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November 30, 2008

Soccer Mom

Yesterday we took our trusty Sentra Steve in for an oil change. When the guys at Geno's called to say that it was time to pick up the car, they shared the bad news: Steve was not thriving. Apparently, his exhaust system was one trip down a bumpy road away from falling off entirely. Additionally, the struts were shot and the axle was about to break. And the clutch needed replacement. It was a sad conversation.

For point of reference, here is Steve in his glory:

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Robbi and I reflected on our situation, trying for the first time to see Steve not as the beloved family member that he has surely proven himself to be these past five years, but as the warty, bruised, imperfect auto that he has become. To Steve's litany of ailments, we had to add the following:

1) driver's side window that will not go down
2) broken glove compartment that will not shut
3) leaking trunk that, consequently, reeks with mildew and damages anything placed therein
4) rear bumper held on with rusted wire
5) various deep gouges/scratches on interior
6) various superficial scrapes and dings in body
7) "check engine light" stuck perpetually in "on" position
8) broken light in radio, rendering it impossible to see what station you are looking for at night
9) stains and wear throughout upholstery surface
10) multiple dog nose smudges on every window surface

It was a depressing calculus. We made a tough decision. And spent some time on the internet. Yesterday Robbi found a car that seemed to fit our new baby/dog/bookmaking lifestyle. It was, alas, a minivan.

Today we drove across the bridge to Laurel and set eyes upon the yet-to-be-named newest member of our family.

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She is a Nissan Quest.

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An enormous vehicle, capable of seating seven adults comfortably.

Or of seating two adults, one baby, one 82 pound dog, and crates of books quite comfortably.

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It even has a nifty space-age control panel.

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But it's a mini-van, you say.

True, I admit. But it is a sexy one, according to the experts.

As excited as we were about the prospects of the new, roomy, functional car, we were both feeling pretty blue about losing Steve. He was our first major purchase together and has taken us to and fro so reliably for the past five years. From Williamstown to Savannah to Baltimore to Chestertown. With many sidetrips along the way. Robbi took it especially hard.

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It was difficult saying goodbye.

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Eventually she came to the conclusion that Steve was moving on from us for positive reasons. He was headed not to the junk yard but to college, where he would learn how to be a better, more fully self-realized car.

And really, given that the new car is a Nissan, we're really keeping things within the family.

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I am pleased with the new car.

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When we got back home, we brought Iggy out to make the introduction.

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She was wary at first, but soon warmed to the car on account of the ample room it provided. Iggy is an antsy traveler. She will now have the option of running laps as we drive.

Farewell, Steve. You've been an outstanding car. Hello, middle age. We are slightly more prepared for you now than we were just this morning. We will try to embrace you as graciously as possible.

Please do your best to return the favor.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:34 AM

November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Recap

There was a turkey.

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Its aroma was intoxicating.

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I was very thankful.

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Bob and Seiko were thankful, too. Together, we gorged on turkey, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potato/apple casserole, green bean/fried onion casserole, mashed turnips, mustard green/tofu scramble, hot buns...

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And apple pie.

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Alden ate her foot.

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Posted by bogenamp at 09:15 AM

November 25, 2008

Industrial Revolution

When Robbi and I made our first book A Bully Named Chuck in the spring of '93, we trimmed all four sides of every single page with an x-acto knife. The book is nearly 200 pages long. Making each copy was extremely time consuming.

For the past years, we have been using a Carl rotary trimmer, a nice desktop device capable of trimming 20 or so sheets of paper at once.

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A clear improvement, but still a rather slow proposition when thinking about producing a long book, or a whole pile of long books. I estimate that we have produced approximately 10,000 copies of our various books over the past two years, all of which have been trimmed by the Carl. I do not have the strength to estimate how many hours of paper trimming that number represents.

Let's just say I was extremely happy to open my early Christmas present from Robbi the other day, my very own professional quality heavy duty guillotine cutter, capable of slicing through 250 sheets at once.

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As shown:

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For a test run, we put four old copies of National Geographic in the slicer.

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It was like a hot knife through butter.

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I was struck dumb at the ease and wonder. I was thrilled. I was bitterly resentful of the wasted hours of my life. But only for a second. Mostly I was pleased as punch thinking about the hours to be saved in the years ahead.

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The new cutter is an epiphany. Thank you, Robbi. Anyone who wants to see a demo, just bring your old magazines by and we will cut them into tiny, tiny slices.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:47 PM

November 24, 2008

Learning to Eat

Robbi and I go through a lot of paper in the course of any given day. Trimmed bits of books, rough drafts, rejected doodles, pizza boxes, etc. We have a large can that we use for paper recycling, but more often than not it overflows by the end of the week. So we've been trying a new method of recycling some of the paper in-house.

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It's a slow and inconsistent process, but every little bit helps, I suppose.

The other major flaw in this system is that the baby will eat only so much paper before demanding a blow pop. Often my blow pop.

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Green apple is her favorite.

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Now I don't begrudge the child a taste or two as a means of getting the inky pulpy taste out of her mouth. But she has yet to develop the concept of "share."

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Nor does she feel any shame when I point out her shortcomings.

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Beyond paper and blow pops, her palate has expanded to any manner of fruit and vegetables, pancakes (of which she had three for breakfast this morning), yogurt, rice, various pre-packaged baby cookies, pizza crusts, cheerios, Japanese rice crackers, miso soup, and apple pie. She will eat literally anything that she can get her hands on.

Anything.

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Of this omnivorousness, I am tremendously proud. I am wondering daily whether the time has come to buy her her first Chipotle.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:43 PM

November 23, 2008

Partyka

One of the main reasons Robbi and I go to shows like MoCCA and SPX is to meet the other people who do what we do, or at least the people who do things in the same universe of what we do. There are a lot of people out there who feel compelled to create and produce books, and it turns out, we like some of them a lot. Case in point: Shawn Cheng, who draws things like this.

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And Matt Weigle, who draws things like this:

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They are two of the guys behind Partyka, a group of artists who create and promote narrative graphic art, though those are my words, not theirs.

They are talented, imaginative guys who make a lot of wonderful books.

I would particularly recommend Matt's Is It Bacon?, (which, at $1 might be the best money you have ever spent) and Shawn's The Would-Be Bridegrooms.

You should go check out partykausa.com because these guys are doing great work and are worth a close look. But if you need additional incentive, This month Idiots'Books is Partyka's featured artist. Click here to have a look at the home page.

And here to check out our guest page, with thumbnails, bios, featured books, etc.

Thank you, Shawn and Matt, for allowing us into your midst, if only for a month.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:54 PM

November 21, 2008

Simple Physics

My child is growing and learning. She crawls across the floor with speed and dexterity. She sits. She kneels. She pulls herself up against things and balances in a standing position using just one tiny hand. She eats anything and everything. And yet...

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She does not seem to understand that she has but one mouth. And that sometimes the laws of nature necessitate simple choice. I try to counsel her in these trying moments, but, already willful, she refuses to listen, pretending that all she really wanted was to bang her baby cookie against her bink.

I get the sense that it is hard to be a baby.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM

November 19, 2008

What I Do for Art

I was minding my own business this evening when Robbi came over to me and asked me for a favor.

"Sure," I said, unaware how soon I'd come to regret it.

"Great," she said, "So...lie down on the floor, kind of on your side, and...cross your legs in a ladylike way, and..."

At that point, I knew all hope was lost. I tried to be a good sport. It was not easy.

Robbi continued, "...put your right arm out in protest and drape your left hand across your brow in an overt show of dismay." Or something like that. It took a lot of subtle direction, but eventually I made it into this winning pose.

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Why did I consent to such abuse, you ask?

I did it for the sake of art. Robbi is working feverishly on Volume 18, which will mail out some time in the next week or so. For reasons that will soon enough be revealed to you subscribers, she had to draw Goldilocks (of The Three Bears fame) in various poses of supplication. She was having a heck of a time trying to capture one of these poses and so required a model. For one shining moment on Wednesday, November 19, I got to be Goldilocks.

Isn't it every man's dream?

I'll post the finished image when the book is done so you can see how very inspirational I was.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:58 PM

November 18, 2008

Virginia

With the aim of resting ourselves for a few days, we headed out for Virginia last Thursday morning. We drove across the Bay Bridge. We headed west to Lovettsville, Virginia, where our friend Wild Bill lives on some dozens of wild acres. He cooked us lunch on top of his woodstove.

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My plate was piled high with things that Bill had either grown (collards, beets, turnips, zucchini, sweet potatoes) or butchered (a fine pig).

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Well-fed and wild, we headed south toward Schuyler, Virginia, where our friends Bernice and Armand live. While visiting with them, we took a walk around their lake. Armand carried a machete. It's what he does.

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Armand's otherwise happy life is complicated by the presence of a particularly ruthless thorny weed that grows enthusiastically around the lake. Armand has no compunction about dispatching it with the machete.

He is also aggravated by beavers.

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And bucks, who thoughtlessly rub their antlers against the trees.

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As fearsome as a machete may look, it apparently does little to deter beavers. Or bucks. But in spite of the pervasive menace, we managed to have a nice walk.

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Afterward, Armand let us ride his off-road Segway.

I had a quick lesson.

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And then was off and rolling.

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Iggy smoldered with resentment at not being offered a try.

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Robbi, however, would not be denied.

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While visiting with Bernice and Armand, we took the opportunity to place Alden in a plastic box they had.

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After a very nice day and night at Schuyler, we drove further south and further west to our ultimate destination, Douthat State Park in southwestern Virginia.

We had a lovely little cabin nestled in the trees, not far from a lake, in the bottom of a valley.

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We had a large stone fireplace.

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And a completely uncomfortable couch.

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We had a kitchen and a bedroom and a shower and a thriving heating unit. We were very comfortable.

They even folded the towels up into fancy hotel shapes.

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On Saturday, we took a hike up into the mountains.

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We came upon a terrifying spider.

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I carried my child in the green backpack.

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My child is heavier than she used to be. Eventually, we reached the top of the mountain.

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As we were climbing down again, Robbi suddenly threw a nut that hit me in the eye.

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"Ha ha," Robbi said, "That was supposed to be funny."

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I hereby vouch that it was not funny.

But the world was beautiful, and I quickly forgot the funny nut incident.

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Iggy loves nothing more than being in the woods.

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That night we had a feast. Spaghetti, coleslaw, and bad biscuits.

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I put my baby in a large plastic pitcher to celebrate.

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I put her in the Baby Gap bag to celebrate some more.

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And then I put on Alden's hat and did some freestyle rap, which is Robbi's favorite thing.

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Or is it her least favorite thing? I can't remember.

The next day we took a hike around the lake. We came to the playground where Iggy first learned to use a slide four years ago on our first visit to Douthat.

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Alden demanded to be included in the fun.

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She then further demanded that she was "too old to be going down the slide with [her] stupid dad" and that she wanted to do it by herself. Who are we to stand in the way of her fledgling independence?

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We walked up the long set of stairs that leads to the top of the dam.

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Robbi found a tree that reminded her childhood summers herding cattle in Montana.

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When we got back to the cabin, she made a big fire.

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While Iggy and I tried our best to take a nap on the bad couch.

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Later we ate dinner, and eventually went to bed.

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In the morning, we drove home.

As it always has, Douthat revived our spirits and gave us occasion to rest a bit. At the risk of seeing our little slice of solitude overrun by the lot of you, I heartily recommend it should you need a place to get away for a few days. And if, like me, you are generally grouchy about big crowds of people, may I recommend a November sojourn there. We have never yet encountered a single soul on the paths. The valley was ours to do with as we pleased.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:28 PM

November 17, 2008

33

Today is Robbi's birthday. She is 33. To commemorate the occasion, Seiko made Robbi's favorite kind of birthday treat, jello sponge cake.

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It is remarkable stuff. Alden had her first taste of this delicacy that she will come to know so well. At first the raspberries were a mystery to her, but she figured it out.

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We have been camping and hiking in the woods of southern Virginia for the better part of the last four days. There are many stories and pictures to share in days ahead.

But for now, Happy Birthday, Robbi. It has been a very good year.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM

November 12, 2008

Priority Mail

So we got an unexpected package in the mail today.

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Neither of us had any idea what it could be. I shook the box. It sounded kind of like a jigsaw puzzle inside.

"Are you going to open it?" Robbi asked me, clearly impatient to have the mystery solved.

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I pulled the "pull here to open" thing off.

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And looked inside to find...

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Someone had sent us a baby.

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It wasn't what we expected.

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But it seemed nice enough.

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"Should we keep it?" I asked.

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"As long as it stays in the box," said Robbi.

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I've searched the box. There are no instructions. No return address. Is anyone willing to claim this thing?

Posted by bogenamp at 08:58 PM

November 11, 2008

Installation

Robbi's Animal House portraits have been hanging in a gallery show in the town of Wassaic, NY for the past three weeks.

The show's curator Eve sent us this photo of the installation.

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As barndwellers, we are entirely on board with the rustic feel. Apparently, the building that housed the show was an old grain elevator. I'm sorry that we couldn't make it up there to see it. The darn baby has been running us ragged.

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Apparently, she likes pie.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:54 PM

November 10, 2008

Five Years

Saturday was the five-year anniversary of Robbi's and my wedding day. We might not have remembered the occasion had not my dad called up a few days before to ask what our plans were. Our plans consisted of sitting in our studio waiting for all of humanity to come by to see our books. And come they did. The place was jammed with visitors from 10:00am straight through to 5:00pm. Later that night we handed the child off to Bob and Seiko and went to Andy's, our local pub, to watch a band with our friend Emily (not Piendak).

The band in question, Bombadil, is a Durham, North Carolina-based group of guys who put on a really good show.

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They are extremely inventive and energetic performers, fantastic songwriters, and incredibly versatile musicians, continually swapping instruments throughout the show. They all sang. They all played percussion. They rocked out at times, but also knew how to spin a ballad. They wore fantastic hats and weren't afraid to use them. We had a grand time, a fitting beginning to the first day of the second five years of our marriage.

Here is Bombadil's MySpace page if you want to have a listen. You can buy their album on the iTunes store.

We went to bed that night tired and happy and woke Sunday morning to more crowds in the studio. We were pleased enough with the fact that people were buying our books and saying nice things about them, but imagine our delight when none other than Bombadil (all four of them) showed up in our studio for a visit. They had heard about our books, and had come to have a look.

They hung out for a while, generally being awesome and nice, reading our books, and making us feel good about ourselves. I might have been content to merely bask, but could not resist the temptation to suggest that we all play a song together. The very generous fellows of Bombadil were gracious and accommodating. I pulled out my harmonica and we jammed.

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It was unquestionably the high point of a very fine weekend. I mean, how often does one have real live rock stars visit one's home?

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In parting, it's worth noting that the thing we really like to celebrate on November 8th is that it is also the anniversary of the day that Christian and Emily met and decided that they probably liked each other a whole lot. They did, in fact, stumble upon this conclusion at Robbi's and my wedding. It's like an improbable plot from a bad movie. And yet it's true.

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Posted by bogenamp at 11:06 PM

November 07, 2008

Breaking News!

Robbi has just posted to her blog Idiots'Box for the first time since May! You may read her entry here. Or if you are too busy right now, be sure to check in sometime between now and April, when she will be making her next post.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:59 AM

Scooter Palin

Some of you may remember our good friend Supi Loco.

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Some of you may remember the interesting photos her dad took.

And some may remember the great "Does Matthew more closely resemble Niles or Dwight" controversy spearheaded by Supi.

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What you may not remember is that every late October Supi dresses her pal Scooter up for Halloween. Past highlights include "Trainwreck Britney Scooter" and "Hasidic Jew Scooter".

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This year's costume did not disappoint: "Sarah Palin Scooter".

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The similarity is uncanny.

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Perhaps you recognize Scooter Palin's fetching pink shirt? Scroll down to the next entry. Yes, as is the case for the former VP candidate, Scooter's campaign clothing has been subsequently donated to the less fortunate. In this case, a small child struggling to make ends meet on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:29 AM

November 06, 2008

Meaning of Joy

What do these two things have in common?

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Both brought me to tears (the good kind) in the last 24 hours.

And it's funny how much bearing the first might have on the fortunes of the latter. I wish Alden was old enough to understand what an important day this is. Though looking at that smile, I get the sense that she might have a pretty good idea.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM

November 04, 2008

We Voted

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Robbi and I both felt good after casting our ballots this morning, but Alden was a bit more stoic. We did some exit polling to find out what was on her mind.

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"I'm still numb from the stunning disappointment of 2000," she confided. "I won't smile again until Anderson Cooper calls this thing for the good guys."

So it was back in the pumpkin as soon as we got back to the barn, to howl some more and wait for the Virginia polls to close at 7:00pm.

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For all of our sakes, let's hope her guy wins.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:53 AM

November 03, 2008

Animal House

Though Robbi and I do intend to vote tomorrow, as the voice of Idiots'Books, it is not our intention to make an overt endorsement in tomorrow's presidential contest. Instead, I will present a rough approximation of our latest book, Animal House, and leave it to you to interpret as you see fit.

Here's the cover image:

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The dedication reads: Because this country is going to the dogs

And here's the rest. There aren't any words.
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To clear up a few points of potential confusion: George is a dodo, Hillary is a badger, and Sarah is a praying mantis. If, on the other hand, you are having trouble figuring out why a given person is represented by the animal Robbi has chosen, feel free to write us an email and we'll do our best to explain ourselves.

We hope this careful examination of the candidates and their supporting casts has cleared up any remaining questions you hordes of undecided voters may have been weighing over the past weeks and months. Feel free to email this link to anyone else you think might need our cryptic counsel on this very important day. If you know anyone who needs a copy of Animal House, it can be found here.

But whatever you do, please go vote. (Especially if you happen to be a dog lover.)

Posted by bogenamp at 11:00 PM

November 02, 2008

Halloween Day

For a long time now, we've been talking how fun it would be to put the baby in a pumpkin. And so on Halloween Day, we headed out in search of a really big one. There is a "pick-your-own" farm just outside of town, but when we got there, the pumpkins were lined up in rows, waiting for adoption. We found the right one immediately and were particularly pleased to find it was on sale, on account of the fact that the time for carving pumpkins was rapidly coming to a close.

We loaded it into the car.

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And drove it home. On the way home, we stopped at Geno's, the place where we get our car fixed, which also doubles as a dealership. We did not stop on account of an ailing car. Rather, we were compelled by the sign advertising free cabbages.

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That's right, Geno's was running a very special promotion on Halloween day: free cabbage to anyone who took the time to stop. We didn't even have to test drive a car or listen to a spiel about a timeshare.

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I love this town.

We took our free cabbage and headed home.

First, I cleaned the pumpkin.

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And then I put my baby inside.

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Things didn't go exactly as we had hoped. Apparently, the baby didn't think it was fun to sit inside a slimy pumpkin. We decided to let them have a bit more time to get acquainted. First Alden looked into the pumpkin.

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Then she crawled on top of the pumpkin.

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At which point she gave it a purposeful kiss.

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Sensing that the relationship had gotten too serious too quickly, she then crawled away from the pumpkin

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It seemed like the perfect time to put her in the pumpkin again. The second effort was much more successful.

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It was clear that she wanted to say nice things to the pumpkin.

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Things like, "Wow, it's so great to be in here." Or, "Orange you glad I'm sitting inside of you?"

In fact, she got so comfortable, we worried that she would not be willing to come back out.

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Eventually, though, it came time to light the pumpkin, which necessitated the extraction of the baby. Who was quickly dispatched to the tub.

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At the risk of redundancy, I'll show the pumpkin again.

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Though Halloween has come and gone, we've left the pumpkin glowing on the porch the last few nights. It helps to ease the minor nostalgia I already feel for the baby's first Halloween, already gone. We probably won't be able to find a big enough pumpkin next year.

It's galling how she grows.

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Posted by bogenamp at 11:18 PM

November 01, 2008

The Costume

More to come on tonight's reading and the other Halloween-themed activities, but it seems only fitting to post a picture of Alden in her costume before the night is done.

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Last year we got two pumpkins and Robbi and I each carved one. This year, we settled on one big one and let Robbi do the honors.

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Posted by bogenamp at 12:22 AM