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Content from Halloween is still in post-production and not yet bloggable, so I thought I would post a comparative video study of McLain.

The first video features footage from mid-October, a phase of McLain’s development that I classify as the end of being a newborn. His eyes are usually closed and eyelids swollen, his range of movement is limited to the space he was used to in the womb, and the only sounds he can make are frail cries. The video shows one of his first horse baths (and a large wet spot on my shirt), lunch with his mother, floor time with his sister and canine brothers, and his first real bath (no one was peed on during that one).

Note: The large wet spot on my shirt in the beginning clip is not water. Katie wouldn’t be laughing so hard if it were.

The second video shows him about a week ago, as an infant. He spends a few hours a day alert, soaking in the sights and sounds of home life with his family. I used to think that new humans developed so slowly compared to other animals, but now I know that what’s going on in the human brain is complex beyond comparison to, for example, Robah’s cognitive growth during his puppyhood.


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

McLain has almost a full week of worldly experience, and he couldn’t be doing better. His mother, when she isn’t cuddling with him or taking care of the rest of us, has his nursing schedule completely under control. His sister adores him, asks to hold him at least 10 times a day, and hasn’t poked him in the eye (yet). His canine brothers have only licked him (Baxter) and drooled on him (Robah) once.

Things are going really well for the expanded family unit. We truly appreciate the ongoing help and love from his grandparents, as well as the calls, visits, and food from friends and family. Two special shout-outs are warranted: to Nana for quarantining herself Saturday when she had a stomach bug, and Sarah for joining Katie and me the early morning of his arrival.

I plan to make a couple of more polished posts after I go through the many pictures and videos waiting for me on our hard drive. In the meantime, here’s a link to a Picasa album, and the first picture of our expanded family:

Family, September 2010

Halloween weekend was a lot of fun for us. Nana arrived fairly late last Friday night from Georgia. Saturday, the family across the street invited us to their son’s birthday party. The spread of food was bountiful — our neighbors are Montagnards, part of an ethnic group from Vietnam,
and they prepared a feast for their friends and family. We were lucky to be invited, and even though we arrived only a couple of hours after we ate lunch, I couldn’t turn down the pho-like bowl of soup they prepared for me. While Jackie played with two other babies on the floor of their living room, Katie and I sampled items from the buffet in the kitchen.

One of the older men there explained that Montagnard/Degar people supported U.S. forces in the Vietnam war, and that outside of Vietnam, Raleigh has one of the largest Montagnard communities in the world. I don’t know much else about their culture, but they definitely have food figured out — rich meat flavors, aromatic ingredients added ad hoc to suit personal taste (cilantro, basil, lime), and plenty of heat from raw or semi-cooked peppers. Our sinuses cleared, we crossed the street to get ready for some sugar-free trick-or-treating.

Quick background: Just after Katie and I moved into our current house last summer, I discovered that a friendly neighbor down the street was actually my second cousin once removed. He informed me that another mutual cousin lives on our street, between our house and his. So, I have a second cousin once removed and a third cousin (neither of whom had I met before) who live within one city block of me on the same street.

Early Halloween evening we met up with the Blairs (my third cousin, her husband, and their son, who is about the same age as Jackie), and hauled the little ones (a monkey and a spider) down to Fallon Park for the neighborhood Halloween Parade & Potluck. We got there just in time to see some interesting costumes, and even a few families that showed costume solidarity — dad, mom, and kids had coordinated outfits. And, some of these kids looked like they were in middle school. I’m pretty sure I was enough of a brat as a teenager that I would have sneered/jeered at anyone who suggested that my family dress up with a unified Halloween theme.

We left the park and headed back to our street, where we stopped by neighbors’ houses to show off the babies and turn down candy offers. Of course, Katie and I weren’t counting on 75 degrees and sun when we ordered Jackie’s monkey suit, so she seemed relieved when we finished our tour up and down our street.

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!


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).

A lot has happened in the last few weeks — a wonderful weekend with Nana, a trip to Boone, Katie’s birthday, new music (albums from Neko Case & DOOM, select tracks from new Junior Boys and Dan Deacon), and hectic work days/nights — but nothing has been a bigger deal in little Jackie’s world than spending her first weeks with Ms. Rose.

When Katie and I go to work every day, Jackie goes to stay with Ms. Rose. I don’t know what Jackie does while she’s there, but I know she always smiles at Ms. Rose when I drop her off, and she’s always exhausted when Katie picks her up. Perhaps the two other children under Ms. Rose’s care, who are both around 13 months old, are putting innocent pressure on the little one to keep up. Regardless, we get the sense that Ms. Rose is a very positive influence…so far, so good.

Here’s some assorted video that covers the following topics:

  • Mom’s last day at home before returning to work
  • A taste test gone wrong
  • Straight rollin’ — to the left, to the left, to the right, to the right
  • The first of many, many Daddy-Daughter Days

I never knew that a big human could love a little human so daggone much.

This post is really going to disappoint the grandparents, but sometimes a man has to give some credit to the lowest-on-the-totem-pole members of his family. The dogs have earned the recognition — especially Robah.

One drizzly day last week, the three of us were strolling down White Oak Road when a lab-like dog that was about Robah’s size sprinted toward us. I had my ear buds in and my rain jacket hood on, so I didn’t realize the dog was approaching so quickly until he was ten feet from us. Robah, who always walks on my right side (Baxter always holds down our left flank), was ready and waiting. I looked to my right just in time to see Robah lunge, teeth showing and spine hair raised, and attack the dog that seemed to be attacking us. The aggressive assailant pooch was instantly reduced to a defeated, whimpering stray.

Moments after Robah came down on his head and snapped at his neck, the stray dog ran back from whence he came. Before we continued down the street, I looked at Baxter. He seemed just as surprised as me that sweet, easy-going Robah had earned a badge of honor in such intimidating fashion.

About a week ago, I recorded and edited a frisbee session. I know the grandparents (except possibly my Dad) will find this dull, but worry not — I’ll get back to baby footage soon.


1. The video looks much better if you press play and then click the HQ button in the YouTube control bar. This action displays the high quality version.

2. The soundtrack consists of songs by The Field and Guided by Voices.

Jackie is approaching three months, and one of the latest developments is her new-found fondness for chewing. I can’t wait to leave indie rock, electro, Russian classical, non-gangster hip-hop, jazz, slowcore, post-punk, or shoegaze credits under her pillow on behalf of the Tooth/Tune Fairy. Here’s a video of her teething a little, playing a little, and being her adorable little self.

Jackie had her two-month check up with her pediatrician the other day, which can easily be described in two parts.

The first part was the good part. They weighed and measured her while Katie and I looked on, eager to hear the results. We realize that these numbers are simply a snapshot of her as an infant, and not any kind of indication of future growth, but it’s always fun to quantify her development. Here are some stats and their parenthetical percentile rankings:

Weight: 12.75 lb. (90th)

Height: 24.75 in. (98th)

Noggin circumference: 16.8 in. (99th)

Of course, no one at this house is “keeping score” or “comparing babies” or even “emphasizing baby benchmarks”, but Katie and I were pleased with the doctor’s evaluation. It means that she’s eating and growing well. And, she has a big head like her old man.

The bad part of the doctor’s appointment involved her two-month vaccination. Three needle stabs, several baby screams, and one distraught mommy later, we headed for home.

Finally, here is some assorted video footage that shows off her newly-extended vocal range:

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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