Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Train tables rule

Karey's artistic talent is incredible. This we already know. However what she pulled off for Luke's birthday is perhaps my favorite creation.

This is what she started with:
A thirty dollar craigslist find.

An old "Thomas the Train" table with a beat up "Island of Sodor" map painted on the table top. Truthfully this would've have been enough for Luke, but not nearly enough for Karey. She told me off hand that she wanted to paint the table and turn it into a map of Richmond.

I love all things Richmond, but the thought of pulling off something like that seemed a bit much.

Once again, she defied my expectations. Check out this finished product:

She painted the entire table white and then painted BY HAND a map of Virginia's capital city. While you get an idea of how cool it is from this angle, the impressiveness of the map itself is not truly appreciated until you get the up close view.

You can clearly see the James River, Hollywood Cemetery, Broad Street, Monument Avenue and all the big bridges. If you know Richmond even a little bit you can tell what you are looking at.

I love it because I hope it will connect Clara and Luke to their home city. A city that has become our adopted one, but will always be native to them.

Of course, regardless of the impact long term.. this reaction was enough for Karey to think it was worth all the hard work.
Happy 2nd Birthday Luke!

Monday, September 3, 2012


It happens about once or twice every year since we moved South. A certain set of circumstances forces Karey to venture off to Upstate NY to spend an extended amount with her family.

She's gone to help plan for showers and weddings, to be there when a new nephew was born or in this case, just because she and the kids were having too much fun with Nana, Boppy and the cousins to come home.

I'll be honest, every time the prospect seems like a good idea. It gives me a little flexibility that I don't have with the family there. I usually schedule a poker night, spend more time at work and at the gym and drink beer in the middle of the week. Who wouldn't look forward to that?

But about mid-week of each one of these little separations I start to remember why I have a family in the first place. It gets lonely. I miss the routine. I miss their smells (good and bad). I miss their faces.

I just miss them. A lot.

So the timing of this picture shared about a billion times on facebook and the internet couldn't have come at a better (or worse) time. I'm sure you've seen the photo. It is a solider getting set to ship off overseas, saying goodbye to his infant daughter and obviously overcome with grief.


When I first saw the photo, I was heart sick, lonely and incredibly grateful all at the same time. It made me realize just how important the three members of my little crew have become to me. They are like extensions of my body. When I don't have one close by I start to feel like I am not a whole person.

It also gave me a small glimpse into the enormous sacrifice so many people make to take care of their families. Sacrifices that often mean they have to be away from them for extended periods of time.
This solider is on the one end. Not only is he leaving for perhaps at least a year, he has no guarantee that he will return. It is probably running through his head that this may the last time he holds his precious baby.

But there are countless other mothers and fathers all along this spectrum who have to travel for work or other responsibilities that have to be away from their families far more often than I do. My brother-in-law, Joe routinely travels for a week at a time for his work. It is not at the same level as this soldier, but I still wonder how he is able to pull it off.

This experience also woke me up to my role as a son. I can't get enough of Luke and Clara and the older they get, the more I want to be around them. I seriously don't ever get sick of them. So when I accidentally "butt-dialed" my father I was reminded that I am on the other end of this equation as well.

When my Dad returned my mistaken call he half-joked, "If you didn't butt-dial me, I'd never hear from you."


If my Dad thinks of me, even a quarter of what I think of Luke and Clara, then not hearing from me must really disappoint him. That is unacceptable. Now I make a point to call my Dad at least once a week. It has become one of things I look forward to the most.

(Lukie was pretty happy to reunite)

Karey and I often talk about where "home" is for us and where it might end up being. It is Richmond now, but we have close family scattered up and down the East Coast. We both wish we were closer to them, but as much as I want to see both sides more I've come to realize that "home" is wherever these guys are. As long they are close by, I am okay. As this week taught me, when I am away from them I am just a little bit lost.

That is not say there won't be more times like these. There will be more poker nights (especially because I won big) and more chances for Nana and Boppy to get their fill of "Hurricane Nobles" as we've dubbed ourselves.  But I'm glad I got the chance to catch myself, to appreciate this special time in our lives and to realize how happy I am with our "home".

Speaking of which, I know his song isn't new, but it popped up on my Pandora on the long drive home from Upstate NY. This song got me thinking about this post. 

"Home" by Edward Sharpe &  The Magnetic Zeros:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Train watching

It's been a crazy week, and I feel like the last time I had a chance to breathe was on Mothers' Day. So it feels only fitting that I post some pictures from then. 

It was a beautiful day so on the way home from breakfast we stopped downtown at the canal walk, somewhere we've been meaning to take the kids for a while now. We'd never been before, so we had no idea it would be such an ideal place for our little train lovers. They were in their glory with not one, but TWO trains passing overhead from time to time. And a canal with passing boats! But, as you'll see, that didn't exactly transfer into smiles for the camera. 

Their coordinating outfits I found for them at a consignment shop. I'm pretty sure Clara's is a really good brand :)

These two LOVE holding hands, which I will never get enough of

The choo-choo!!!! They prefer to just sit and stare, in complete awe :)

Loving on daddy

Making a silly face, the only way we could get her to do anything but scowl

Yay! A smile!

We will definitely be heading back to this spot for its awesome train-watching (and because they love the tracks, which I swear they'd choose over the actual trains some days) . Are your kids into choo-choos as much as ours?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Clara's cooking demo

Wow.. Has it really been almost a month since I've posted on this blog? In my mind I post here all the time. Almost every day I think of some funny thing Clara did or some new thing Luke said that I should just hop on and share. But apparently I never do!

So, just to get something new up here, here's a video I shot of Clara yesterday. She was helping me make lunch - broccoli soup. Her absolute FAVORITE. This girl can put away an adult-sized helping or two of my broccoli soup like it's nothing.

Anyway, I don't let her "help" as often as I should. It's not easy with two kids because I can't do it with both at the same time. But with Luke strapped into his high chair, I pulled Clara up a chair (nothing fancy or too safe) and she loved using the measuring cups and spoons with some water that I let her have (it's all about the water). Before I knew it, she was going on and on and on, talking away, as if she was instructing someone. I swear it sounded like she was giving a cooking demonstration!

So here it is... the video that we can only hope will jump-start Clara's new career as a celebrity chef...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Not so bad after all

Today was a big day - I decided I would let my kids paint for the first time. That's a big deal because I paint and painting will always be a part of their lives. They have watched me do it (though not often enough these days) and I have caught Clara painting away with a (paint-less) brush on one of my canvases. 

It's also a big deal because - unlike most moms, I'm sure - I don't do crafts with my kids. I don't like messes and, despite being an artist myself, I just don't have the patience or desire to teach others (that probably doesn't bode well for homeschooling!).

But something came over me this week and I decided to go for it. Today was the day. But, being cheap and lazy, I didn't opt for buying kid-friendly paint, whatever that even is. Instead, I just whipped out my acrylics and brushes. 

I bought cheap wooden crosses from the craft store and painted them white while they napped. When they woke up, it was on.

We just dove in head first, which is kind of how we roll. Planning? What's planning? Although I did have a paper towel at the ready. 

Yes, that's paint on Luke's mouth. The brush entered his mouth twice that I know of. Thank goodness it was non-toxic acrylic and that I don't freak out about much. 

And that stylish paint shirt that Clara is wearing? Why, that's an old nursing tank of mine, of course.

Don't let these photos fool you - it was much more chaotic than it appears. Well, Clara was a pro. She is definitely at the age where she knows to be at least somewhat neat and careful. I absolutely love that. Luke, on the other hand...

I mistakenly thought I could hold him back while Clara painted first. Ya, not happening. He was a man possessed. He needed a brush and he needed it in the paint. He was not going to let anything - least of all me - stand in his way.

As I watched him grab dirty brushes and lunge at the paint, panic began to set in and What was I thinking? What was I thinking? was on repeat in my head.

But, amazingly, once I gave in and actually set him up with his own brush and cross, he calmed right down. 

And somehow I even managed to get all of these pictures (when your hands are holding the camera they are not free to make sure paint doesn't get on furniture!) and there were no messes at all. The dirty water cup didn't spill, my couch and chairs remained paint-free, and I never once chased a kid holding a wet paintbrush.

And the kids loved it. Loved it. Clara was so into it, it was adorable. And Luke too. They both dipped brushes in the paint and then onto their cross, over and over and over.

And the end result was pretty cute. I meant to give Clara only colors that matched her room, like pinks and greens (yes, I'm all about controlling creativity), but in the craziness of the afternoon that didn't happen. It's okay, those colors would've just ended up brown too.

Clara loves crosses, so I knew she'd love painting them. I talked about Jesus and Good Friday, but they were much more concerned about that slippery colored stuff that I was letting them play with. 

A bath immediately followed these photos, in which I removed the acrylic paint the only way I know how - by scraping it off with my finger nails. Another reason to use kid-friendly supplies, I suppose.

In the end, it went surprisingly well. I don't know if we'll get the paints out again any time soon, although I have a sneaking suspicion Clara will be asking for them. It's just that the pessimist in me worries it can't possibly go this smoothly every time. I think I used up all my good crafting luck in one afternoon.

Maybe we'll do it again while Luke's napping. Painting is in his blood, but he's got to be a little less nutso before we attempt to cultivate any talent.

Clara, though, showed me today that she has turned a corner and can really get into something like this. I guess my craft-less days are over. I guess I better start stocking up on pipe cleaners and paper plates. Elmer's Glue, here we come!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chinese Thursday

The fifth day of the week isn't just an ordinary day in our house, it's Chinese Thursday. Or, more recently, Hibachi Thursday. 

For at least two-and-a-half years now, we know what's for dinner on Thursday nights and that our good friends (and Ryan's co-workers) Matthew and Emmy are coming over on their dinner break. This past year, others have joined us as well, like Yvette and Sarah. And sometimes others drop in too. Of course, Clara got in on the tradition in early 2010, and Luke became a regular later that year. 

The numbers have grown (yet the table has shrunk) and the food changed from Chinese to Hibachi Express, but you can always count on Thursday night (except when there's breaking news of course - they're all TV news people!).

Tonight, we said goodbye to one of our founding members, Matthew, who is moving to Florida. He's been a great friend to our family - he was there when we called to say we were definitely going to adopt Clara, and was Clara's official photographer for her first year - and he will be missed.

The Chinese/Hibachi Thursday crew was much bigger than normal tonight since everyone wanted to be there for Matthew's last night (it was also literally his last night in Richmond), so that means an ungodly amount of yum-yum sauce...

This is just half of the crowd...

And the rest had to eat outside. Good thing it was a beautiful night!

Lukie was very confused Daddy wasn't eating near him...

But he made a new friend in Gene...

Clara loves Matthew and is definitely going to miss him...

I'm sure she's going to be saying, "Matthew's here! Matthew's here!" as everyone pulls up outside for many Thursdays to come.

Matthew gifted us his infamous Black Friday free gift World Market monkey ornament, since Clara sadly broke ours this Christmas. We're just lucky it survived this photo...

Gene, trying desperately to keep Clara from the cupcakes...

But Emmy, wanting Clara to love her best, gives her what she wanted...

Poor, sweet Sarah puts up with Clara yanking on all of her jewelry...

Matthew and his parents, who were on hand for his final Chinese Thursday/last night in Richmond...

Ryan with Matthew and Emmy...

Yes, Luke and Matthew are both rangas...

We will miss you, Matthew! You are a wonderful person and an awesome friend and Chinese/Hibachi Thursday will never be the same without you. We'd keep a chair empty in your honor except, as you know, we always have just enough chairs.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Our boy

We have a full-fledged real live boy who lives with us now. His name is Luke and I'm not sure where he came from, because yesterday we had a baby.

He grew up overnight. His pants are all too short and his shoes are all too small.

And he's talking like crazy. And not just repeating words, but actually communicating, and sometimes even in sentences. He can say almost anything he wants it seems. Yesterday he asked Ryan to read him a book called "Hug" by saying, "Dada..book..read..Hug." What? Weren't you just born?

We thought he'd be the silent younger brother of a very outgoing big sister. Not exactly.

He's also the sweetest boy ever. Everyone comments on that. He's just so good-natured and lovable. You just want to eat him up. Until you watch him steal toys from his sister, that is. She might argue that he's more like a silent assassin, smiling while he secretly torments her. 

Otherwise, he is a complete sweetheart.

And she loves him anyway.

He may be a big boy but he's not a year-and-a-half just yet.

He's got a couple months to go, so he's still a baby. 

At least that's what I'm telling myself for now ;)