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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.

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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.

Notes:

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.

Our baby is changing in front of (and away from) our eyes. Today is her one-month birthday and it took five inches of snow, which is essentially a debilitating blizzard here in Raleigh, to prevent Katie and me from going to the Cupcake Shoppe Bakery to score celebratory cupcakes. Instead of birthday sweet treats, we sustained ourselves at home with inauguration coverage and my return to the working-from-home world.

This past weekend our family, minus the four-legged members, visited the grandparents, uncle, aunt, and great grandmother in Boone. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and my parents were gracious, loving hosts despite their hectic move back home a couple of weeks ago. The Watauga Literary Society, also known as my Mom’s book club, threw a wonderful shower for Jackie. Our daughter was able to attend one of her own baby showers ex utero and Trimella Chaney, Susan Dubberly, Jeannie Caviness, and the rest of the Pearl Girls were extremely generous. Little Jackie was even initiated as an honorary Mini-Pearl Girl. Thanks to the entire group for the food, fun, and gifts!

We also appreciated our time with Uncle Rich and Aunt Mindy. Little Jackie has been showing emotion for a couple of weeks now, but it took some quality time with Uncle Rich to bring out a bona fide smile. Some of our daughter’s amusement at her uncle’s silliness was captured in this video:

Great Grandmother Jones met Jackie, and the highlight of our visit to the retirement home was seeing my daughter’s tiny hand in the hand of a woman three generations older. Here are a few pictures of that visit and some other fun had over the Dr. King weekend:

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Finally, Katie and I took the baby out to brave the elements in Boone. It was her first snow:

Little did we know that her second snow would come today in the eastern North Carolina piedmont…

Joe Dan Burns

June 13, 1926 – October 7, 2008

I’m really going to miss Joe Burns. Katie’s grandfather was loved and respected by everyone who got to know him, and considering how he never met a stranger, there were a lot of folks who were lucky enough to know him. The memorial service for him on October 11 was well-attended, and the memories shared by his family and friends were a unanimous testament to his character. Repeatedly, I overheard mourners say that he exemplified Brokaw’s characterization of “the greatest generation.” He was an expert in his field, a cornerstone of his church, and a revered leader to his family and friends.

His widow Faye, who has always made me feel like a grandson, is going to continue living in Knoxville for the time being. She’s an oak, and she has a wonderful group of family and friends who love and support her. I look forward to the day my daughter meets her great-grandmother, and hears some of the many stories about her great-grandfather.

A black walnut grove on the Burns tree farm.

A black walnut grove on the Burns tree farm.

Jackie W. Jones’ Recovery

My mother’s health is improving. Blood counts have begun trending in a positive direction. For the first time in months, she isn’t dependent on daily blood transfusions and mineral supplements. Still, a few nagging problems persist. I don’t mean “nagging problems” like a crick in your neck or a head cold. I mean nagging problems like a bladder infection and altered vision due to inflammation of the eye.

If you know my mother, you know that these afflictions are small potatoes compared to what she’s been through the past two years. She has overcome so many hardships; there’s no reason to doubt her ability to overcome these lingering ailments. Our hope is that my mom’s immune system is gradually recovering, and that my parents will again have a semblance of normal life in the near future.

Image from Raleigh

Urban dirt-biking

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

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