Animal Alphabet: I is for Isopod

This week's Animal Alphabet entry is not in itself an obscure creature. In fact, I bet you know these guys by one of their several familiar names: the pillbug, the doodlebug, the sowbug, the roly-poly, the woodlouse, the armadillo bug, the chuggypig, the ticklebug...

Let me refer to them by a more general name:

I is for Isopod

They're a common enough critter in the ground-cover and leaf-litter that probably every kid has played with them at some point. They're harmless and interesting, and they behave according to predictable instincts.

I probably spent hundreds of hours with these guys between ages three and thirteen.

Did you know they're not insects? They've got seven pairs of legs (insects have three) and no wings or winglike structures. In fact, the lowly isopod is a crustacean, more closely related to shrimps, crabs, lobsters, and crawdads than to beetles or even centipedes.

Did you, moreover, know they have closer marine relatives? In fact, there are gigantic marine isopods. (They also live in Lake Baikal.)

These guys do not look quite so harmless.

Seriously. They can weigh almost four pounds. No lie.

Junior Woodchuck! Junior Woodchuck!

Not that kind of Junior Woodchuck, actually. I have to tag this post "not comics."

I know I have posted backyard wildlife photos before, but I don't think I have mentioned my favorite backyard denizen, whom I have been calling "Charles" since shortly after I moved in here.

Charles is a burly, surly woodchuck, who is prone to strike a pose not unlike the one found on the local cider label. He's skittish, and I don't have a zoom lens, so I rarely get a good picture of him, but it's good to know he's back there.

He seems to live under our garden shed. I see him a few times every summer, munching the flora of the back yard.

Well, today I spotted a different specimen of Marmota monax:

This new little fellow, designated Chip, is clearly a good deal smaller than Charles.

Below, for contrast, see Charles (on a different day) in the shadow of that same shrub:

And here is little Chip again:

The theory is now that Charles has secretly been a lady all along, and Chip is a new addition to the family. (Woodchucks have their babies in the spring, after the grownups are done hibernating.)

Here is Chip right by the garden shed. He's barely bigger than a squirrel, really.

You have to dig Chip's extreme cuteness.

Look at that little face!

Golf Tournament, Playground, and Packing... OH MY!

It's been a crazy few weeks in the Delisle house, and looks like we are in for a few more busy weeks before things start to settle down. I sort of feel like I am in autopilot at the moment, trying to just keep chugging along until the school year comes to an end (which is in 14 school days... not that I'm counting!).

So what's been happening?

Well, plans for this year's Isaac Timothy Delisle Memorial Golf Tournament are underway, and we couldn't be more excited. This year, part of the proceeds from the tournament will benefit Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, and we are grateful to be able to support such an incredible organization. We've been busy solidifying dates, holding organizational meetings, and starting to solidify hole sponsors, prizes, and giveaways. Things are really coming together already, even though the tournament isn't until August 19th. If you're interested in playing or helping in some way, please feel free to leave a comment or email me!

Also, Isaac's playground will be built at our church in the beginning of June! A week from Saturday, the groundwork will be completed, and on June 11th, we will be having a community build to assemble the structure and cement it into the ground. On Father's Day, our church will be holding a dedication ceremony as well... I thought it will be so special for Spencer to do that on Father's Day.

Needless to say, these to things alone have been keeping us busy, on top of wrapping up the school year, packing up my classroom, and chasing around a cute, busy, fast little toddler! She is just a riot these days, talking up a storm, running everywhere, and making her preferences known. Her hair has gone from straight to curly, and at her last doctor's appointment she finally broke the 18lb mark! At almost 15 months old. She's a peanut :)

Stay tuned for updates on the playground in the next few weeks!

some favoured sketchbook pages

More Words From My Fingers

Hey guys. Sorry my blog is so self-promotional lately but I have to do it, it's in my contract! (It's not in my contract.) But anyway, if anyone is still tuning in, here are a few of the more interesting interviews and such that I've done lately, in case you're eager to unlock the deeper secrets of my book and/or existence.

A guest blog about what people from my real life I'd cast in the movie version of my book:

A fun interview I did with someone who actually read the book.

Another fun interview, finally with some new questions I haven't been asked before. (God, I sound bitchy don't I? Not trying to complain about the trials of fame here. I'm just sarcastic in the mornings.)

Finally, here's a link to the first chapter of WARM BODIES. Check it out if you're skeptical that a serious literary post-apocalyptic romance with zombies can exist and also not be all kinds of dumb and stupid. And if you're already a fan of the book, please use this as a proselytizing tool on your unbeliever friends! Grassroots campaign, word of mouth, DIY, all that shit. Thanks!

And as your reward for reading this far, here's a funny picture:

Nevermind. Couldn't find one. Sorry. No reward. Thanks. You're welcome. Bye.

Past the Point of No Return

No, I'm not in Hell, but there have been days where I have felt like I might be. After ten years of planning, scrimping and saving all our pennies, we have finally done it. We have ripped apart our house and are in the midst of putting it all back together. The kiln--gone. The front porch--gone. The back porch--gone, gone, gone. We poured 26 cubic yards of concrete on Saturday to form the new footings for the addition. Lynnette, my very patient wife, will finally get the new kitchen I promised her eleven years ago when we bought the place. Since that time, we have dug out the basement, built the studio, mosaiced the gazeebo, and now, we are doing the mother of all overhauls. It is mostly exciting, except when it rains 17 days in a row. I've been wondering lately why I don't just move to Seattle--there certainly wouldn't be any less rain.
In the midst of my complaints last week about the weather and the delays it was forcing upon my project, I was hit in the head with a big slice of perspective. I realized I'm a wuss. I have a house, and though it is rather in a strange state at the present time, at least it and its contents aren't scattered across the state after tornado force winds. I am tired of the rain, but if that is all I have to deal with, I am happy for it, no matter the delays. Perspective seems to change a lot of things and most of these are lessons I find myself revisiting often and I tend to forget.
I have not been writing, but I have been thinking about writing and in many ways, at least for me, that is equally important. I have found that in the quiet of the jack hammer and skill saw, I am finding the answers that I need for the story that is coming together in my head--if not on the paper. But I am taking notes and I am anxious to get this project done so I can get back to my writing. Pottery has also been on hold for the past three weeks, but after a weekend show at the Cottonwood Club, I realized the stock I thought I had set aside for the Utah Arts Festival next month will not last until then, so I got back to work today, making more garden art and platter. I also picked up the ceramic fiber for the new kiln which I hope to install tomorrow, bringing me one step closer to having a kiln again.

I am not sure why I waited so long to finish this kiln. I built it last fall, at least the frame for it, and it has done little but collect dust since then. Perhaps I am still dealing with fear of the flame--something no potter should have. I built my last kiln over ten years ago and it took me almost a full year to get it to fire the way I wanted it to. I know more now, but each kiln in different and this new one will be significantly smaller than my last one, enabling me to fire more frequently and do more test fires and more glass--or so the plan goes. So, here's to fear, and trying to overcome it. It seems my life is a never ending battle with the fear mongers inside my soul. Somedays I think I'm winning, but you never know.

As in the past, I enjoy having people visit the studio, but because of the chaos that is my current life, please call ahead to make sure I am around. 801-883-0146. I can't wait to show you the finished product. Cheers and Viva Niederbipp!

Animal Alphabet: H is for Hoatzin

This week's Animal Alphabet drawing is a little scruffy, but I am so out of practice with inking, and I was so pleased with my pencils on this one, that I decided to stick with a rough drawing (plus a spot of color and a few tweaks) so I wouldn't kill it.

For many years, in my mental collection of near-cryptozoological treasures, H has been for Hoatzin.

The hoatzin is a South American swamp bird, a majestically bemohawked turkey-goose-pigeon of a thing, an awkward, unwieldy flier because it feeds on leaves (and therefore has heavier fuel tanks than those warblers and wrens that eat more energy-dense meals). Apparently it's also smelly enough to have earned "stinkbird" as an alternate nom de plume.

I dig the hairstyle, but the major reason I like the hoatzin is that its chicks have an anatomical anomaly. They are born with small claws—"thumbs" at the wings' last joint and another small "finger" claw at the very point of the wing—that the baby birdies can use to clamber around in the swamp scrub from an early age, before they can fly. (You can see one in action here.) There's a lesson, if you ever needed one, in vertebrate homology.

A few years ago, when I was thinking about writing a sequence of animal-riddle-incantations with obscure answers, I came up with this little rhyme about the hoatzin:

Dragon's feathered mane, or turkey wattle?
Archaeopteryx, or Quetzalcoatl?
(Not much of a singer;
His wing has a finger.)

And really, if you were going to try to split the difference between archaeopteryx and Quetzalcoatl, I'm sure you'd come up with something like the hoatzin. If I could come up with a couple dozen riddles like that, do you think there would be a market for such a book? I figure it'd appeal to a particular sort of nerdling child.

If you do a google image search for "hoatzin chick" you may see a drawing or two in which people seem to have misunderstood the location of the little claws. Let me add my own doodle to that misinformation campaign:

That's not how the claws work...



So hello y'all!

I've put my jonah comic up online for sale, if you want to own a copy it's here

Also, kelly walton has needlefelted some turnip babies to go with them, they're also for sale

Animal Alphabet: G is for Gerenuk

Well, I got my grades in, but it meant spending all day yesterday marking exams and making calculations. No time to do an extensive post or an elaborate drawing.

This week, G is for gerenuk.

I know next to nothing about these odd-looking antelopes, except that they really are prone to that manlike bipedal posture, and they really have that comically disdainful face. If I had time to do a second-draft drawing, I'd elongate the hind legs, which really don't look very antelopey. Also, I should probably stretch out the neck.

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you all so much for your advice on ways to save money! So many great ideas... from where to shop, how to make your own laundry detergent, and even how to grow plants upside down!

Blogger had quite a hiccup in its service at the end of last week, and several of your comments were deleted. Never a good thing in the middle of a giveaway. So, as promised, any comment labeled "duplicate," or that I recognized as a re-written comment if yours was deleted, was counted twice.

I had high hopes of my cute Ellie drawing a name from a basket. However, today included quite the nap-standoff. So.... I went with instead. As I counted down the comments, each re-written comment was counted as two consecutive numbers. kindly generated for me the following random number when it picked something between 1 and 48...

True Random Number Generator Min: 1 Max: 48 Result: 39

Jeni V.

I have no idea how to do a screen shot and then import it into Blogger, or I would have. :)

Anyhow, congratulations, Jenni! Please email me at so I can ship the Laura Story "Blessings" CD to you. Make sure you write "Laura Story CD winner" or something like that in the memo line in case your email goes to my spam folder. I want to make sure I don't delete it.

Thank you all again for your great ideas. They are so helpful!

Blogger Deleted Your Comments!

Blogger has been having some technical issues the past few days, and somehow, many of your comments have been deleted :( I had been up to 53 (and read every one!) but now it is only showing 16.

So, if you have the time and are willing and able, please go back and check if yours is there. If not, and you could repost your lovely ideas, I would appreciate it so much!!

And, for your hard extra work, if you re-post a comment that was deleted, I will count that comment twice in your chances for the Laura Story CD giveaway. Just be sure to note (duplicate) in your comment.


Mother Nature Sounds

Some random people from random countries sharing local animal sounds.
Lucy McRae, Lolo, Sosaku Miyazaki, Basa Vizi, Julio Zuckerman, Rafael Rozendaal, Yochai Matos, Alexandra Dahlström, Rebecca Ward, Ilgur Gunadóttir.
Made last month in Rio.

Input Needed... and a Giveaway!

This post is going to be fun... at least I think so! A solicitation for tips and advice, and a giveaway wrapped into one!

Since I will stop working at the end of this school year and we will be going down to one income, I would LOVE to hear your practical money saving tips.

We have been on a tight budget before... early in our marriage, we made it a priority to get rid of our debt. School loans, credit cards, car payments... we paid off everything but our mortgage (though there is a plan in place for that, too!). So being thrifty isn't a new thing. But, pinching pennies seems to be a lot harder when you have kids! :) And when you've been used to living on two incomes and are cutting that in half.

I am particularly interested about:

- How you are able to reduce your grocery budget while still eating healthy (and for me, this includes buying the organic versions of the "dirty dozen" fruits and veggies.) I already shop sales, plan my menus around them, make a list and only buy what's on it (usually :) ), and buy generic versions whenever possible. It's also important to me to use environmentally friendly cleaning products, and those tend to be more expensive. Except for vinegar... but I have a serious, serious aversion to the smell of vinegar and just wouldn't be able to clean with it. :(

- What things do you do with your kiddos that are fun, memorable, educational, and creative without spending a fortune? (Even the little petting zoo near us is $12 admission!!)

So here's how this will work. Feel free to leave any tips and pieces of advice in the comment section. For every comment you leave, you'll be entered into the giveaway. (So, if you'd rather leave 5 tips as 5 separate comments, go for it!).

And what will you win?

None other than one of my favorite CDs... "Blessings" by Laura Story!

UPDATED-- Several of you have mentioned planting my own vegetable garden. Great idea! We live in a townhouse with a hardscaped patio out back and not really any room to plant veggies. Our townhome is an interior unit, and with the way it is set up, our kitchen counters don't face the window. So... if you have any tips on planting a veggie garden given these restrictions, I would love to hear them! :)
Comments will close on Saturday, May 14th at 5pm EST. The winner will be announced on Sunday, May 15th, so be sure to check back!

Animal Alphabet: F is for Frigate Bird

I'm hoping that this will be the last "punt" for me on the Animal Alphabet project. This week, in the midst of grading final papers, I got caught without even a preliminary set of doodles. All I could manage was to pop out a quick brush-pen drawing and put some very quick color on it.

So: F is for frigate bird.

That tomato-colored balloon on the front of that guy is an inflated part of his throat, which is used for display during mating season. If you've never seen one of these guys in action, then you can catch them toward the beginning of this episode of The Life of Birds.

They're not the only birds who can puff up their throats like bullfrogs. You might also want to take a peek at the greater sage grouse, if only for the bizarre wobbly sounds it makes.

The Unacknowledged

I want to preface this post by saying that I absolutely believe in the spirit of Mother's Day... in a day to acknowledge mothers, those who are like a mother, and most of all God's divine design of motherhood. In some ways, hearing or reading the words "Happy Mother's Day" feels so good to me; and at the same time, it is hard ... because there is a little boy who I will never get to hear whisper those words to me. There is someone missing; the little boy who made me a mother first isn't here. And while three Mother's Days have passed since having Isaac, this particular day is not one that has gotten easier.

This morning in church we were encouraged to wish the moms out there a happy Mother's Day during the greeting... something I think is a truly wonderful thing. Yet at the same time, I thought about people who were likely to be in that room who were probably having a really hard time this morning. About the man or woman who recently lost their mother; about the husband whose wife recently passed away... the mother of his children; about the parents who just lost a child that they long for and love so dearly; about the couple who longs to have children and yet after months or years of trying to get pregnant just... haven't; and about the couple who has pursued parenthood through the beauty of adoption, only to have that adoption fall through.

For many, Mother's Day is an incredibly happy day; but for others, it can be a day that is also full of sorrow. And for them, that sorrow can so easily go unacknowledged.

So, I would encourage you... if you know someone who may go unacknowledged this Mother's Day because their situation is outside the scope of a card that Hallmark creates, acknowledge them anyway.

Acknowledge their hurt or sorrow; acknowledge that this day may be one that is difficult. Let them know that you remember them, too.

And what would a Mother's Day post be without pictures of my sweet kiddos...

Isaac and Ellie~

I am so proud of both of you and am so thankful to be your Mom. You are both incredible. I love you!

Promotional tshirt

A new promotional tshirt for Isaac Niemand by Diplomatas aka Mulheres Barbadas.

Where My Brain Goes: Henry David Thor

I'm not sure what happened here. One minute I was sitting at my kitchen table, winding down for the night, and the next minute I had drawn this.

"Verily," saith Henry David Thor, "I went into Midgard to live deliberately."

To my credit, the Thor details and the Thoreau details are all from memory, and I think they're more or less persuasive.

Blame the hype for the upcoming movie, or blame the supermassive Walt Simonson Thor Omnibus that I got in the mail the other day.

It's not the first time we've had a goof with the first line of a classic book, and not the first time I've done something dorky with classic Marvel heroes and nineteenth-century literature.

Good night.

Guest Bloggings

Hey friends. Just in case you're interested, I did a couple guest posts on a couple bookish blogs.

This one is my unconventional answer to the age-old question, "What famous artists would you like to meet?"

This one is a more serious one, about the various ways zombies are portrayed and how Warm Bodies differs.

jonah comic related stuff

I have made a mini comic, it's called 'Jonah'

new things for may

I did these for a couple of new illustration magazines :)

- Sneak Illustration
- Pylon Press

Mother's Day Comes but once a year, but the open house continues

It was great to see so many of you this last weekend at the studio. Thanks for coming to visit Niederbipp and take some treasures home to your house, or mom's. Many have been emailing and calling to see if I will be around this week so they might continue to shop. The simple answer is yes and no.
We are moving out of our house this week so we can begin our long awaited house remodel. So, I will for sure be around every morning as I have one more firing to complete before we move the kiln and I need to be glazing and firing in the a.m. But I will also be around much of afternoon as well, though likely not as regularly, as I will be moving things to the in-laws where we will be living. The long story short, Call Me! especially if you are coming from any distance. I still have lots of flowers and flower pots and garden art and bowls, mugs, platters, tiles, etc, so give me a call and we can see what we can do about being at the same place at the right time. Oh, and I also have all three books in stock. 801-883-0146. Leave a message as we will be checking our messages several times a day so we don't miss you. Viva Niederbipp! and Happy Mother's Day.

Animal Alphabet: E is for Echidna

The grading hasn't gone away yet, so I'm going to have to punt (more or less) for this week's Animal Alphabet, too. I was planning to do a real drawing, and even started the pencils for it, but they didn't go well, and I ran out of time. I'm going to have to fall back on my preliminary doodles again.

Here they are:

You will probably be more familiar with the platypus than with the echidna, the other monotreme. (Monotremes are the mainly-Australian mammals that lay eggs, though three of the four echidna species live on New Guinea and not Australia.) As you can see, they're spiny little guys, and they come in a few different shapes:

The short-nosed version, as I note above, is a sort of mega-hedgehog in its initial appearance. Of course, if you look at them for more than a split second, it's easy to tell a hedgehog from an echidna, especially the babies, since newly hatched echidnas (which are also called puggles, for all you people busily scribbling Harry Potter doggerel) are unformed little blobby things with nary a hair, unlike baby hedgehogs, which are seriously among the cutest things that nature creates.

Meanwhile, in an example of convergent evolution, the long-nosed echidna really looks sort of like a kiwi. Is kiwilike a word? Is there a kiwilikewiki I can consult for an answer to that question, please?

Also, there is apparently a Kokonino Ekidna.