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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.

Robah made the trip with us to western North Carolina for Christmas. It was a lot of fun for me to see a dog born on Emerald Isle frolic in 18 inches of snow.

Baxter had to stay home, but don’t feel too bad for him. While Robah and I were out in the snow, Baxter was snuggled up in a bed at home, where Sarah was looking after him.

The first 20 seconds of the clip below show the fun part of his time in the winter wonderland. The last part of the video shows the scariest moment of our holidays. The 112-pound dog from the beach thought he could walk across a frozen pond. I closed the camera after I realized he was in trouble and thought I would have to go in after him, but it was much more traumatic for me than it was for him — he hopped right out of the frigid water and continued his romp through the snow.

I was convinced that the effects of hypothermia would set in at any minute. He wasn’t a bit bothered by the ordeal. That’s Robah for you…whatta good boy.

My mother’s side of the family, the Watsons, came to our house for Thanksgiving dinner. We were thrilled to host the Watsons. My parents attended, as did the Watsons  (Danny and Janice, from Burlington), the Hudsons (Nancy, Gary, Chris, Angie, Lindsay, and Darren Austin, all of whom drove here from Charlotte), the Prices (Carolyn, Will, Ashley, Ryan, from Burlington), and Katie’s cousin Lee (from Chapel Hill). Lee was the outsider who everyone enjoyed having, especially me (he washed a lot of dishes).

The meal was headlined by Katie’s 25-pound turkey, which was the most robust, delicious bird I’ve ever eaten. I could kick myself for not taking a picture of that beast.

All the sides and desserts were equally delectable. Jackie, Baxter, and Robah also enjoyed our company. My father had everyone singing along to his new party game. The working title is What’s Next, and he tailored the clues to the personal interests of the family members in attendance.

We appreciate y’all for spending the holiday in Five Points, and it was darn good to catch up with everyone. Also, thanks to my parents for looking after the baby while we prepped.

The latest, greatest parlor game: What's Next

Goofin' off before company arrives

Baby time with Aunt Carolyn, Cousin Will, and two of her top-notch grandparents

Strolling with Gramps and Great Uncle Danny

Good boys get turkey cracklin'

Strolling some more...watch out for the many sidewalk cracks JBJ

JBJ poses atop her old man

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.

There are many musical associations lurking in our heads. In my experience, a connection between a certain song and a stimulus happens often, and some even happen and repeat on a regular basis. For example, “Summertime Rolls” by Jane’s Addiction is triggered every year during the month of August, and I think I’ve experienced this — the song evoked by the late summer heat, set to repeat in my head  — since I was 14 or 15 years old.

I thought about personalizing and re-hashing the lyrics for this post, but that seemed a little too contrived (although the line “there is so much space…I cut me a piece” is a perfect fit for beachgoing). I also didn’t use the song as a soundtrack to the beach footage below, but for me, it’s playing in my head when I see my daughter barefoot, fingernails of mother’s pearl playing in sand, gumming cantaloupe, and dancing with her Uncle Rich.

Katie, Jackie, Rich, Mindy, and I spent five days at Ocean Isle. It was a rescheduled vacation that Rich put together after my parents were unable to make the first trip we planned. My folks stayed in Boone to look after my grandmother during her fight against congestive heart failure. She hasn’t lived 95 years because she’s not committed to life, and I’m glad to report that she’s almost back to full strength. It was disappointing for us to be beach-bound without my parents (understatement of the year: they deserve a vacation), but they did what they had to do.

The rest of us enjoyed our time at OIB; no one soaked in more of the experience than little Jackie. I’ve included some pictures below. If I had the time to arrange them chronologically, the images would tell a cohesive story. I’ll leave it up to you to organize them from first to last (especially the pictures where Jackie is eating sand). As soon as I have time to edit the video from the trip there will be some live-action memories posted here too.

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.

17_Jackie_Mommy_BlueKnob

17_Jackie_hiking_2

17_Jackie_Great_Grandmother2

17_BlueKnob_deck

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:

Since our last update, Jackie has mastered bouncing and parent-assisted swimming. She’s also cut one bona fide tooth and another is about to erupt from her lower gum line. If she inherits her father’s dental genetic traits, one of these teeth will probably need a root canal in a month or so. Here’s a list of the other foods she’s added to her core diet of breast milk:

  • Sweet potatoes (old trusty — if you could only eat one food, you couldn’t choose much more wisely)
  • Bananas (her new favorite — also rhymes with “Nana”)
  • Apples
  • Green beans (not the first thing she would order off a menu)
  • Peas (see Green beans)
  • Peaches (second favorite, behind bananas)
  • Carrots
  • Corn + zucchini (one of the few foods her mother and I don’t steam and puree ourselves)
  • Salt & vinegar pork rinds (only when we feel like spoiling her)

Jackie isn’t quite ready to crawl, so here’s a video medley of her burning calories the only two ways she knows how — by bouncing and swimming:

I’ve got to admit it’s getting better. It’s getting better all the time.

Five years ago today I married my true boo and I’m happier than ever to be Katie’s husband. Thank you Katie. I love you.

It isn't cheesy if you really mean it.

I know what you're thinking, but it isn't cheesy if you really mean it.

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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

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