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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.

Pictures and video of our Thanksgiving holiday with the Burnses in Maggie Valley:

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The second best thing about November, as far as I’m concerned, is the veritable plenty of North Carolina leafy greens. Kale, mustard, the almighty collard…you get the idea.

In case you’re wondering about the absolute best thing about November, it’s the start of college basketball. The Heels host Lipscomb on Friday night. We’ll be having chard for our pre-game dinner.

The photo above shows Jackie leading a leafy-green cheer. The pompoms are new bunches of red chard that came in our Papa Spud’s box earlier today.

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

Annie Dillard wrote, “The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.” Well, when the sea spoke to Jackie this past weekend, she talked back to it.

The three of us really enjoyed our first nuclear family vacation (and only nuclear family vacation for just the three of us, considering that McLain arrives in September). We spent four days and three nights in Nags Head over the Memorial Day weekend. Our home base was within walking proximity to a public beach access, a grocery store, an ice cream shop, and Sam & Omie’s — we had everything we wanted adjacent to our modest motel suite. Katie deserves all the credit for coming up with the idea and putting it all together.

Jackie loved the beach with the exception of that huge body of bothersome salt water; it must have seemed so unpredictable to her, the way it continually advanced and retreated. Whenever the tide came within ten feet or so, she scolded it, shouting, “NO wa-wa.” In her defense, the water was pretty chilly.

Jackie is a little beyond 17 months old, and it’s hard for me to imagine a child being more fun at any other age. Here’s some holiday video.

Note: The music snippets used in the video are from songs by Shabazz Palaces, Toro Y Moi, and Gauntlet Hair.

Well, the child’s birthday and Christmas will be combined for the rest of her life, so I might as well do the same with the blog post that documents year one.

The Jones family, minus Baxter (who doesn’t travel well), went west for the Christmas holiday. Since we’ve been married, and because our parents live pretty far away from each other, Katie and I alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings every year. In 2009, we spent the week of Christmas with the Burns crew in Waynesville.

It was a snowy, relaxing holiday week, and we even got to catch up with the some friends in Asheville one night. Most of the time though, we hung out with Katie’s family indoors, waiting for Jackie to do something funny/cute/interesting. Nana taught her a few tricks during the week, including the sliding-rear-end-stair-descent (featured in the video below). And, no one entertained her or intrigued her more than PopPop when he donned his mechanical Santa hat (also in the video).

We also celebrated Jackie’s first birthday (on the 23rd), which she shares with her Aunt Holly (who surprised us by arriving the night before). It was a blast, except for the fact that my parents and brother and sister-in-law couldn’t make the party due to the snow and ice that blanketed the western part of North Carolina. We were able to visit them to start the new year — I’ll post pictures from our trip to Boone as soon as I have time to go through them.

The small cake (for Jackie) and the big cake (for the rest of us) came from The Sisters McMullen Bakery in downtown Asheville. I can’t rave about them enough, and trust me, I’ve had my share of sweet treats in my 32 years.

Jackie was funny about eating her cake, as you can see for yourself in the video below. I like to think she’s a civilized child — it wasn’t until she was given a fork that she really started to dig in. This was her first taste of refined sugar and she didn’t seem too fond of it.

There are a slew of fantastic pictures from our holiday, but I’ll have to put them in a future post when I have more time.

Just a quick pat on the back to Katie, who whipped up a homemade flan for Family Supper Club a couple of weeks ago. I’ve never tasted a better custard in any form. She may be a working mom with a lot going on, but she still has the skill set and energy to crank out good eats!

13_Katie_flan

Over the past couple of weeks, Katie has convinced me that Jackie is ready for a little variety in her diet. The nursing and bottles of breast milk are still going very well (from this spectator’s perspective), but Jackie seems to want a little more to eat than her five feedings a day can provide. On top of that, she is mesmerized when she watches Katie and me eat or drink.

Her interest and growing hunger prompted us to try giving her rice cereal mixed with milk. The verdict is still out, but I’m pretty sure she won’t list rice cereal as her favorite food in the official Carolina Women’s Soccer media guide 18 years from now.

Here’s some video evidence that what goes down sometimes comes up (director’s note: the point of highest drama occurs at the very end).

Katie and I don’t claim to be expert parents. Our decisions about our daughter have been a mix of bad and good, and as a result, we’ve ridden the emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows that most parents experience during the first couple of months. If our parenting skills were ever evaluated by an objective observer, I’m confident that our evaluation would read like this:

They are competent as parents. They have really good taste in music. And most importantly, whether a parental decision earns them a black eye or a feather in their cap, their parenting is motivated by love for their daughter.

Now that I’ve shown how humble we are, allow me to brag on my wife. I came home from a long day documenting technology in RTP, and Katie treats me to the meal pictured below.

Grown-up dinner for real

Grown-up dinner for real

This was the menu:

  • Pan-seared salmon with a homemade Greek yogurt sauce
  • Haricot verts
  • Roasted potatoes with seasonal herbs
  • Sparkling white wine
  • Double fudge brownies with Mayfield ice cream (not pictured)

So, just in case Katie isn’t an early frontrunner for 2009 mother of the year, consider this a nomination. Three cheers for the cook:

Hip hip hooray!

Hip hip hooray!

Hip hop hooray!

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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

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