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It took only 10 minutes. When it was over, on that brisk Saturday morning in Five Points, McLain was transformed. A mother wept (or at least teared up a little), as Star Wars action figures and wall-mounted trophy bass witnessed a baby become a boy.

With his wealth of experience and shear talent (see what I did there?), Mr. Jimmy tamed what was once wild; nay, Mr. Jimmy imposed order on golden locks of anarchy. Like so many footprints in the sands of time, McLain’s curls were scattered on the floor.

The people who loved McLain most watched those tiny tresses become memories…memories that would later be swept away.

Melodrama aside, Jimmy and his barber shop are awesome…so awesome, it makes me wish I had enough hair left to justify paying a barber to cut it. On top of that, Five Points Barber Shop used to belong to the father of a family friend.

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For four years, our house has had at least one baby. For maybe a month or so after McLain was born, there were two babies. I don’t think Katie and I slept at all that month, and I don’t think we had a single sad moment or dark cloud in the sky.

Then one day around Christmas of 2010, Jackie told me (in her own words) that she didn’t see how Santa could defy the space-time continuum to deliver presents via billions of chimneys worldwide. I muttered something about magic and reindeer, and then changed the subject. She’s a believer again now, but she hasn’t been a baby since that day she questioned Santa.

Lately, McLain is leaving the baby category behind. He’s different than his sister of course, so it’s not that he exposed the Elf on the Shelf for what it really is. He doesn’t doubt the Tooth Fairy, or any other tall tales for that matter. He talks all the time, and tells his sister angrily, “I’M TALKING RIGHT NOW” when she interrupts him, but that isn’t what qualifies him as a toddler. So what earned him a promotion from babyhood?

form

form

He has a legit jumpshot.

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follow-through

He follows through.

buckets

buckets, just like his Ma

And, he shoots about 75% from the 2 to 4-foot range.

Katie and I aren’t planning to have a third child. Our second child is leaving the baby stage, and we need to cope somehow with our growing children and time passing (in general). What do we do to slow down the fleeting of time?

Answer: Don’t cut the youngest child’s hair. Those ends that either curl or stick out in every direction are as old as he is. You can still look at him and see baby as long as he has original locks. It doesn’t matter that he counts to twenty, speaks in sentences, and zones out when focusing on song lyrics; those McLain curls are the trademark of our baby.

Posing with his mic

Posing with his mic right before he bursts into song.

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MMJ_and_JBJ

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One of these days, when his bangs obstruct his vision and he walks into a table or something, Katie will suggest that he get a haircut. I really believe it will take a safety concern for us to take action.

The home office at our house has that new computer smell. In fact, I’m wafting it toward my nose and inhaling deeply as I type this. All I can really say is that our 27-inch iMac is resplendent in every way.

More importantly to those who read this blog, the new computer has liberated hours of video and more than 1,100 pictures that have been stuck on our cameras (neither Katie nor I wanted to use our work laptops for 50+ GB of personal files).

It’s my 3rd Mac, and believe it or not, I’m not an Apple fanboy…just a desktop Apple fanboy. Before I get to the real subject matter of this blog (also known as JaM), please tolerate this graphic:

evolution_of_imac

Now that you’ve read this far, I promise I’ve saved the best for last. The documentation of McLain’s early childhood has been somewhat neglected on this blog. He’s quite a kid, and deserves some catch-up coverage.

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I spliced together some McLain video highlights from most of the last two years:

His older sister loves him as much as anyone, and the little guy is a complete ham…

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And, he’s photogenic enough to run for an elected toddler political office…

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He’s always been a singer, but now he’s a talker too. Like any second child, he finds his spots to shine. Like any kid anywhere, he’s growing up in a rapid flurry of sound and a bright flash of light…

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Oh, and he’s a mama’s boy in all the best ways, which I’ll have to detail some other time.

Last month, the four of us donned autumn colors and met Jessica Lobdell (jessicalobdell.com) at Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham. In case you don’t figure it out from the images here, these are the picture-making rankings of each family member (from most photogenic to least photogenic):

  1. McLain
  2. Katie and Jackie (tie)
  3. Baxter (not pictured)
  4. Robah (also not pictured)
  5. Andrew

By the way, if you need a photographer and live anywhere close to the Triangle, Jessica is excellent.

Click an image to start the slideshow. All photographs copyright Jessica Lobdell and Jessica Lobdell Photography LLC, 2012.

In every orderly house, the members follow a set of conduct guidelines. We try to be good people, and Katie and I practice and enforce the moral standards that we inherited from our parents. But, the golden rule and other tenets don’t always apply directly to certain situations (especially if you are three-and-a-half or almost two years old).

How does a family deal with these situations, that often occur daily, on White Oak Road?

We’ve come up with the following set of principles and accepted truths to help keep our household happy and productive:

  1. Be sweet to Robah… he never done nothin’ to nobody (and when you recite this rule, use Robah voice). All the rest of us have been mean or rude one time or another, but Robah never done nothin’ to nobody. Here’s McLain, mouth full of eggs, proving why this rule is necessary as he comes close to crossing the line.

    McLain tests the limits of rule #1

  2. At any time, in any place, JAMS will be played on request. For example, let’s say Cokie Roberts’ Monday segment is on NPR when we get in the car to go to Ms. Rose’s house, and Jackie says, “Play some JAMS, Dada.” Then, it’s goodbye Cokie, hello Bear in Heaven, Guided by Voices, J Dilla, etc.
    Note: “Dada” is the keeper of the JAMS, and this is the only situation in which a “please” is not required (see rule #4).
  3. Always thank Katie/Mama for dinner; we’ve got it really, really good. On the rare occasion that Dad cooks, try washing it down with your milk.
  4. Manners matter; good manners is an easy way to show respect to your co-eaters. Exception: good manners are postponed if McLain is practicing for his future in competitive eating.
  5. If Baxter brings you something, and you throw it he will fetch it and return it to you. If you continue to throw it for him, the result will eventually be Baxter passing out or maybe even perpetual motion.
  6. Every story told to Jackie at bed time must feature at least two of the following characters: a mean witch, a nice witch, a family, mean or nice animals, and girls with pretty dresses (including, but not limited to princesses). The more of these characters you work into the narrative, the more positive her post-story review is likely to be.
  7. Try not to show off at the playground, even though Jackie might swing better by herself than an older boy being pushed by his mom.
  8. Any statement that begins with, “I want…” automatically gets the following response: “Oh, you want something? Okay, well, I want a new custom-built home computer and compatible wireless music system.” Please ask nicely for something that you want, and understand that you might not get it.
  9. If McLain takes off his shirt and runs around the house or yard, don’t be alarmed. He has been possessed with his alter ego, Party Boy. In extreme situations, you can change Party Boy back to McLain by putting him in a bubble bath.
  10. As you go through life, assist other people (the Kendall Marshall rule). When you’re the recipient of an assist, be grateful and give credit to anyone who assists you (the Dean Smith corollary).

If parents use one cliché more than any other, it must be this one:

They grow up so quickly!

Before I had children, I was tired of hearing this because it seemed so trite. It is trite, but now that I have children, I am tired of hearing the cliché because it’s redundant. My expectation of the things that my children can do is continually exceeded by them actually doing those things (before I expect them).

Some days, it seems that if I stare at my nearly three-year-old daughter, I can see her brain development in-process. The evidence is usually a slightly different action than the day before. For example, I’ll notice that she looks at her breakfast a little more critically than the morning before, or maybe she suddenly wants to know our family plans for the next two days instead of just tomorrow.

Our bi-weekly painting sessions are one of my absolute favorite ways to spend an hour. They also provide many glimpses of Jackie’s development, and early signs of what I like to think are her artistic talents. For one thing, the child has laser focus when she commits to an activity. Instead of scribbling with her brush, she uses long strokes with directional purpose. Jackie also likes to cover the entire surface of the paper that we use. Here are a few of my favorites from our sessions.

I’m really excited that Jackie is learning to paint before she learns to draw. I think sometimes that the transition from drawing to painting is like the transition from a baseball swing to a golf swing. The ingrained practice of drawing (or hitting a baseball) is really hard to suppress when you start painting (or hitting a golf ball) because the learned activity is similar enough to the new activity to contaminate or hinder it.

I don’t force painting on Jackie, and she can quit at any time she wants after we get started. I took Jackie to the Rembrandt in America exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art last weekend. I’ll be the first to admit that the greatest of the Dutch Masters wasn’t the greatest for a toddler, but we still enjoyed ourselves. As we skimmed a Rembrandt book the week before our visit, I explained to Jackie what a portrait was. After 15 minutes walking through the exhibit, Jackie gave me a serious look and said, “Daddy, all of these pictures are portraits.”

Other museum-goers gave us you’re-being-noisy-in-a-library-type looks as we talked loudly about the paintings on the walls, which reminded me why people perceive art exhibits as stuffy (because they are). I even got scolded by a museum proctor when I pointed to Rembrandt’s signature on a painting from his Leiden period and my finger got within a few inches of the canvas. However, the exhibit was fantastic, Jackie was a good sport, and I think she enjoyed it (although not quite as much as she likes the modern area of the permanent collection).

And one day soon, when she or McLain creates something amazing that makes me proud, I’ll probably be surprised. After all, I was ready to cut up an apple for Jackie’s snack this past Monday, and she told me, “you don’t need to cut it Daddy…I’ll hold it and eat it.”

We get pretty stoked around here for Halloween, so we’ve been talking tricks and treats lately. Coincidentally, McLain has a new-found confidence on his feet. That’s right — he’s now ambulatory. He’s going to be a spider for Halloween, but as our friend Sarah suggested, his walking style and grunting evoke a miniature Frankenstein.

 

Jackie and I were busy this weekend with a new art project.

Jackie's on the left, mine on the right. I know, I know -- I probably could have picked a scarier paint color than pastel orange.

We made these light-up haunted houses that are pretty darn spooky when you turn them on in the dark.

Darth Vader lives in Jackie's box. When he's renovating the Death Star, he lives in a first-floor room with a large window.

Here are two more pictures from our family trip to the state fair on Friday. Katie took both kids on a tour through Jalopy Junction.

McLain is posing here with a sweet potato that’s close to the same weight as he is, with about the same amount of hair as he has.

I won’t even begin to list my reasons for not updating this blog sooner — there are more important things to talk about. In fact, I’m considering holding this blog hostage until my demands for a new home computer are met by my wife. Maybe it will take a Lion to convince her.

Before I get to the visuals, the past month brought us two major developments:

My grandmother died at age 97, early on Saturday, May 29. Her funeral was Wednesday. I want to write about that in a different post.

Holly and Scott Freeling gave birth to Robert Joseph Freeling (R.J. for short) about a month ago. They will be excellent parents, and I can’t wait to meet R.J.

Now, about this post. I was flipping through the photos I’ve taken with my phone over the past six months, and a few weird ones jumped out at me. I’ve also included some not-so-weird images, just so you don’t start worrying about me unnecessarily.

Katie got an interesting awesome Mother’s Day present, and Jackie and I have since been hunting down winged intruders in our house. Our hunting is done humanely — we’re all about catch and release around here. Here’s a picture of a fly, post-catch and pre-release.

Photo of a trapped fly, taken from the mouth of a discharged Fly-Goodbye vacuum canister.

Here are a couple choice images from our 20 minutes inside the Amococo exhibit at Artsplosure a few weeks ago.

Katie and Jackie breaking on through to the other side.

Jackie taking a break from all the psychedelia.

This is one of many ways Jackie likes to help out with McLain.

Jackie strolling McLain, somewhere downtown.

Jackie and I met and chatted with a real falconer for awhile.

Here’s an unintentionally spooky picture of Baxter quivering with fear in the bath tub. Let me explain. We had some heavy weather in Raleigh this past spring. As in other parts of the country, a lot of people in Raleigh and the rest of NC were victims of tornadoes. You would think by looking at him that he’s waiting out a storm. He’s not. Whenever Baxter hears a lawnmower outside, he gets completely terrified and goes to his safe place.

Here’s McLain and me. If you haven’t met him, trust me when I say he’s extremely cool.

I took this one right after Christmas. It’s the kind of picture you could hand to students in a creative writing class and say, “Write the short story. You have one hour to complete this final exam.” My father and I were attempting to show Jackie a real (and dead but frozen) bird up close. She wasn’t sure what to make of the brief experience. I love the picture though. Note the portrait of Rich, Maggie, and me hanging on the wall. Also note the small rubber chicken under Jackie’s hand.

Learning about birds

Katie entertains us before lunch at Busy Bee Cafe.

Prosthetic Play Doh nose

Here’s a pic of the two drooliest and downright sweetest members of the Jones family.

Slobber buddies

Our daughter has had sushi a few times now, and has willingly tried whatever we put in front of her at mealtime. She tells us she likes tuna, amberjack, eel, and even various roe, but her favorite food on the Japanese menu is clearly edamame. Beans in a pod present a challenge that she seems to find rewarding. Robah and Baxter like it too, because roughly 40% of the soy beans end up on the floor. My guess is that it’s comparable to a stingy piñata for them — as treats fly out one by one, the closest dog gets a tiny snack.

Jackie is not just the source of intermittent treats dropped on the floor; she also provides their real food. Twice a day, after breakfast and dinner, she is eager to complete her first real chore of filling the dogs’ bowls. I look forward to the day when she teaches McLain how to feed the dogs and is promoted to the bigger task of back yard waste management. I’m ready to pass the torch, as well as the official title of Head Pooper-Scooper.

Some two-year-olds are capable of providing for their younger siblings. At least, that’s how the following video begins. Around the two-minute mark, Jackie is eager to escape the awful racket that our mini food processor makes. In fact, Jackie says she wants to get far away from the food processor, “so it doesn’t kill me.” Dramatic? Maybe a bit. But in her defense, that food processor makes a harsh and ghastly noise.

McLain just started eating food other than breast milk last week, and there’s no better place to start than with what I believe to be the perfect food: the North Carolina sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). He’s since tried banana and avocado, but if he shares his sister’s tastes, a large part of his diet during the next year will consist of sweet potato.

 

Oh, and it’s March 8, 2011, which marks the sixth birthday of Baxter Burns Jones. Goodness knows we thought our reckless and crazy dog might kill himself long before now, so we have much to celebrate. Baxter is the eldest (and certainly weirdest) of our four dependents. He’s been with us during some drastic changes to our family unit. He usually listens better to the voices in his head than he does Katie and me, but we love him.

Textbook pointing form -- probably hunting a tennis ball

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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

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