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A couple days after your baby is born, you have to leave the hospital. I was certainly ready to get out of there. But, with your first child, going home with a screaming, mysterious pink infant is a bit of a scary notion. The shock of the hospital experience is overtaken by the anticipation of the future first-day-home experience.

I think I remember packing up our stuff in the hospital room, three days after Jackie was born. Everything was in order, or at least I thought it was. I had tightened the 5-point harness car seat, and was confident that we could drive the 4 miles from Rex Hospital to White Oak Road without endangering mother or child.

Katie was wheelchair-bound, holding a tiny (yet 10-plus pounds) Jacqueline Burns Jones, and I was pushing. I remember the general smell of the courtesy take-home lasagna (thanks, Rex) in the elevator, going down.

I’d noticed the car seat inspector before as I’d entered and exited the hospital. He’d always seemed unusually busy, hovering around the perimeter of whichever minivan or station wagon was parked near the automatic doors. On the second day of our 3-day stint with Jackie, I stood out by the fountain and watched him “work” for about 10 minutes. Was this guy really collecting a paycheck for this? How hard could it be to pull on a car seat and proclaim either “tight enough” or “a little tighter”?

Now, after fetching our Honda, I saw him again. This time, however, he had an unmistakable air of authority. I suddenly realized my true place in the situation — with eyes blurry from fatigue and head pounding, I was presuming to take an exhausted woman and a wriggling, screaming baby out of the hospital and drive them four long miles through curvy roads to a house across town.

The Chief Car Seat Inspector approached the Honda, and asked if he could take a look. “Of course”, I replied, in the most respectful tone I could utter.

He wiggled the car seat, and it gave. It moved about a centimeter from side to side, and I knew I had failed my first test. “Here’s how you get it really tight,” he said to me nicely as I prepared to make mental note.

Now I know the importance his job, and how he often deals with men and women who enter the hospital confident, but leave it humbled and frazzled.

We made it home safely on December 26, 2008. I bet Bax and Beebs are still wondering what hit them.

Here’s Jackie coming home in 2008:

What the...

What the…

 

If you’ll allow liberties so I can make a parallel, there’s a new gatekeeper in our world these days. Melissa drives the J. Y. Joyner Elementary School blue bus, which turns left from Oxford Road and stops at the corner of Alexander and White Oak at approximately 8:53 a.m. every weekday during the school year.

Every morning, Jackie, McLain, and I walk down to meet the bus. They and the other kids play tag or Mother May I (Mrs. Williams is the MC) until the bus makes its turn onto White Oak Road. The first one to spot it (usually a parent) yells, “BUS!”, and the kids are off.

Some days, Jackie rides it home as well.

Here’s Jackie coming home in 2014:

Getting off the blue bus after the first day

Getting off the blue bus after the first day

 

Katie and I, and Jackie too (mostly), have wonderful things to say about JYJ Elementary.

 

Hallowed kindergarten hall at J.Y. Joyner

Hallowed kindergarten hall at J.Y. Joyner

Orientation in Mr. Del's class

Orientation in Mr. Del’s class

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I’ll start by admitting that living in Raleigh has tested me over the past year. I’m a Carolina alum and sports fan, so there hasn’t been a lot of good news since Butch was (rightfully) kicked out of Chapel Hill. The college-sports enthusiasts with west-Raleigh ties are not making it easier for me, but I don’t resent them for finding our closets, and mostly, I’m trying not to resent their resentful poking and prodding of a rival school’s academic and athletic skeletons.

Also, I don’t hold it against the local media that they have to dissect every tweet, interview, rumor, blog post, or newspaper story about the scandal as it unfolds. I am glad that I don’t work in local media; I wish that I could tune it out a little better, but I find that to be really hard.

So, I’ll talk about what’s good, and why I’m proud to live in Raleigh. The Hopscotch Music Festival is at the top of the civic-pride list. How many earthlings can boast 175 bands in three nights, all within a mile radius of their civic core, for less than the price of a Sonos Play 3?

I have proof that I’m into this — see my spreadsheet below for a glimpse of how I spend my free time. But first, here’s a little personal history.

The inaugural Hopscotch was in 2010. Katie was 8.5 months pregnant with McLain, I had a one-year-old daughter at home, and I skipped it.

Last year, I put a toe in the Hopscotch water. There was no choice about attending at least one City Plaza show — Guided by Voices was playing two miles from my house (with The Dodos and Drive-by Truckers opening).

This year, I’m all in. I got a three-day wristband, and I’ve been thrilled about it  ever since the etix transaction back in June.

Unlike last year, one of my favorite bands of all time will not be playing in 2012. But, I think the following shows are worth seeing, regardless of where they are playing:

  • The Roots
  • Built to Spill
  • Yo La Tengo
  • Liars
  • Sunn O)))
  • Thee Oh Sees
  • Danny Brown
  • Deerhoof
  • Baroness
  • Lambchop
  • Killer Mike
  • The Spits
  • Oneida
  • Holograms
  • Sister Crayon
  • Doldrums
  • Whatever Brains
  • Guardian Alien

It’s not necessarily about the music you or I know and already love; it’s about the potential for discovery. For the record, I believe that this year’s Hopscotch line up is bigger and better than the Moogfest line up in Asheville, which I would not have claimed last year.

Here’s my homework, or at least my personal effort to educate myself about the bands at the festival this year (google docs): Hopscotch 2012 Line Up Analysis

Here’s what the first tab looks like:

A look at my subjective analysis of the Hopscotch 2012 line up

Some notes about the spreadsheet:

Priorities worksheet

  • Shows are marked and organized by column according to how interested I am in seeing them — it’s an effort to prioritize and make tough decisions about shows to seek out, shows to happen upon, and a few shows I might want to disregard. If you don’t like my priorities, or even if you do, you should come up with your own.
  • I forced all of the bands/artists into 9 genres (one of which is “other”). This is certainly not an effort to label all of them precisely, but it helps to classify the types of acts at a given venue on a given night. It also yields a surprising snapshot; for example, there are 15 metal bands this year, and not nearly as much 80’s-influenced dance rock (considering how that sound seems so common these days).
  • There are links to live performances for most of the artists. This should at least give you a feel for the band’s stage show. Note that some of the smaller, local artists (generally found at the bottom of the list) don’t have much live performance video online.
  • Prioritization is a work in progress, and maybe it can be used for planning purposes.
The Venue, ThuFri, and Sat worksheets are self-explanatory.

This year we appreciated Halloween for what it really is — one of the best holidays on the calendar. Several qualities of Halloween make it special, and even virtuous: 1) no gifts are necessary other than treats, 2) it fosters and rewards imagination, 3) Butterfingers and Skittles, and 4) celebrating Halloween, for us at least, means celebrating with your neighbors.

Jackie was into Halloween this year, and consequently, Katie and I were really into it. We decorated the house and carved a total of five pumpkins. Jackie wore different costumes on the 23rd and 31st (lamb and ladybug), as did her buddy Drew (dragon and giraffe). Five Points businesses sponsored a breakfast and trick-or-treating on the 23rd, and the annual parade was held at Fallon Park prior to the main event on the 31st.

Grandaddy and Mama JJ were on hand for Halloween night, and pushed monkey McLain around as he participated in his first parade. We loved having my parents involved in the festivities. McLain might have loved it too, but he slept the entire afternoon and evening.

Here’s a video recap of Halloween day/night.

The following pictures span the last few weeks of October. And, yes, that is a Lil HalloWayne pumpkin (sans dreads).

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: http://picasaweb.google.com/katiebjones/McLainIsBorn?authkey=Gv1sRgCLmdkYDDzPuZowE#

Family, September 2010

McLain Moore Jones was born early this morning at Rex Hospital in Raleigh. He’s quite lovable.

Birth stats:

  • 7 lbs., 10 oz.
  • 20.5 in. long
  • born at 7:45 a.m.

Katie’s initial assessment of his appearance is that he, like Jackie when she was an infant, looks like my father. He’s been sleeping pretty hard during his first few hours. Of course, I think he’s amazing in every way. I also think the same of my wife. By the way, Katie is already scheming about how to get out of the hospital as soon as possible.

Dr. Littleton was wearing a Tar Heel-themed surgical hat when he delivered McLain, which Katie allowed. The planned aspect of Katie’s admittance and McLain’s birth made it seem like a very controlled and predictable process. Jackie’s two-week-late arrival surprised us, but McLain arrived according to the schedule laid out for us yesterday.

My only disappointment this morning was the Steve Miller Band playing in the operating room during the McLain extraction. When will hospitals defer to parents for a child’s first ex-utero music? Seriously though, I couldn’t have been happier with the treatment we received this time and last time from Rex Hospital. Everyone has gone out of their way to welcome us and make us comfortable.

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We’re at Rex Hospital bright and early today. Kate will be taken into the OR in a few minutes. I’ll make a full, more interesting post after McLain is born. In the meantime, here are Kate and Sarah in the triage.

Tonight I looked back at what I tweeted during Jackie’s birth in December of ’08. Here’s a screenshot of the twitter archive; the entries are listed chronologically from oldest at the bottom, to newest at the top.

Tweets from Jackie’s birth

This is the image linked to the post-birth tweet shown above, “Love”.

I speak for Katie, probably not Jackie, and certainly not Baxter and Robah, when I say we are giddy with excitement about meeting McLain.

In less than six days, Katie will give birth to McLain Moore Jones. Unlike Jackie’s birth, this one will be a scheduled c-section. We know that McLain will be extracted at 7:15 a.m. on Tuesday, September 14.

Here’s the PR plan for McLain’s birth. Friends and family, if you want to know how things are going on Tuesday, choose one of these info-dissemination options:

  • Go to http://twitter.com/senojydna to follow live-tweets of McLain’s birth, including pics and video (depending on the REX wifi).
  • Most of the same updates to my twitter account will be posted to facebook, but only FB friends can access my profile.
  • I will probably post something to the blog, http://www.dogfoodmoney.com, from my phone soon after McLain is born. I’ll update the blog with a comprehensive post sometime on Tuesday night or Wednesday.
  • Of course, you can call, text, or email me directly whenever you want.
  • As you might guess, the Burns Family Reunion in Vogel State Park (in north Georgia) is about spending time with family. Katie and Jackie are blue bloods; they are genetically obligated to hang out with the other Burns blue bloods all day. Robah, me, and any other spouse, pet, or guest are outlaws. We outlaws are made to feel accepted and loved; we truly feel honored to be a part of this week-long family gathering.

    But once in awhile, outlaws like to spend a little time away from the throngs of blue bloods. Maybe the outlaw retreats back to an empty cabin and reads a book. Maybe a couple of outlaws drive over to Helen for a few hours. Robah and I chose to walk through the woods every morning. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my other dog, who didn’t make the trip. Baxter doesn’t travel very well, so he was left behind at Camp Canine (which he seems to really like).

    There are several trailheads in the middle of the park. On our first morning at Vogel, we hiked the four-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail. Every subsequent day, we hiked a little farther. Our goal was to work our way up to a long hike on Friday — the Coosa Backcountry Trail, a 16-mile trail through the Chattahoochee National Forest that begins at Vogel, crosses the summit of Duncan Ridge, intersects the Appalachian Trail, and takes the hikers near Blood and Slaughter Mountains (not as violent as they might sound).

    Coosa Backcountry Trail from Google Maps

    It’s not the distance that makes it daunting. Rather, it was the 7,735 feet of aggregate elevation gain that really wore us down. As you can see from the graph below, the elevation gain during the first half is a tease for the climbs and descents in the second half.

    Elevation, by mile

    Here are the final stats of our hike. By the way, I captured this data using the GPS receiver and My Tracks on my EVO phone. My Tracks is an incredible tool that is especially helpful for a directionally-challenged guy in the woods with nothing, and no one, in sight or earshot. Here are the hike statistics that My Tracks captured:

    Now that you’ve seen the objective data about the hike, let me tell you about a few things that my smartphone couldn’t assist me with. Except for a few guys camping near the trailhead, Robah and I saw no one else anywhere near the trail all day. Thinking that the unfamiliar part of the long trail would have about the same amount of creek water access as the familiar part, I decided to travel light and carry only enough water for me. I had about 70 ounces for me, and Robah could drink from the many creeks along the way. This was a potentially dangerous mistake on my part.

    Finally, it seemed to me before we set off that 85 degrees in the north Georgia mountains would feel cooler than 85 degrees in Raleigh, because we would be shaded for almost all of the hike. We were shaded, but we got hotter and hotter the more we walked. I didn’t bring enough water, but I did bring changes of shirts, shorts, and socks. Despite the dry changes of clothes, my pack was dripping wet when we finished.

    Here’s a list of highlights from the hike, in order and marked on the map:

    1. Robah and I embark around 9:30 a.m., fully hydrated.
    2. I drink my first bottle of water (24-oz.) at Burnett Gap. Robah drinks from a creek, as planned.
    3. We come upon a recently-vacated campsite. A red Toyota pickup is parked next to a boombox that is playing an unfamiliar Red Hot Chili Peppers song. No one is there.
    4. GPS notwithstanding, I think we’ve taken a wrong turn after the Coosa trail intersects a couple of different Appalachian Trail spurs. After some backtracking and worrying, we figure out the right direction and keep moving.
    5. We meet a deer and Robah goes into berserk mode. I finally convince him to forget about it.
    6. After hiking the last few miles soaked in sweat, I change shirts, get out a fresh sweat towel, and eat half a sandwich and some carrots I brought. Robah scarfs a few Pupperonis (his favorite).
    7. There is no creek anywhere in sight, but Robah is thirsty. I give Robah some water and finish off my last water bottle. We’re officially out of water with approximately eight miles to go…not even half-way. The dry socks I put on are heavenly.
    8. We reach the second crossing of Highway 180, and I realize that the next ascent is just as high as the previous one. In about 20 minutes, we’ll both be hiking (or struggling) on all fours as we climb the mountain. We take breaks every fifty feet during the climb. It’s getting a little hard to swallow.
    9. At the top of the incline, we are greeted by a sea of ferns. Relief and natural peace help us carry on.
    10. A tall man in a white lab coat appears to be gathering rocks from the ground. After a few confused seconds pass, I realize it’s a minor hallucination. It’s actually a half-dead tree. Robah looks at me like I’m weird.
    11. The trail (if you can call it that) is barely recognizable. Bees are swarming in a couple of places. I hurry Robah along, pretty sure that the bees are not just in my head.
    12. I’m feeling better about things now that we’re heading downhill. We scare several quails from their ground nests as we go.
    13. More bees.
    14. Gorgeous, delicate red wildflowers align the trail. I decide against picking some illegally for my girls.
    15. FINALLY, a creek. Robah and I find our respective spots in the water and lie down. We each drink a couple of liters from the creek.
    16. Rain falls on us as we reach familiar territory. I’ve been soaking wet all day, so the rain is no inconvenience. After 16 miles of up and down, we get back to our cabin around 2:30 p.m.

    Here are a couple of pictures of my hiking partner. If you’re going to be out in the woods for awhile, there’s no better dog in the world (nothing against Baxter — he has other virtues).

    Updated: I added several good pictures, including the Witkin family of Winston-Salem, horses, and a modified garden wagon.

    I don’t have time right now to go into details about our weekend in Boone.  Of course, Jackie’s time with her grandparents on Blue Knob is always post-worthy, and our most recent visit included feeding horses and the Cadillac of kids’ wagons (or maybe Humvee of kids’ wagons) — she rode in comfort and rugged style down the winding gravel road. Maybe after we return from holiday I’ll sort out the many videos and pictures from last weekend.

    Our fun wasn’t limited to Watauga County. We also had a good time at a party thrown for the upcoming Halsey/Busick union. In fact, I would bet the ranch that no one at the party had a better time than Jackie.

    Here she is running happily amok, as the band played on:

    Updated: the following pics were added on July 13.

    The JACKIE-LAC; a rugged, yet stylish mode of Blue Knob transportation

    Cheers! (pronounced "Che-ouh-was")

    Eustace's horses

    Post-bubble blowing

    Michael, Jackie, and Spencer enjoy story time

    Sharon, arms full

    Image from Raleigh

    Urban dirt-biking

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

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