensable item available to the newly-appointed mother.

We opened the gift with great anticipation and discovered...

My Brest Friend

For those of you who do not know about My Brest Friend (and friends, until just the other day, I counted myself among you), My Brest Friend is a carefully-considered donut of firm, supportive foam rubber ensconced in a soft-yet-washable casing that may be strapped tightly around the midsection of the mother to provide a comfortable, reliable, broad, and convenient platform for the act of feeding.

Robbi was inspired and somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of it.

It did not take her long to discover that My Brest Friend isn't really designed for use by 8-month-pregnant ladies.

Very disappointed but resigned to the reality that we'd have to wait to properly enjoy the new Friendship, we contemplated putting My Brest Friend back on the high shelf with all the other currently dormant baby stuff. But then we had a better idea.

"Iggy's not eight months pregnant," I said.

"Wow, this is more fun than I've had since the day we shopped for the breast pump at Target," said Robbi.

"Yeah, that was great, but this is better," I said. "Do you think that Iggy is having as much fun as we are?" I asked.

Eventually we concluded that she probably wasn't, but we chalked the whole experience up to a teachable moment. Iggy has grown all too accustomed to being the baby around here, pampered and indulged.

We're trying to prepare her for the fact that things are going to change.

But, so far at least, she doesn't seem to understand.

Man's best friend, meet Mom's brest friend. Updates to come on how this all pans out.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:20 AM

February 25, 2008

Better than Nothing

Perhaps you are thinking that it is odd that I, who can ramble on and on about nothing much at all has been so silent in the wake of perhaps the most thrilling festival to hit Chestertown in decades. Believe me when I say that I want to write about the weekend and the fun we all had, but that I simply haven't had the time.

We are heavy into production of Volume 13, a book about nuns. We thought it would be nice to make the book in a rather complicated way and now are paying the price for our ambition. In 52 hours or so we will pull out of town in the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, en route to Philadelphia for the flower show.

For tonight, I will leave you with two things. This link to Robbi's blog sheds some light onto the first night of Idiots'Fest.

And this image of the ribs in mid-smoke give you a true glimpse into the steaming heart of what you missed if you made the grave error of choosing not to join us for the Fest.

I will post the rest of the story in days ahead, as well as pictures of a strange new baby-related device we were given the other day. Robbi grows ever more profound. 37 days to go...

Posted by bogenamp at 01:25 AM

February 19, 2008

The Festival

The Festival has come and gone and fun was had by all. I could not be happier with how things went but have not yet found the time or energy to commit to full documentation. A proper entry on Idiots'Fest will come tomorrow.

For today, I urge you to check out this link. If you will indulge me, click through the top ten list.

And note that Chestertown is in Kent County.

And note, shortly thereafter, how much more fun we all would have if you lived here with us.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:49 PM

February 14, 2008

Hot Off the Presses

The Chestertown paparazzi has discovered our little fest. I will let the following speak for itself.

Click on the images to get a closer view.

Note: contrary to appearances, there will be no boy scouts at Idiots'Fest.

Ming Weigel, you fool. Some things are worth getting fired over.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:48 AM

February 13, 2008

Ready to Rock

There has been far too much talk of babies on this blog of late. I'm sorry about that. The thing has yet to arrive and already it's dictating the conversation. Fortunately for all of us, a monumental event looms on the near horizon, an event of such intrigue and significance that even if the baby were here, we would leave it unattended in its baby contraption while we headed off to Idiots'Fest in all its glory.

What's that, you say? Idiots'Fest?

Yes, my friends, the festival is upon us. If you still need convincing, you just haven't taken a close enough look at who is performing and what they are going to be doing:

In case you are the sort that is swayed by pictures of grown men playing rock band in someone's basement, here's a little behind the scenes look into a festival rehearsal that went down in Williamstown in January.

Here is Rich Flynn, in his glory.

And Brian Wecht, master of the improbable.

Yes, he can play both instruments at once. He can and he will.

Here is Brian Slattery, uncertain what to do with my harmonica mic.

Rest assured, his uncertainty was short-lived.

Here is Aidan who, at 16, has at least 40 years of hard-driving drummer's angst stored up in his hard-driving drummer's heart.

Aidan is the core of the rock. Just you wait and see.

Of course, the other festival performers, Jim, Victor, Drew, Robbi, and me, aren't even pictured here. Your heart is racing with just this tiny taste of what marvels await. I'm pointing this out to save you the soul-numbing disappointment that you will surely feel if, come Sunday morning, you wake to find the Rock has passed you by.

I'm talking to you, Ming Weigel. If you are a no-show at Idiots'Fest, I will have to go on believing that you do not actually exist.

I'm talking to all of you who are not Ming Weigel, too.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:57 AM

February 10, 2008


What have we been up to lately? Last Thursday we had a reading/talk at the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College.

Here is the little press release the College used to advertise the event.

We were asked to talk about our work and our collaboration, so we focused on two different books, talking about the differing processes that led to the creation of the two. As an example of a book that I wrote first and Robbi illustrated second, we chose Death of Henry, a macabre tale in which a bunch of donkeys get stabbed. As an example of the opposite approach, in which Robbi starts by drawing a bunch of pictures and then forces me to make a sensible narrative out of them, we read and talked about The Clearing, in which a poor songbird is senselessly strangled.

I think we managed to make two points: that there is more than one way to collaborate on an illustrated book and that Robbi and I are kind of cruel to animals.

Yesterday we took a trip to Dover, Delaware, where there are big stores like Sam's Club and Target and where there is no sales tax. We went to Sam's club in search of new tube socks, but we stayed for the hotdogs.

I ate my hotdog really fast and then I was sorry that it was gone. Robbi, on the other hand, took her time and still had a lot of hotdog left. I asked her if I could have some of hers. She said no.

I asked her if she could at least try not to enjoy the hotdog in a hurtful, demonstrative way.

She said no.

We walked the aisles of Sam's like the dizzy consumers that we are.

I briefly contemplated buying a 65-inch plasma flatscreen but then I got distracted by the 8-cylinder dune buggy. In and out of the shopping cart went a 30-foot trampoline, a yard fountain, and a log cabin playhouse for my child. In the end, we left with my new socks and some veggies for Bob and Seiko.

Already exhausted, we headed to Target with a list of baby items.

The baby section of Target is designed to confuse first-time parents and also to beguile them into spending all of their money. I had never seen such an ocean of small, soft, pastel-colored items. I was flooded with warm, protective feelings for my unborn charge. How could I not buy everything that I was suddenly certain he or she would soon desire?

How could I not, for example, purchase the penguin bowling set?

Miraculously, we demonstrated some restraint. We did purchase a changing pad, a boppy (apparently a must-have item), some terribly small socks, and a few other necessary-yet-potentially-upsetting items that will remain unnamed. I feel that we have the necessary items to get the child through it's first 20 minutes or so, at least. After that, all bets are off. I'm counting on the fact that more than a few people have volunteered to help out. I'm guessing that we have sitters lined up for at least the first 14 months, at which point, I'm hoping the child is housebroken, weaned, and fluent in at least two languages.

Iggy is starting to sense that changes are afoot. She has been getting agitated when Robbi and I hug, for example, and whenever I talk to the belly, she tries to insert her nose between me and the baby. To ease her anxiety, we have been indulging her somewhat more than I usually would.

Today I spent a few hours on the other side of the barn, moving boxes in preparation for the Flower Show.

Bob made this clever lift to help move boxes from the hayloft down to the kiln room.

Of course, I cracked my head into the boom arm within the first two minutes. So Robbi put the genius hat to new (and very helpful) use.

Here's a good shot of Seiko's kiln.

One of the items being moved to make room for more "important" things, my Amiga 500, the computer I got back in 1991.

It was a fantastic machine and I refuse to get rid of it. Robbi hates the Amiga 500 so, so much. Every time we move she rants about how the Amiga 500 comes with us.

Here is the most recent belly shot.

Robbi looks displeased because she thought that I was going to take a picture of her cucumbers, of which she was, apparently, very proud.

So here they are.

Cucumbers with lemon pepper and salt are a tasty snack, especially after 11:00pm, given that they are light and not likely to sit in the stomach all night like a plate of nachos would. And yet I think that I will make a plate of nachos now, because in 53 days I am scheduled to become a responsible adult, and for now I will make the most of my dwindling foolishness.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:01 PM

February 06, 2008

Things I Never Knew

There is a new magnet on our fridge. Here it is.

To explain: Robbi and I went to "Breastfeeding Basics" at the hospital Monday night. It was the follow-up to our Pregnancy and Childbirth class. We walked in the door and I immediately sensed trouble. Whereas our childbirth class had consisted of four couples, meaning expectant mothers and fathers, there was nary a daddy to be seen in breastfeeding class. I immediately questioned my own legitimacy, but the midwife who was leading the class ensured me that fathers play a far more prominent role in the breastfeeding process than one might expect.

As the class progressed, it became clear that I had learned nothing since Saturday.

But the nice lady was patient and soon I had it figured out. Apparently all babies prefer to be held head up.

The above is how I will feed my child, but not until a month has passed and it is a confident practitioner of proper breastfeeding technique. Which is not as intuitive and straightforward as I had always expected, apparently.

I will feed my child only after the nourishment in question has been extracted from its place of origin by an instrument looking not unlike this, a pump by Medela.

After the breast pump explanation, I turned to Robbi and asked whether in her carefree girlhood she had ever imagined that she would have occasion to purchase a machine manufactured to extract fluids from her body. Robbi did not answer the question, her face a tableau of pain and consternation.

There are several positions one might employ in breastfeeding one's baby. The positions have names like "Cradle", "Cross-Cradle", and ""Side-Lying". There is also the "Football" hold, used only by running backs who have to feed their babies in the middle of games.

In order to demonstrate the various approaches, the midwife employed this friendly plush breast, which is available, so she says, from many sex ed catalogs.

It has an elastic strap on the opposite side so that it can be held, puppet style, during demonstrations. The outer skin may be peeled away for the purpose of revealing and explaining the functioning of the interior anatomy. It is a very complex thing, the breast. I thought I understood it, but I was wrong. I am disenchanted in light of our class. I am back to square one.

But back to the new refrigerator sticker. You may already know it, but apparently breast feeding is a very good idea for all sorts of reasons. Not only is the breast milk composed with an ever-changing blend of nutrients, fat, and proteins for the baby (changing to adapt to its changing needs), but it transfers immunity to many diseases from the mother to the baby, is easy to digest, and apparently, leads to a higher IQ than one might expect to find in formula-fed babies. Moms who breastfeed are, according to the research, less likely to get breast and ovarian cancer, and breastfeeding helps moms get back into pre-pregnancy shape faster. The benefits of breastfeeding seem so widespread and astonishing that it's hard to imagine that there is not some degree of exaggeration in play. Are breastfed babies also able to fly and move boulders with their minds, I wonder? It seems not out of keeping with the rest of the research findings.

We will breastfeed because, well, we live in a barn and have no good excuse not to.

Plus, look at that cute little sucker.

That's right...born to breastfeed.

Sorry to all of you who started reading this blog thinking it was going to be about insulation and sheetrock. I admittedly seem to have strayed from my original mission.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:19 PM

February 02, 2008

At the Hospital

We spent eight hours in the Chester River Hospital Center today learning about pregnancy and childbirth. I went into the experience deeply skeptical that there was anything to learn. I already knew it all. Or so I thought. Apparently, this is not the correct way to hold the baby.

Did I feel foolish when the nurse pointed out my error in front of the other expectant fathers? I did. But I felt redeemed when Robbi showed herself to be no more adept.

After a little instruction, we both came around.

Overall, the class was very informative. We learned about the various stages of labor and childbirth, practiced some breathing exercises, and watched a movie that took a nitty gritty look at the mechanics of bringing a baby into the world. The most startling revelations, at least for me, were in the realm of blood and guts. What happens in the delivery room stays in the delivery room. At least I hope this is true.

The Chester River Hospital is a small, community hospital, which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. There are four delivery rooms. On very busy days all four will be occupied, but on average, there are 25-30 births a month, so the chances of having to compete for the attention of the doctor on any given day is low. Which is a very good thing, given that there is only one OB in Kent County.

At my request, the nurse arranged for us to meet a real live baby. In fact, we saw two. They were incredibly small. I had a hard time accepting that they were the same sort of creature as I. I am having a hard time accepting that two months from today, should the current projection hold, I will be charged with the ongoing care and maintenance of a similarly small and bewildered thing. I mean, what am I going to do with it? Presumably it will want for entertainment, stimulation, edification. With what kernels of wisdom will I fill its tiny brain?

Here is one of the rooms in the maternity section.

Here's a closer look at the birthing bed, complete with stirrups that may be whisked into proper position with a mere flick of the wrist.

Although the bed seems pure and white, I have it on good authority that very messy things happen here with great regularity. I think it would have been better if we had been designed with a zipper that opens when the child is ready to emerge from the oven, or a drawer with a recessed handle that could be pulled when the appropriate meter suggested that the proper time had come for removal.

At the Chester River Hospital, babies stay in the room with their mothers throughout their stay. Rather than being whisked away to some nursery to lie with other babies, that is. Here is the baby's bed, complete with a warming rack akin to that which keeps one's hot dogs warm at a gas station.

Should any of you harbor thoughts of visiting Robbi and her baby in the Chester River Hospital, I will post the visiting hours.

The nurses of the Chester River Hospital, in an effort to protect mothers, newborns, and even the weary fathers, allow visitation only three hours a day: noon to 1:00pm, 3:00-4:00pm, and 7:00-8:00pm. Debbie, the head nurse and our teacher for today looked deadly serious when she explained the visiting rules. I'd not cross her, if I were you.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:46 PM

February 01, 2008

The Other Half of the Equation

Several of you have asked for evidence of Robbi's distant path, and so I did a little digging into the family vault. The real treasures are ensconced in albums over at Bob and Seiko's house and will be offered at a later date, but the following shots were part of a stack of unbound photos that Robbi pulls out now and again when she's feeling nostalgic.

Apparently, Robbi rode her bouncy horse with such enthusiasm that the supports would come off the floor, causing those with a greater sense of cause and effect to worry.

This shot was taken for Robbi's first passport. Do not think that you are alone in thinking that she looks like some sort of refugee. Once, when we lived in North Adams, Massachusetts, I left my wallet on the top of my car before driving off. A few hours later, we received a call from the police station. Someone had found the wallet and returned it. When I retrieved the wallet all of the cash and credit cards were still there; the only thing that had been removed was the other copy of this picture, which I had, for some reason, decided to carry around with me. I still consider it a very creepy sort of theft.

Moving along the Robbi timeline, here we find her still obsessed with plastic horses. I have it on good authority that not long after this picture was taken, Robbi cried and howled wretchedly when told that the time had come to go home.

Lastly--and I dare to post this photo only because I'm fairly certain that Robbi has no access to any of my demoralizing mid-adolescent photographs--here is a shot of yuletide cheer some year when Robbi clearly had little to be happy about.

I cite this photo as evidence that even if our child is an attractive baby, there is no guarantee that he or she will make a clean run though life unscathed by passages of developmental blight.

My apologies to Maiko and Roji for any objection they might have to being thus pictured. I promise to post some doozies of my own in days to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:00 PM