Pittsburgh Summer

August 07, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Adams, holidays, Pittsburgh, Travel

This summer I had the opportunity to spend a month in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Claire was with me the entire time and spent a good deal of the month visiting our family. I expected more time sitting, watching movies I’ve not seen, and generally being a log lump while working on my lengthy to-do list. I didn’t expect to travel around as much as I did. For example, one week I drove to Lawrence County to visit with my mother’s cousin all day on Monday, road around with my cousin Brian another day to shoot our city, and the third day I went with a friend I’ve not seen in 15 years to photograph another part of the city. Friends surprised us by driving from Virginia for a long weekend, and people I didn’t think I’d see I spent a lot of time with.

AuntieM & Claire
Auntie M & Claire on the John Deere in our parent’s backyard.

Claire and I fished at Trax Farm, my uncle and I had some good talks, I drove my mum back and forth to the train each day (so I could have the car), etc… My brother-in-law, Danny, and I installed lighting on my parent’s porch one day and another day we took Claire kayaking, after Donna arrived for two weeks in PA.

While there, we drove to Warren, PA for the fourth of July. I first made this trip 16 years ago with Donna when we first dated, and it was good to see so much of her family, including a cousin we’d not seen since our engagement party in 1999.

I shot many abandoned buildings and captured the history of Pittsburgh from the old farm homesteads out near Bridgeville to asylums in Scotts and New Castle to an old iron mill in Braddock. I also photographed the Strip District and Southside before turning the camera on the families.

I’d never live there again, but I know the true love I have for a city I once took for granted and now miss from time to time. A city that still holds my heart.

Claire’s Farmville

April 01, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood, Technology


Claire, the 4 year old, has a fascination with Farmville. Mama taught her to play and she can navigate the farms better than many adult players. This is a shot I popped off the other evening as she quietly fertilized her neighbors farms by herself while we cooked dinner.

Claire registers for kindergarten

February 28, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood

The day Donna knew she was pregnant one of the first thoughts that went through my mind was driver’s licenses and prom dresses. None of the thoughts had to do with kindergarten. Last week, it was the only thing on my mind as Claire and I went off to register for school. Originally we considered her attending an elementary school near my work but we don’t know what the future holds so recently we spoke to friends whose son attends an elementary school about a mile from our house. They only had great things to say about the school and both are teachers.

So we checked out the school and realized that if Donna were to drive to or from school, this elementary would be so much more convenient for our family. We stopped in one day to pick up the paperwork and we took it home. It was odd to fill it out because it was the same exact paperwork the students fill out at my high school.

Together Claire and I drove the paperwork over to the school; as we exited the car she took the packet from me to take inside. I shot a few photos and followed her in. We met with the attendance clerk and turned in all of her paperwork. The woman said Claire needed to take a placement test, and we asked what it entailed. She said Claire would be asked to identify her colors; Claire’s response was “do you want me to spell their names, too?” Very very fun.


Karate Claire at it again

January 06, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood

Before Christmas break I informed Claire’s karate instructors that she would be out for two weeks for our trip back east. Since I knew tip testing was right when she returned, I asked her instructor if i could video record the steps. We video taped it, and it looks really hard. She had to do a jump kick and something that looked like a flying front kick. It looked terribly tough.

The first week I forgot about the video, but then I sent it over to Donna and I’m not even sure if Claire’s papa really saw it. Claire just wanted to be silly over break and would only kick and hit to mess around. So, mostly she didn’t practice.

When we returned this weekend, I resigned myself to the fact that she’d probably not get a tip this month and definitely wouldn’t have enough time in to get a new belt. Today I took her home early so she and I could watch the video and try to practice before class tonight. When watching the video, Claire kept trying to do everything backwards because she was standing towards her instructor’s video. She couldn’t get the whole concept of the reflection of the video.

I kept trying to get her to let me show her how to do it, and she kept getting frustrated. She began getting irate and was yelling about how she knew how to do it. I challenged her to show me the moves, but she kept refusing. I finally just took her to class and stopped trying. We had a few errands to run before class, so we got there very early. She was able to watch the classes before hers but she rather played. She kept telling me to leave her alone and she was being really stubborn. I tried to get her to watch the tip testing in the class immediately before hers, but she was yelling and kept trying to get away. I was so mad I was going to spank her and drag her out of there before her class or I’d just let go.

I let her go and she ran onto the mat for her class. I didn’t even watch at first, but then they were practicing the moves. She kept screwing around and her teacher had to stand there with her. Then it was finally tip testing time.


She got up there when it was her time, jumped into position and immediately did the entire routine almost perfectly. Her teacher asked her to repeat her kicks, which she did as best as a 4 1/2 year could. He congratulated her (and not everyone was passing!), gave her high five and sent her back to her seat. She immediately flipped around and gave me a look that said, “What was the worry?”


As she smirked, I couldn’t help but chuckle under my breath. After the last kid tested, they all came out to get drinks, and she walked up to me with her hand on her hip and literally said “See Dada, I told you so.”


(Epilogue: It also turned out she has enough hours in to belt test for her white/blue/white belt this weekend.) Oh boy.

Claire, the Wii fiend.

December 29, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, holidays, Parenthood, Pittsburgh

Last night my mother’s cousin and my father’s cousin both visited us and after spending some time in the kitchen around appetizers and drinks, we all moved into the living room where my sister turned on the Wii. My dad and his cousin played for awhile but then Claire wanted to play. They flipped from electronic darts to shuffleboard where you need to swing the remote to compete. Claire grabbed a remote and more or less challenged everyone in the room. She’d never played Wii before but quickly picked up the idea of how to play. Within an hour, she was beating everyone at Wii shuffle board and was ready to move onto Mario Kart.


Uncle Jaime’s reindeer hoofs

December 27, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Adams, Claire, holidays, Parenthood

Since my parents bought a new house and had more room and since we’d not spent Christmas Eve night at my parent’s in years, it was time. Earlier in the day Donna and Claire met us there while I pretended to help my sister cook dinner. Later after dinner, Claire didn’t want to go to bed. She was waiting for Santa, and all I was waiting for her was for her to fall asleep sdo I can drag a crapload of presents out of my parent’s basement to put around the tree. This is the first year where I had to keep two things in mind. 1) Claire would recognize if grandparent and Santa gifts came in the same wrapping paper, and 2) we cannot put any presents under the tree before she goes to sleep on Christmas Eve.

As I always expect with Claire, she never wants to go to sleep. And since it was Christmas Eve, she was even more excited than usual. By 11:00pm everyone was way sick of waiting for her to go down by herself and something had to be done. Uncle Jaime, my brother, decided to climb into the attic and take matters into his own hands.

Over the couch, through the roof, suddenly Santa and his reindeer were loudly walking around on the roof, preparing to come down one of my parent’s chimneys. (Yes, I know she’s smart, so I kept one chimney/fireplace free from a fire that night incase she asked!) Claire, sitting on the couch full dressed, looked towards the ceiling, looked around at her people and bolted to the bedroom. Donna followed her into the bedroom, as Claire grabbed her PJs and threw herself onto the bed.

“Mama, help me get changed! I need to go to sleep now! Santa’s here!” She screamed as she stripped her clothes before throwing herself into bed.

Thank you, Uncle Jaime.

Claire’s igloo

December 22, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, holidays, Parenthood, Pittsburgh

I always say my favorite part of the Christmas holiday is when the tires bounce down onto the Pittsburgh tarmac, and you know what? I didn’t even notice this time. No reason, really. It just wasn’t such a huge, relaxing deal. Maybe it’s because I have a million things on a list of things to do when I have time to do things. I don’t know.

Claire, after being shy girl lying on the airport floor, was glued to her Papa the first day in town, and we weren’t scheduled to see my family until Sunday. I told my mother to pick us up early so I could drop my MacBook Pro off at Apple for some minor repairs while I was on break and had access to other computers. She agreed and I went to bed Saturday evening in my brother-in-laws awesome Posture-pedic king size bed. Sunday morning came about 12 hours later as I really needed some sleep after last week.

Claire, her Uncle Danny and Papa were in the backyard in the 6+ inches of fresh powder, so I grabbed my camera, gloves, and ski pants before joining them for a short bit to shoot some photos before getting ready to see my family for the day.

Claire mentioned wanting an igloo, and I didn’t even know that she knew what an igloo was let alone that she wanted one. As I said, the snow was really powdery but anytime you tell Uncle Danny he can’t do something, he tries to do it. Especially when it involves jumping off cliffs and driving through rivers. This was no different. He wanted to build Claire an igloo so we go to work. We shoveled snow off the grass into a huge pile, scrapped it from the sidewalk, and filled recycle bins with snow from other parts of the yard to make it higher. Then Uncle Danny began to throw his weight against it while I suggested a watering can to make it wetter. We sprinkled water all over it, attached it like beached whales, and then began scooping it out. We got it to a point where Claire could get into it fully if she bent her legs, but of course she refused to do that. She did look up for a few photos, and then pulled herself from the igloo. She announced she was bored, hungry and cold. Papa immediately took her inside, while Uncle Danny and I admired our handiwork—two hours later and as my mother was scheduled to arrive.

Phx Zoo Lights

December 17, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Friends, holidays, Parenthood

Last night we took the kids to zoo lights but not before Claire was horsing around with Eli. I was sitting at the table waiting for Terrie to get ready when all of a sudden Eli shouts “Claire knocked my tooth out!” It was one of those moments were you freeze and wait for a giggling punch line and then there is none. I quickly began counting years on my fingers to see how old Eli was, and I realized I had no idea how old children are when they’re suppose to lose teeth. Suddenly the house erupted as his mothers became very excited about his losing his first tooth, and I as relieved that we were ok and not going to be thrown out of the house for destroying their son.

After the excitement of the tooth being yanked from his face, dropping it on the white tile, finding it, dropping it again, and finally putting it in a ziploc bag for the tooth fairy, we headed to the zoo. The Phoenix Zoo has “zoo lights” which is one of the largest outdoor light displays in our state.


After Eli and Claire got out of their respective trucks, they took each other’s hand and Angelika and I rolled our eyes as they spent the next two hours inseparable, running through the zoo hand in hand, checking out all of the lights, looking for animals in the dark, and enjoying the evening.


It’s all fun & games til…

November 30, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Parenthood

Tonight Claire threw a tantrum. Shouldn’t they end when she turned four? She kept hitting Mama or me and kicking us. I finally had enough as she kept head butting my stomach, and I put her in timeout. We tried the whole ignoring her thing, but she kept getting up and giggling because she wasn’t in the timeout chair. Then she got in more trouble, and, of course, I spanked her. How great is it to smack someone for smacking someone else? Ugh.

Eventually Mama sent her to her room (supposedly to bed without her supper). I stood outside the door to keep it shut, and damn, it was easier to do when she wasn’t so strong! Eventually I had to let go of the door to get ready to leave, and then she kicked open the door and kept kicking and kicking.

Mama told me to get in there and whoop her butt again. Claire heard me coming and slammed her door. I hopped forward and stuck my foot in to block it. The door hit my shoe and forcefully bounced back and and smacked Claire in the middle of the face. She began to howl and cry. “Dada, I’m sorry!” she wailed as she climbed into my arms. I took her into the kitchen, grabbed the Booboo Bunny and took her to her mother in the living room.

Before running out the door to bowling I reminded that, “It’s all fun and games until you get smacked in the face with a door.”

How to teach young children about race

November 17, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire

This past weekend I was off at PodCampAZ while Claire and Donna were home. Claire was excited because it began to rain on Saturday, which never happens in Arizona. She ran inside, put on her bathing suit and rain suit, and then ran outside. She played for awhile in her play set area where we have artificial grass (the rest of the yard is mostly dirt (err…. mud)). After that got boring, she decided to play in the mud. This continued until she was pleasantly covered in mud. And as she rubbed mud up and down her arms until she looked “brown”, she called out “look I look like “. She repeated that with her other friends who are African American.

When I was in college in multi-cultural education, the professor wanted us to describe people not by skin color but by hair color, etc… If I got a room full of people and thirty are white and one is black, I sure the hell ain’t gonna say “the man with the black hair” instead of saying “that black dude”. That’s crap. I am a white boy and the first to admit it, but see, I get it. I get what “they” think we should say and not say, but little people aren’t with it, yet.

Does it make me insensitive if I describe someone as brown if they are, in fact, brown? Black? White? etc … How’s this different than saying “the red-head” or “guy with beard”.? It’s not. It’s all in meaning. If you’re talking about someone’s race in a negative way and use him or her as an example, then WTF. You suck. If you’re literally describing someone and that’s what he or she looks like, well then who the hell cares? Not me.

But, as I said before, my 4 1/2 year old sure doesn’t know the difference, so how do I balance between her learning stereotypes of race and neutrally describing friends, like the few “brown” kids at school? In the car on the way home, when we’re discussing school, I’ve specifically not talked about color of people. But she sure does know (you’re an idiot if you pretend to not notice!). I don’t have an answer for you, but it’s something to think about.

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