Let’s explore these geeky parents’ perspectives as they try to adapt to the ever-changing world in the current state of this pandemic.
Geeky Parent Guide: First, thank you both for taking time to chat with me. I want to check in with you two first. How are you both doing right now? What does a day in the life of soap makers/writers/geeky parents look like, and how has that changed since dealing with this pandemic?
Chris Rubin: It is quite tiring! Before all this madness, we were on a fairly decent schedule with school, a nanny a few days a week, soaping, and Scott’s shows fitting in nicely… but now, our day does not start until 9 or 10 p.m. after the kids are asleep and the house is picked up (if we’re lucky). Our “day” ends at 3 a.m. and then starts right up again. I can say this though – somehow, our children have learned to sleep till 9 a.m. most mornings… so that has been awesome.
Scott Rubin: It’s tough! As I tweeted the other day for my version of the “6 Word COVID Story:” Kids always home? Bye bye, productivity! That’s a bit of an exaggeration but not much. Our two young sons are very active and busy, so at least one of us has to be fully engaged with them at all times. So, that means we can really only ever get anything done in shifts, or at night after they go to sleep (which we do – our average bedtime is around 2 a.m. these days). For my part, I’m trying to keep up with any/all book promotion stuff I can find online, including getting mentions in articles, appearing on podcasts and videos, etc. Before the lockdown, I was streaming on Twitch with a local company; since that’s not happening any more, I’ve begun solo streaming, so I have that to prepare for and perform each weekday.
GPG: How old are your kids, and how do they seem to be doing with all of this? Has staying at home seemed to have had a major impact in their routine?
CR: Benjamin is 5 ½, and Maximilian turns 2 at the end of May. Staying at home has completely obliterated both boys’ routines. But they don’t seem to mind. I asked Benjamin the other week, “What do you think about all this? The virus and not being able to do anything?” He said “It’s okay. I like being home. I didn’t like school anyway.” So, we haven’t really experienced any emotional issues with not being able to do things…but we have found that in addition to not liking school (which we knew), he also does not like homeschool. Every day is a struggle. But we are managing. The system the district has created is an odd jumble of apps and pre-loaded worksheets that are to be done on the computer. We’re pretty electronically savvy, which is helpful, but it’s a lot of back and forth with the different platforms and we do not have adequate time to prepare the next day’s lesson. There is no Zoom meeting or one-on-one instruction, so it is 100% the parent. All in all, we spend an hour a day on real “school work” when the baby is napping and just fill the rest of our day with reading, playing, cooking, gardening…life lesson things.
He enjoys the learning we’re sneaking in much more. The baby loves every minute of us all together – no issues there at all.
SR: An early September birthday meant Benjamin was attending Transitional Kindergarten, so now he’s home during what was his school hours of 9-1. Just that has had a huge impact on all of our routines. Little Max was always underfoot even before the pandemic, but he used to have a “nanny” come and play with him twice a week while we got work done. They’re both doing pretty well, already having had a pretty good life at home with lots of toys and activities, and two parents who mostly worked from home. They do miss going out, though, to places like the mall, libraries, parks, etc. Just recently we have noticed their sleep patterns shifting as well, going to bed slightly later and now waking up around 9 a.m. each morning. That’s nice now, but could be trouble when school starts again. (One day?)
GPG: Has this experience of staying home changed your perspective as a parent, and if so, what things have you noticed, whether appreciating certain things more, having extra family time, or simply getting to watch your kids interact with each other more often?
CR: I love being with my kids and focused my efforts on a small home business so I could watch them grow up vs. the industry I was in full time previously. So, while it is tricky with Benjamin being home all day every day (We didn’t realize how much we relied on that school time as part of our own work schedule.), I love every second being with them.
SR: For as much as I may complain and have a hard time accomplishing a lot of my own projects these days, it’s a gift getting to spend all day every day with my kids. I think once life returns to some sort of “normal,” we’re going to look back on this as a special time we had.
GPG: I’d love to talk about your soaps, because there are some really amazing designs. How do you decide what designs to start making? Do you have an active list to work from and do popular things jump to the top of the list, say like a baby Yoda?
CR: I have a list a mile long and I am constantly adding to it! I do indeed jump around all the time and most of the “geeky” soap ideas stem from things that both Scott and I love. One thing I have been wanting to create is a small line of D&D soaps. This has been #1 for a long time…and yet things (like Baby Yoda) bump it down constantly. Right now, I’m working on a rather simple non-fandom-themed rainbow soap with a custom little cloud. I feel like some rainbow soap right now would be really awesome – we all love rainbows! I started to work with silicone creating my own molds about 6 months ago, so I’m in the first stages of creating the cloud mold now. But after rainbows is D&D…unless something else pops up! Creating cool bath bombs is also #1 on the list and before the pandemic I was working on perfecting my recipe – but because of time, that has been put on the back burner. I am very eager to get back to my mad scientist bath bomb experiments though!
GPG: How long does it take to get from idea to finished product? And, what does that process look like? I imagine your experiences, Chris, as a film and TV art director also help to streamline whatever process you have in place?
CR: It depends on the idea. For example, my Gizmo, Baby Yoda, and Potter House Crest soaps were drawn by a local artist. So, there is the creative back and forth on the artist's schedule, then the making of the soap. Other times, I think of something one night – such as my Alien “Perfect Organism” soap – and make it the next day. So, it varies.
GPG: Obviously, running a small business is no small feat, so has this business given you both a chance to work together or have fun moments with your kids? Perhaps you or your kids have some favorite designs or moments since starting this business?
CR: I wouldn’t say that Scott and I “work together” on any one thing, but we both talk at each other all day about what we’re working on as we often need some help problem solving something here or there – whether it’s a scheduling thing with kids or a work flow issue on which another perspective could be helpful. The boys get involved with soaping a little bit. Benjamin helps prep sometimes and he loves to unmold the mini samples I make to add to each order. I just started to involve him in packing orders as a way to sneak in some math and organizing skills. Max LOVES to help push my soaping cart from the kitchen back to its storage area.
SR: Usually, the kids are underfoot or demanding attention while we’re trying to work, naturally. It is cute when they try to get in on the action, though, whether it’s checking out Chris’ soaps and making suggestions or attempting to talk to me while I’m streaming.
GPG: How do you handle parenting duties when one needs to work on a project, whether it be making soaps or when the other is writing a new book – like Scott’s new book coming out soon, Naming Your Little Geek? How do you tackle parenting when projects need to get done?
CR: This has been the trickiest part. Little did we realize how much we rely on the public school system as a baby sitter. And with the nanny no longer coming 2 times a week (which is when I would make the more time consuming soaps), it has been a lot of “Okay, if you have them most of the day on Monday, then I can take them all day Wednesday during your meeting,” etc. etc. But we’re managing.
SR: It’s tough, but everyone has to pitch in and make compromises. We both have so much to do all the time, but when someone has something really pressing the other will take care of the kids for the morning, afternoon, or day. Tag team parenting is absolutely crucial so we can get things done during the day. Now, even with that happening we’re still both staying up very late at night working after the kids go to bed, but that’s just life right now until school starts up again.
GPG: About the book, I love the idea of creating a book with all of our favorite character names, but Naming Your Little Geek appears to have much more than just the names. Do you want to share what else is inside your book that readers can look forward to?
SR: Certainly! The book has nearly 1,100 name entries. Each one gives the source or definition a name (whether that’s real-world or fictional), a description of the characters who have had it, a fun explanation of what your kid might be like if you used the name, and finally a reference list of the characters with that name. Some entries are short (characters with singular names like Furiosa or Slartibartfast) while others are pages long with over a hundred references! I also talk about obvious vs. “stealth” geek names, what names go well together if you have multiple children, and names that work better for pets than kids, and included is a comprehensive index and a chart showing you which in which genres each name has appeared (fantasy, horror, sci-fi, superhero, etc.).
GPG: When did you first have the idea for your book? Were you both a part of the research process or were there any characters that immediately jumped out as, “This character has to go in the book?”
SR: When we were pregnant with our first child, we were driving home from a Thanksgiving in Las Vegas and talking about names for our baby. We lamented the fact that there wasn’t a book that listed names of fictional characters, as we wanted to know what heroes or villains had used the names we were considering. Chris’ conclusion? “Write it!” And so, I did. The research phase took…quite a long time. I started by making a master spreadsheet of all of our favorite geek media, then expanded to best-sellers, top rated lists, award winners, etc., etc. Once I had a huge list of properties, I created another spreadsheet with all of the characters from those works! Then it was a matter of narrowing down to the most impactful characters and names for the book. I did include some of my favorite sources that aren’t necessarily super popular, though; it is my book, after all.
GPG: Whether it’s with Bubbles and Things Soaps or writing your book, have your kids helped to inspire or spark that creativity that comes out? Do your kids have their own creative moments, whether it be with their imaginations, drawing, or loving certain characters from TV shows or movies?
CR: Benjamin is always saying, “You should make a soap of…”. He says he wants to be a soap maker when he grows up, which is so cute. When time permits, he will for sure be able to make his own design from concept to label. But finding that one-on-one time right now is tough!
SR: In the case of Naming Your Little Geek, our children were the direct cause of the project! But yes, every day we see the most amazing creativity come out of our kids whether it be in artwork, singing songs, imaginative play with toys, or just silly jokes. Our five-year-old has recently gotten into knock knock jokes, which, of course, then the little one tries to mimic with his own; they make no sense but they’re hilarious!
GPG: As a parent, particularly now, what are ways that you both decompress, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed with anything?
CR: Decompressing is not a thing at the moment. We have been able to squeeze in two movies, but never from start to finish. Looking forward to our next 45-minute movie night installment! Otherwise, I relax a bit when I’m sharing some TV time with the boys. We have started watching original Scooby-Doo and some Looney Tunes and it has given me immense pleasure.
SR: Decompressing would be nice. I try to get in a ride on my exercise bike once a day (and watch a little TV at the same time), otherwise in spare moments of downtime I’ll read some comics. Though reading books with the kids is fun, too!
GPG: I think a lot of people are trying to find ways to fill their extra time at home with games, TV, books, and the list goes on. What would you say you’re geeking out to recently? Is there a particular movie, TV show, comic book, board game, novel, YouTube video, or anything at all that you’ve been a huge fan of?
CR: At the moment I just want to catch up on the last few years of films we’ve missed. For me, downtime is when the little one is busy and Benjamin and I can sneak off and read more of James and the Giant Peach (our current chapter book) together in peace. We’re looking forward to watching the Burton film when we’re done with the book.
SR: Most recently, I watched Picard and Clone Wars, while catching up on some B movies on the side. I’ve found the Hoopla app (tons of free content you can access if you have a library card!) a good source of comic books and other diversions. For my streaming I’m rereading Frank Hebert’s Dune, one of my all-time favorites.
GPG: Thank you so much for taking time to chat, Chris and Scott! Where can others find you both online? Also, where can people check out Bubbles and Things Soaps, and where can people find Naming Your Little Geek?
CR: You can purchase soaps from our shop at www.bubblesandthingssoaps.com. And you can follow us on social media for restock and design updates – IG and FB (@bubblesandthingssoaps) and Twitter (@batsoaps).
SR: You can pre-order Naming Your Little Geek wherever books are sold, and I have a Linktree with all the links. You can also catch me streaming every weekday morning at 10 a.m./PDT discussing a variety of geeky topics from Greek Mythology to toy and miniatures. Lastly, I’m on all social media (@norsemeat).
I want to extend a massive thank you to Chris and Scott Rubin for taking time to share their experiences with the Geeky Parent Guide, especially now during such trying times. Thank you for sharing your geekiness with us!
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Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.