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A couple of years ago, pregnant Katie and I went to see R.E.M., Modest Mouse, and The National at Walnut Creek (or whatever corporate name it has now); Jackie’s first prenatal concert experience showcased some of the best (R.E.M.), most innovative and raw (Modest Mouse), and worthwhile contemporary (The National) alt-rock.

A couple of weeks ago, pregnant Katie and I went to see My Morning Jacket with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Koka Booth Amphitheatre in Cary; McLain’s first prenatal concert featured the pre-eminent live experience of Jim James and company, preceded by the mostly-Dixieland style of a New Orleans jazz institution.

Pooch displays the set list from the Cary show

The show was also one of the biggest conventions of Triangle friends and family I’ve seen in years. My brother and his wife, Katie’s sister and her husband, as well as five college friends and other acquaintances. We really appreciate the baby sitting services of the Grandparents Jones.

Katie and Mindy

I’ve been waiting about six years to see MMJ, so my expectations were probably a bit inflated. As Katie and I walked to the car after the show, she asked me how I would grade it. I told her that I gave it a B for two reasons. First, the town of Cary has a noise ordinance that limits the volume (and therefore, limits the fun); there were four or five times when I was consciously irked that there wasn’t more output resulting from the band’s hard work. Second, they played too many songs from their most recent (and my least favorite) album. Even worse, the heart of the encore was the one MMJ song I detest: Highly Suspicious. So, count me among the curmudgeons who are old enough to complain about wanting to hear more of the “old stuff” from the “good old days.”

The end of Run Thru

Now that I have the negative out of the way, I want to say that the band was extremely tight considering that they didn’t really tour at all in 2009 or the beginning of 2010. The final song included the PHJB in a moving (literally for Rich and me) rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s Move on Up. What’s more, they played about six of the 15 or so songs that I really wanted to hear. That’s a pretty good batting average, and it included my Jim James favorite, The Way That He Sings. Why does my mind blow to bits every time they play that song? It’s just the way that he sings, not the words that he says or the band.

Dondante was one of several highlights

In one of my fantasies of the future, McLain will come to me one day and ask about the virtues of Southern Rock and who killed it (when it needed to die gracefully). Or maybe he’ll want to know how powerful a voice can be under the command of good songwriting. Perhaps he’ll just want to know what constitutes a great live rock and roll show. We’ll listen to It Still Moves or Z and I’ll remind him that he was in attendance, sort of, in Cary of all places.


Spring has been an adventure this year. Katie has been performing her demanding job (including travel), being pregnant, being a mother, and taking a graduate class remotely from Georgia Tech. I’ve been struggling with some home improvement projects during my hours away from work and away from my dogs. I’m even starting to think about installing a beehive instead of a chicken coop, primarily because it seems like a little less hassle.

But, no matter how busy we think we are, the whole family has enjoyed the turn in the weather at every opportunity. My daughter deserves credit for reintroducing Katie and me to the simple pleasures of being outdoors in April in North Carolina. I’ll never complain of allergies again; Jackie can hardly breathe due to congestion from spending most of her day inhaling pollen, but when she’s inside, she’s standing at the front door and pleading “ahsah” until we open door.

When my Dad called on Friday and told me that they would have to leave Durham immediately for Boone, we almost scrapped our plans to attend the Carolina spring game this past weekend. My grandmother turned 96 last month, and her physical condition worsens by the day as her mind (and will to live) remains as strong as ever. She fell early Friday morning, and my parents went home to attend to her.

So, my Mom would have miss her birthday celebration with Rich, Mindy, Katie, Jackie, and me, and my Dad would have to miss his first glimpse of the BCS-bowl-bound 2010 Tar Heels (after the basketball season we had, I’m shooting for the moon). We debated not going, but eventually decided to enjoy the gorgeous day and head to Chapel Hill. The spring game wasn’t that interesting for any of us, even though the defense met everyone’s expectations. Jackie sat in her seat for maybe two minutes before she dragged me, then Katie, out and around Kenan Stadium.

What was interesting, and what Jackie enjoyed the most, was tailgating with Uncle Rich and Aunt Mindy in the Bowles Lot before the game. I classify the event as her first major outdoor party. I hope we can do it again in September. Here’s some video:

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.

Last Sunday was momentous. A person I love was introduced to a thing I love, and I was lucky enough to watch the interaction.

Thanks to great tickets and a parking pass from a kind neighbor, Katie and I took Jackie to her first live sporting event — UNC vs. Nevada at the Smith Center.

I grew up with Carolina basketball, and I can’t help but think that Jackie will also find comfort and inspiration from the same source. Maybe it’s a player who scored pointing to a teammate to credit him for the assist after a fast break conversion. Maybe it’s blood, shed in sacrifice to victory, splattered on the floor of H.I.S. (Hansbrough Indoor Stadium, in Durham).  Or, maybe it’s the way Woody pronounces pistachio (pi-stash-see-oh).

On Sunday, we got to our seats about 15 minutes before tip-off. Jackie’s jaw dropped as soon as we started descending the steps in our section. The lights, the other fans, the band, and the sheer size of the building kept her mouth agape until about the 15:00 mark of the first half. After the initial shock waned, she seemed to be paying attention to the action on the floor. Katie put her in her very own seat early in the second half. Cracker in hand, Jackie’s behavior could have passed for any adult spectator in the arena, snacking and watching Larry Drew II dish out assists to Ed Davis. She was taking in the game (which was a little closer than I expected) like any other fan.

It was truly one of the best experiences during my short time as a father. On that night, happiness was sitting with my wife and daughter as Ol’ Roy got his 600th win.

Sarah and Eric Reilly celebrated their union in Asheville a couple of weeks ago, and the weekend was a blast. I won’t go into detail about hanging with the scores of Burnses, Jeffcoatses, and Katie and Sarah’s family friends who came from all over the country to western North Carolina. My parents and Rich and Mindy were there too. Even Robah made the trip (I’m truly sorry you missed it Bax). Suffice it to say that Ben and Janet threw a spectacular reception and hosted everyone who traveled for the event at some point during the weekend.

I do want to highlight the all-too-brief time we spent with Jason, Jen, and Marin Marks two weeks ago today. Here’s a video of Marin attempting to play catch with Jackie in the Marks’ backyard. We’re not pressing charges, mainly because Marin has a promising future in competitive Kong throwing. As for Jackie, she has a hard head like her old man, and she didn’t bat an eye.

Oh, and Robah later avenged the assault on Jackie by wiping his slobbery beard on the back of Marin’s head.

As a lot of other folks headed east to the beach for July 4th, Katie, Jackie, Baxter, Robah, and I headed west to the mountains. It was our first official nuclear-family vacation, which is notable because we consider our dogs to be just as nuclear to us as Lassie was to Timmy. Plus, going to Boone without the dogs is akin to me winning a skybox seat at Wrigley Field and not inviting my brother to come along. My folks were gone to visit extended family in Indiana, but graciously granted us the run of their property.

The highlights of our weekend included Robah being ambushed by a large buck, Jackie going on her first hike, Katie and me watching scattered mountain fireworks from my parents’ deck, and Baxter making it through the weekend without injuring himself like he has before when running wild in the mountains. Katie also cooked a sublime steak dinner, and we visited my grandmother twice, including lunch at her retirement center on Sunday. Seeing your 95-year-old grandmother hold your 6-month-old daughter is a little surreal and humbling (in a time-keeps-marching-on kind of way).

Here are a video and various pictures from the weekend. The video covers tickle time, play time with the dogs, and bouncing time.





Every year, in mid-June, Vogel State Park in north Georgia is taken over for an entire week by 50 or 60 Burnses from all over the country. It’s the Burns Family Reunion, and this was Jackie’s first experience with Katie’s great uncles and aunts, second cousins, third cousins, sixth cousins twice removed, and so on. She had a blast.

Before we left for Georgia, I didn’t think the week with Katie’s extended family would matter much to a six-month old baby. Boy, was I wrong. Jackie clung to her parents and grandparents the first couple of days, but after being passed around, cuddled, talked to, doted on, and welcomed by every member of Katie’s family for the first forty-eight hours, the child really started to get into it. A child psychologist or developmental expert could have written a qualitative research paper on Jackie’s transformation. She metamorphosed from shy to soaking-it-all-in. By the end of the week, she didn’t care who held her as long as they gave her full attention and praise.

Thanks to Ben and Janet for paying for the Jones family cabin and to Janet for looking after Jackie every night! Thanks to the entire Burns clan for welcoming its newest member!

Here is a slew of pictures from the week:

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news first: Jackie and I did not make the trip to Tennessee this weekend for Sarah & Eric’s wedding. Katie went, but we felt the ten-hour trip with one day between travel days would just be too much for the little one.

The good news is that Jackie and I were able to make the fourth annual Tour d’Coop, which showcased more than 20 different urban chicken coops inside (hen-side) Raleigh’s I-440 beltline. Six of the coops are within a one-mile radius of our house, so Jackie and I set out on foot/stroller to check them out.


I’ve had an interest in having chickens of our own for a couple of years now, and it was great to see the diversity of fowl-friendly accommodations so close to home. Like any type of pet, the chickens and their dwellings reflect the people who own them. Some coops were elaborate, even to the point that they matched the architectural detail of the adjacent houses. Other coops were simpler and less ornate. Every chicken owner we met today had a simple process for feeding, egg-gathering, and composting. The really interesting part was the small backyard footprint that each coop required — some had three or four chickens in less than 100 square feet.

Today’s tour convinced me that as long as there’s no co-mingling with Baxter and Robah, chickens would be a great addition to our family. I hope to start working on our coop sometime in the next year. On the other hand, Katie has already reminded me of the other changes we want to make to this house. For some reason, she seems to think that home-improvement endeavors might be higher on the list of priorities. Katie’s flan was killer; I think the only way to make it better would be to start with home-laid eggs.

There is other Burns family scoop — Eric proposed to Sarah recently and she accepted. We’re very excited for them. Anyone who knows them knows what a good couple they are, and what a good wife and husband combo they will make.

Congratulations you two crazy kids!


There was ice in the mountains...the picture doesn't do justice to the rocks on her finger.

Nana was with us last weekend, and she brought Burns family relafriend Judy Hall along for the ride. For those who might not know, a relafriend is a friend who is treated by a family as their relative (did Shannon Martin coin this term?). Nana and Judy got in a little late Friday night, but if Nana was tired from a long week of teaching followed by a six-hour drive, it wasn’t obvious when she arrived. I think she got her second wind when she pulled up to our house and saw her granddaughter through the front window. I have to give Nana credit though; as she made her bee-line from the car to the baby, she stopped long enough to give hug Katie and me hello. We all really enjoyed having Judy here too. Unlike the majority of our first-time visitors, she found Baxter and Robah to be more amusing than annoying.



Last Saturday, Katie, Jackie, Nana, Judy, and I hopped in Nana’s minivan and headed west on I-40. I drove the minivan, which wasn’t nearly as distressing an experience as I thought that it would be ten years ago. I can see why new parents give up form for a functional “living room on wheels” as my friend Jay calls his van. My Aunt Carolyn, and her sons Will and Ryan, hosted all the local Watsons at their house in Burlington. The food was great, and catching up with the 20 or so Watsons in attendance was even better. Jackie met some of her extended family, received several gifts, and sat in between both her grandmothers for awhile that afternoon. I’ve added an assortment of pictures from the day below.

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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