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Allow me to show appreciation for the nursing mother — particularly the one at my house. Katie is the absolute best. Throughout every day and night, she makes sure McLain is happy and sated. She balances many delicate variables, and she invariably adapts as McLain’s needs change. When McLain isn’t happy, she takes it personally. Then she finds the solution.

Katie has only a couple more weeks at home before she goes back to work, and I know she is already preparing for her return to environmental engineering. Getting back into the world of DAF units, activated sludge, and flocculation will be easy for her. The hard part will be leaving that little guy at Ms. Rose’s house for his first day away from home.

McLain isn’t the only one eating well around here. We’ve all benefited from Katie’s time at home. During those scarce quiet hours of the day, when she isn’t nursing or otherwise engaged with McLain, she cooks. The kitchen here has been putting out five-star fare while Katie has been home.

I already covered Katie’s reasons for dreading her return to work, so now let me explain one of mine. I worry that the high culinary bar might be compromised when she is working 50+ hours a week, traveling on occasion, and spending all her other available time with her family.


Katie doing work with her deluxe shrimp and grits


Our family has had it really good lately. Here are some of the highlights from last week:

  • Grilled ribeyes, finished with truffle butter
  • Phanaeng curry chicken and potatoes (fresh cilantro and lime on the side)
  • Shrimp, pancetta, scallops and creamy grits
  • Roasted garlicky brussel sprouts and tomatoes
  • Grilled mushrooms, tossed in sherry vinegar
  • Spicy okra (one of Jackie’s favorites)
  • Banana-walnut-chocolate muffins
  • Cream cheese pound cake
  • Sweet potato pie

I can imagine McLain, a decade or more from now, looking back at the antiquated blog his father maintained so infrequently. Because he inherited a penchant for keen observation from his mother, he’ll quickly notice that Jackie was the subject of weekly updates during her first five weeks and that he was the focus of only two updates (with his father’s ramblings about a novel in between). He’ll think to himself:

Wow…unbelievable…it’s true that the first child gets all the attention and the second child plays second fiddle his whole life. This is the proverbial straw. I’m NOT doing my chores, especially dog poop patrol in the back yard, anytime soon.

He’ll read this post and decide to go punch his sister, tell Baxter to “get outta here” even though he’s 16 years old, ridicule Robah for slobbering, or do something else to vent his second-child frustration.

Well, I want to set the record straight. His mother and I love him just as much as we love his sister. And if that isn’t enough to placate him, he hasn’t worn any pink hand-me-down clothes at any time. Maybe there was a gently-used toile nightgown in his wardrobe once or twice, but nothing overtly pink and Jackiesque.

McLain has gained significant weight, and is now a thriving baby instead of a shriveled newborn; Katie deserves all the credit. His diapers are printed with the numbers 1-2, rather than the N for newborn. His blue eyes are open for an hour at a time now. He has settled into his schedule, even though he hasn’t yet totally settled into ours. Like his sister before him, he sleeps for long stretches at night and spends his daylight hours squirming, alert, and sometimes screaming. He’s also earned his first nickname, Lil’ Main (Main instead of Man, like the Memphis-area pronunciation in Hustle & Flow).

Bob Pollard of the band Guided by Voices wrote a song called My Son Cool for his little guy. You can listen to it here. I expect hear it live Friday night at their show in Carrboro. When I do, I will think of that little guy and how daggone cool he is.

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the weeks after his birth.


Note: Baby-related posts will resume in a few days. Here are some words about a whale of a book I read.

Last night I finally turned the last page of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I firmly believe that I was not ready to read this novel until now (at the age of 33), and when I read it again two or five or twenty years from now, I will probably believe that I was not ready to read this novel when I read it first in 2010.

It’s a novel about pain, mostly, and how we Americans and some Canadians experience it and deal with it. The pain that characters’ deal with in Infinite Jest is the pain that accompanies life – from the most superficial physical pain (and band-aids) to the most abysmal emotional pain (and suicide) and everything in between.

Parts of the nonlinear story are so ugly they are literally nauseating. It’s also a brilliant work of comedy. I might recommend it to three people I know, but no one else.

What qualifies the title as truth in advertising is that the novel could have been 3,000 pages, or pages, instead of a mere 1,079 pages. If anyone could have pulled it off, Wallace could have (he hanged himself in 2008). He had literary super powers.

This is what I took away from Infinite Jest:

  • A need to read this novel again, if only for the unanswered philosophical questions and the sheer fun of reading Wallace’s prose.
  • 112 vocabulary words, not including medical terms, pharmaceutical terms, mathematical terms, and words I thought I knew but looked up there on the spot and realized I didn’t know exactly. The list also excludes some optics jargon and maybe a couple of Boston-area slang terms that I didn’t take the time to comprehend.
  • A spectator’s understanding of Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • A heightened awareness of solecisms, whether others’ or my own.
  • An enhanced appreciation for linguistics, and a broadened view of how the English language can be peppered, scattered, browned, chopped, diced, chunked, smothered, capped, and covered.
  • A diminished appreciation for film and movies.
  • A greater love for dogs.
  • A feeling that I am a good father, at least compared to the derelict dads in the novel.
  • A reminder that even a satirical prediction of technology one decade into the future can be utterly ridiculous. Maybe actual futurists deserve a little more credit for choosing such a dangerous career path.
  • A reminder of the plot of Hamlet.
  • A desire to play tennis again.
  • A discovery that an online book club is a great idea for the right novel, even if I only used it as a reference because I was a year late to the party. Thanks to Infinite Summer for providing a supplement to the text.
  • A new favorite fictional game: Eschaton.
  • A disdain for endnotes.
  • A reinforced belief that almost everyone deserves second, third, fourth, and fifth chances in life.
  • We have a way of making life complicated, don’t we?

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

I took this post-apocalyptic picture outside Jones Barber Shop in Raleigh last year.