Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daddy's Big News

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
So this photo is not perfectly current, and it does not match the news, which is that Ryan's book, a collection of critical essays that he and a colleague from GW edited, and contributed to and generally ushered through the (grueling) publication process, is officially available. Rush to pick up your copy today!

However, the picture is posted because of this story:

Ryan (showing twins the book): Hey, guys, do you see this book?

Lilah: Is it for us?

Ryan: No, this is a very special book. See the two names right there? Those are the people who made this book possible. One of them is my friend Randi and the other name--see that other name?

Collin: (ignoring Ryan's pointing finger and instead responding to the enthusiasim in Ryan's voice) Ben Roethlisberger!

Ryan (deflated): Well, no. It's Daddy.

Collin: Oh.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Ian and his Fairy Godmother

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
This is not the most flattering picture of Ian ever taken (go to flckr, really. There are more.) But this is Ian and Erin, his godmother extraordinaire. If Fairy Godmothers were real (not that they aren't), Erin is one, no question, and Ian is never going to have to wait until he's sobbing in the back garden for her to appear. (And I bet she never misplaces her wand, either.)

Ian was baptised Ian Beckett Claycomb on Sunday, October 18 at St. Thomas a Becket Episcopal Church. The congregation, mostly WVU faculty, groaned appreciatively when they were told that his middle name does not reference the saint who gives his name to the church, but rather a certain dyspeptic Irishman with a penchant for writing in French. Ian didn't cry at all, during the ceremony, and fell asleep shortly after he was "official."

Meanwhile, Collin and Lilah took Communion for the first time that same day, an event made memorable by Lilah's attempt to take her Communion wafer back to her seat with her to munch on like a cracker. ("But I'm not DONE," she hissed when Ryan tried to get her to hurry up.)

And for the entire (Blessed) event, we were most grateful, now and ever, to have Erin there, to share it with us, to hold the baby, and to pour the wine later that night after the children were asleep.

Now We are Six

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
Wow. I know that this entry should be a reflective piece on how old the twins are and how amazing that is. That we are all still alive and sane (relatively) for one thing. But all I can think of when I see this is how bad Lilah's hair is (bear with us; she's growing it out).

Nonetheless, here are a few current highlights:

both are reading, Collin EVERYTHING in sight, out loud, and at the top of his lungs

they played soccer this fall and Lilah was (so says Daddy) the fastest kid on the field. Collin was chagrined by this, so Ryan took him aside and explained (truthfully) that Lilah's speed is paired with a complete lack of control over her body, meaning that she falls down VERY easily. Collin was pleased to hear this, so pleased, that as soon as he saw Lilah next, he marched up to her and said, "Lilah, Daddy says that a feather could knock you down when you run, so it's okay that you're faster than me because I'm stronger."

Dental hygiene

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
No, Collin isn't losing all his teeth already (I know what you were thinking, you West Virginia-stereotypers!). He has, for the record, recently lost his first tooth and is on his way to losing his second. But this lovely image is the result of him eating a cucumber moments before we snapped the picture and thinking it would be funny to shove the rind up under his top lip like a "grille." Hilarious, Collin. Thanks for ruining an otherwise stellar shot. Well, except for Ian's mismatched socks.

What this does capture is the three (!!) children all together, a occurrence that seems likely to be ever more common as Ian gets older. Why? Not just because we are at our wits end and have no choice but to throw them all together (though that is true). No, it's because Ian already LOVES his big siblings.

Evidence: The other day he was sitting in his bouncy seat and C & L were on either side, talking (as usual) a mile a minute, to me, to each other, to the air, but completely ignoring Ian. He flipped his poor little head from one side to the other for about 3 minutes, his mouth open in amazement. And then, when he realized that they really were just that fascinating and that they were not paying any attention to him, he burst into tears.

Just wait until he can talk.

The Red Ninja

The Red Ninja
Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
So this is Lilah, the Red Ninja. If she wears this outfit with black pants, she calls herself the Red Ninja's bulldog. The Red Ninja is evil; his bulldog is good. Lilah herself is somewhere in the middle, and also, now, 6 years old. Amazing. Check out other flickr pictures of the birthday festivities and Halloween celebrations to see more of what's been going on, though nothing will quite capture the temper tantrum extravaganzas that have capped off the holidays for us. There was an article in the New Yorker recently about how children in picture books seem to be getting away with more outrageous behavior than in days of yore (e.g. Frances the Badger was threatened with spankings just for not going to bed, while Olivia the Pig paints the wall of her room Jackson Pollock-style and just gets a time-out.)

Well, Lilah puts this "new moderation" in discipline to the test. Sample lines, uttered full-voice on the front steps of our house:

"No! YOU compromise! If you don't do it, I'll never come inside! No! Not EVER! I don't CARE! I'm NEVER calming down!"

As she told me Friday morning, dressed in her birthday finery (mauve sweater, lavender sweats, purple flowered sundress over top it all), "Mommy, I know I'm six now, but I really usually still act like I'm only five."

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
Lilah: Mommy, let's play rock star princess.

Me: What's that?

Lilah: Well, it's just like the regular princess game only I'm also a rock star. You be all the princes and I'm going to pick one of the princes at the ball to get to marry me. You can use your own voice this time.

An explanation: The Princess Game is legendary and dreaded in our house. I invented it (curse me!) and now wish it would go away. It involves someone (either Lilah or a grown-up) selecting an imaginary mate at a "ball" from a line of imaginary prospects: Prince Cassiova, Prince Luluwu, Prince Williwick . . . each prospective mate is acted out and fails to live up to royal standards: messy clothes, bad manners, weak singing or dancing skills, inability to perform arithmetic (I insist on this one). Finally an acceptable prince appears (or, if we're playing in reverse, Lilah is called up). Cue the swelling music: a happy ending ensues!

This time, for rock star princess, Lilah hastens to assure me that I don't have to try to sing in a masculine voice. For some reason, this is the part of the game that really bugs me, especially when she tries to make me play it when we have company.

Lilah: Mommy, you can sing in your regular voice.

Me: Okay. Good.

Lilah: Just try to PRETEND you can sing as sweetly as me.

Collin "milking" Ian

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
Brief story, but worth saving for posterity, I think.

Me: Collin, why don't you say good morning to Ian? Say something nice to him before you run off to be crazy.

Collin: (in simpering baby voice) Ian, you're the youngest person in this house!

Ian: (whimper, quivery lip)

Collin: (same voice) No, no, don't cry! That means you'll be the last to die!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happiest baby in the house

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
I feel like this one speaks for itself. Wish we had more moments like this one, though I know they're coming! Ian is wonderful, smells good, has a nice soft fuzzy head, and loves his mommy and daddy and sister very much. His big brother is honestly a little scary because he moves very quickly and is very loud and has already beaned Ian on the head with a basketball. (Collin's response: "Whoops." Resume play.)

But this picture is hopefully our future with this little guy, who looks like he's cheering for something, doesn't he? Maybe (hopefully) it's me and Ryan, who are now outnumbered by our own children and thus trying to re-learn parenting as a zone-defensive skill.

Wish us ALL luck!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Holding hands

Holding hands
Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
After three weeks or so, life with five in our house is settling in. Ian is growing well, having exceeded his birth weight by a half pound at his 2-week check-up. He's finally got his days and nights in proper order, and is starting to sleep for three- to four-hour stretches at night, a sign that someday he might sleep for five or even six hours at a clip.

The rest of us are doing pretty well, too. Collin is spouting into pure boyhood, and really wants to do nothing more with his summer days than to run, climb, kick, throw, swim, thwack, and any other highly physical activity you can imagine.

Lilah is taking her role of big sister very seriously, and in between dress-up and the craft of the minute, has found joy in giving her baby brother baths. She also had a great visit with Mom-Mom and Pappy, which was followed by a visit from Evie Rhody (accompanied graciously by her parents and sister!)

As for the grown-ups, all is generally well. Ann is recovering in due course, and sleep deprivation seems the worst (and most predictable) lingering effect. We've been happy to entertain visitors to the new baby and his family, with a few dinners with friends, plus the great weekend with the Rhodys...Uncle Paul and Auntie Nette come next, with Erin close behind, and Auntie Paula and Uncle Scott rounding out a busy July.

Meanwhile, I am simply trying to get my time in with the baby boy, rocking him to sleep, taking him on the occasional walk, burping him on my shoulder, hodling his hand. It's hard not to be consumed with these tiny things, and good just the same. At the same time, I'm trying to keep the twins engaged and active with trips to the park, the Claycomb family campout, the ice-cream store, and the park again...But with June over, I'm also returning to writing, trying to make more headway on the book project I'm working on, and beginning the planning for fall, which is--frighteningly--just around the bend...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ian at Rest

Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
So, do we begin to describe you?

We spent a lot of time chronicling the twins' first days, and since, honestly, moving from 2 kids to 3 has changed our lives so much less dramatically than starting out with twins did, it's less easy to observe those changes.

This is all the more true since Ian is a mellow sort, eating, sleeping, and chattering more or less predictably and smoothly since he came home a week ago.

As a father of singleton this time around, I'm doing a lot less infant care than I did with the twins, though I am doing about as much twin-care. Today, father's day, I got to nap with Ian, but I also took the twins to the park for soccer, catch and races. Ian, as a result, spends a lot of time like this: in Ann's arms, awake or asleep.

He doesn't like to sleep on non-human surfaces at all, and it's been a challenge to get him to sleep for more than about 45 minutes in a crib or bassinet...but he's slept for an hour and a half in the sling with me, and done similar stretches napping, snoozing, and outright passing-out with Ann.

But he's a beautiful boy, and I say that not only because he seems to resemble my baby pictures a lot, but because he's just plain beautiful. So far he's got my blue eyes, but I'm still holding out for them to change to his mommy's beautiful hazel.

But so far, perfect: healthy, strong, affectionate. And even if he weren't, I'd love him anyway.

Attic project complete!

Lilah's room (From bed)
Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
At long last, the attic is complete, and the kids have moved into their new rooms, which they love. There are several pictures up on Flickr, so you can see the results if you so desire, but the end result is this: after downsizing from 4200 square feet to about 1600, we're back up to about 2100, which seems just right for the family.

The kids love the new space, with separate areas for each for sleeping and playing. Lilah's got her new bed with a bookshelf headboard and drawer storage, while Collin has moved up to a full sized bed nestled in the eaves (though we couldn't manage to fit a full sized boxspring up the stairs, so it's a low bed....

Playing features include space for Collin's air hockey table, and a new "hammock" in lavender/blue/ink striped fabric in the corner to hold extra stuffed animals. The kids are actually asking to go play in their rooms this weekend, so the renovation seemd to be complete. We now have a few things to move into the guest room from the garage, and a little rearranging in our room now that the path to the attic stairs needn't be quite so open, but within a week or so, we should be really and truly settled in after late April's move.

A photographer captures the image

We have what one visitor affectionately called a postage-stamp yard: about 20x25, it's a big room, but a tiny backyard. Still the kids have found things to do back there. A quick jump over to the Flickr page will reveal a game of Monkey in the Middle, and a snback break under the hanging grapevines. Plus, Lilah and I (and Collin some too), have begun a few small gardening projects, along the back of the house and the side of the freestanding garage: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli...basil, dill, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme...butterfly bushes, delphinium, morning glories...

It seems, actually, that I've finally found a yard small enough that I'm not wasting my energy simply maintaining, and instead am working to cultivate it. It's tiny, but it fits...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ian Beckett Claycomb: June 11, 2009

In the Delivery Room
Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
More to post later, but for now, you can follow this link to our photo page.

That stats: Ian Beckett Claycomb, 6/11/2009, 9:56 a.m. 8lbs even, 19 3/4 inches long. Nursing well, filling diapers, looking around a lot. Everyone healthy and happy.

Daddy's kids

Daddy's kids
Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
The kids were super excited to meet Ian. Collin did a great job of holding his baby brother, while Lilah literally climbed my body to get her first glimpse of him. Her response? "Awww! so cuuuute!" Exactly ehr response to all of her favorite tiny adorable playthings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The New House: A Walking Tour

So this is our new house: Significantly smaller than the old one, which was a gaudy 4K+ square feet: more than we needed, and ultimately more than we could afford to maintain. This house is only a little more than 2K sq ft, and will be a little cramped, even after we thinned out our belongings, but it's an adorable historical home, exactly where we want to be living.

The new house is in a neighborhood much closer to campus (it takes less time to walk in now than it did to drive in before), and inhabited by scads of other faculty...our new neighbors hosted an end-of-the-year party this weekend, and we were invited, already besting the number of parties we were invited to in the old neighborhood.

So come on in, take a look around:

The front door opens onto a closed porch, with an eating area to the left and a play area to the right (as always, click pics to embiggen):

As you walk through the next door (itself a more modern front storm door: more secure than the original door required to remain intact by the historical society), you'll look to the right and see the room we're calling the library. I'm working in here now at the writing desk and hutch you see dead ahead.
This is my view back toward the front door from the desk:
And back to the front door, to the left, is the family room. as you walk toward the doorway in the back, you'll see the poster with the full text of Hamlet posted just above the stereo. Ann and I have actually consulted that poster more than once since we've had it.

If you turn around from that doorway, and look back toward the front door, this is the view of the family room...For the record, the literary fiction and memoir is alphabetized in here, with poetry, genre fiction, and writing reference back there in the library...

Cut through that door, and you'll see the dining room and kitchen...the dining room is directly behind the family room, and the kitchen is directly behind the library (but not accessible from there).

From the space at the border of these rooms, you can get good looks at both: The dining room, complete with tone-on-tone stripey wall (flat and metallic paints alternating)

And if you turn around, you'll see the kitchen, with terra-cotta colored walls, new countertops and appliances, and our stuff already comfortably ensconced around the premises. Straight ahead, on the counter, you can barely see four canisters, a Mother's Day gift for Ann, labeled (left to right) "Cuckoo for Cocoa," "Just a Spoonful of Sugar," "Flour Power," and "Better Living through Coffee"...The kids helped me come up with those.
Not pictured, because of tight spaces, a mudroom with coat hooks and shoe cubbies leading to the tiny but functional back yard, a 5x9 laundry room, which instead of laundry has Ann's elliptical, a wall-mounted spice rack, and a linen cabinet, and off of that, behind the kitchen, a half-bath.

Let's go upstairs, shall we? You will not see here the kids' bathroom at the top of the stairs, with Sun/Moon/Stars art and shower curtain, and a lovely sky-blue paint job.

To the left, above the library, you will see the master bedroom...cozy! Messy!
And around the corner through the bedroom is the master bath, which is pretty big, but hard to get a good photo of. There's a tiled shower to the right and two sinks, not one, to the left, and the loo is just below the left corner of the case you wondered...

at the other end of the hall, to the left of the stairs, you will see a decent-sized bedroom, currently, temporarily, housing both kids and Ann's desk.

And a small yellow bedroom, sunny and happy. Mostly full of half-unpacked stuff that will find a home eventually...
These last two rooms will not look like this in a month or so: the green bedroom will be an office and guestroom, and the yellow bedroom will be our nursery for Baby boy (public announcement of name coming soon). The room that will eventually be transformed into the twins' bedrooms, though, currently looks like this:

A lovely, open, unfinished attic.

So, thanks for stopping by...come again sometime!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Snow Day Desperation--we invent board games

Picture 081
Originally uploaded by Ryan Claycomb
I know, I know, it’s been quite a while. Please chalk up our blog silence to the fact that we’ve been virtual prisoners of our own children since, oh, December 19th, when their Christmas Break officially began. Since then, they have had approximately 5 actual school days, the result of ear infections, fevers, and snow, snow, snow . . . as Lilah told me the other day: “Mommy, I’ve had a little too much Mommy and Daddy time lately.”

So what have we been doing? Well, as these few gems will hopefully illustrate, trying hard not to strangle said children for their precocity (or something like that. Perhaps a less-charitable word might be in order.) Collin, for his part, is so obsessed with the movie Kung Fu Panda (thanks Auntie Paula and Uncle Scott. No, really. Thanks.) that he has lost privileges to watch said film until mid-February. This is what happens when you:

a. cannot stop talking about the film, even while chewing, using the toilet, supposedly listening to a church sermon, and/or being told/read an entirely different story or watching an entirely different film
b. Kung fu kick your mother in the grocery store. Repeatedly.
c. Kung fu punch your sister’s head. Daily. Then fail to understand why she is crying.

As for Lilah? Well, in my own defense (I want an award for the not strangling), I offer up this story:

It was (yet another) snow day and Lilah requested a very specific lunch: one piece of bread, lightly toasted, topped with (in this order) one piece of American cheese, two pieces of lettuce, and several slices of tomato. She selected the tomatoes herself. I made the sandwich and put it in front of her. She ate the tomatoes, lifted up the lettuce, then said, “This is better than I thought it would be.”
“Oh? That’s great, honey. I’m glad you like it.”
Heavy sigh. “Mommy, can’t you tell when I’m being sarcastic?”