Monday morning convo with Major

Major: It was a bad weekend.

Me: Yes it was.

Major: I can’t believe that game.

Me: Me neither, dude. Me neither.

Major: We should’ve won.

Me: I know, I know.

Major: We should’ve gone for two.

Me: I know, I know.

Major: It’s gonna take me a while to get over it.

Me: Same here.

Major: Now I’m nervous about the rest of the season. Did you hear that Kentucky beat Missouri?

Me: I heard.

Major: And Vandy put some pressure on Ole Miss. VANDERBILT. AGAINST OLE MISS. I can’t take it.

Me: Me neither.

Major: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Major: Do you think we’ll beat Arkansas?

Are we gonna beat Arkansas

Those brown eyes, though.

The Day Josh Dobbs hugged Jackson

The forecast for the Tennessee Vols Orange and White Game was not good. On Friday evening, my Weather Channel app showed 100 percent change of rain and thunderstorms. Chuck announced that he would not endure a thunderstorm, and Saturday morning, Jeremy announced the same thing. Jackson and I looked at each other during breakfast and decided we would risk it. With jackets and ponchos in hand, we set off for Neyland Stadium for Fan Day with our fingers crossed.

That finger crossing thing must have worked because not a single drop of rain fell from the sky. In fact, by the end of our seven hours in Knoxville, both Jackson and I were hot and sunburned. Furthermore, upon arriving on campus we saw a very small crowd of maybe thirty people standing around Quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Jackson and I lost our minds, found a parking spot, and ran straight to him.

It took about twenty minutes to have any sort of contact with him, but that’s primarily because I insisted Jackson and I not push our way through people. “We aren’t going to be rude,” I kept telling my son. “We will wait our turn.” Not everyone functioned that way, which was embarrassing, particularly for the adults who shoved kids aside (one child was in a wheelchair, for goodness sakes) for an autograph and selfie.

Knowing that Josh Dobbs wouldn’t stand there indefinitely, I leaned down to Jackson and whispered, “You just need to be bold and catch his attention with your voice. He can’t stand here much longer.”

Then, from the bottom of a crowd of people calling for autographs and photos, Jackson yells, “EXCUSE ME, MR. DOBBS, CAN I HAVE A HUG?”

The quarterback turned our way and said, “Sure, no problem.”

Hugging Josh Dobbs

Be still my heart, y’all. Jackson gave him a tight squeeze, said thank you, and then nearly exploded from excitement. If our Fan Day experience had ended right then, it still would’ve been worth it.

As expected, there was a lots of standing in line, which is hard for everyone but especially hard for kids. It’s especially hard for a kid whose mother was ill-prepared for three hours of standing and brought no snacks or drinks. Thankfully, a nice man behind us forfeited his program, so that gave Jackson reading material for a while.

Reading the program

By the time we got inside the stadium for Fan Day, Jackson and I were rejuvenated. There is something very cool about walking onto the checkerboard end zones and touching the grass where college football is played.

Jackson in Neyland

There was more standing to do inside the stadium, but this time it didn’t end with a photo or autograph. The line to meet Coach Jones was painfully long, and even though we were closer to the front (as opposed to closer to the back), we still didn’t get to meet him.

Waiting for Coach Jones

Just as tears welled in Jackson’s eyes, I spotted a group of cheerleaders. That put a huge smile on his face. (We all know how much Jackson likes cheerleaders.)

Jackson with Smokey and the Cheerleaders

It had been six hours since breakfast, so after this photo was taken we ran for the concession stand. With a wide view of the field and only an hour until the Orange and White Game was starting, we scarfed down junk food as if we’d not eaten in days.

Neyland Stadium

We also enjoyed watching Peyton Manning roam the field while the players warmed up. (Y’all know the stadium lost its mind when Peyton walked out. He’s Tennessee Royalty.)

Peyton comes to visit

We only stayed for the first quarter of the game because exhaustion had set in fully and the eight year old was fading. He said it had been one of the best days of his life, that he was glad to spend it with me, and that meeting Josh Dobbs was his favorite part. Jackson’s eyes glistened as he said these things, telling me that the sunburns and achy feet and hours of standing in line was worth it.

I always think it’s worth it when we get to see Smokey. 

Running the checkerboard

Meeting Smokey X and Well Wishes to the Vols

We went to the Vol Walk yesterday and had THE BEST TIME. It all started when we met Smokey X.

Meeting Smokey XChuck took the photo because he was the only one who wasn’t swooning over this dog. I eyeballed every inch of his fur to see how similar his coat is to Major’s. They could be from the same litter for sure, but we decided Major was bigger in bulk and not nearly as well behaved.

The second most amazing thing that happened is the boys got to cross over the flags, which separates the players from the fans, because of an invitation by Barb Jones – the First Lady of Tennessee Football.

At first, her face didn’t register with me. We were situated behind the flags in hopes that we’d get a good look at Coach Butch Jones and the players as they walked from the bus to the stadium. The longer we sat waiting, the more people shuffled over us to stand on the other side of the flags, therefore obstructing our view. It can be discouraging since parents try really hard to find a good spot for short kids to see! Just as I sat there thinking we’d chosen the wrong spot, a dark-haired woman walked over to me and said, “Why don’t you bring your boys over here with us so they can see the players? I feel really bad standing in front of them.”

I look at Chuck, he shrugs sure, why not? We cross over the flags and stand with about 20 other people who seem far more important than us. I tell her thank you right away and have the boys introduce themselves. They shake hands and she guesses their grades. Finally, I reach out my hand, “I’m Jennie,” to which she replies, “I’m Barb.”


I didn’t recognize her behind her aviator sunglasses, nor did I realize that we were standing alongside coaches’ families.

But we were. Barb shooed the boys forward to stand next to her youngest son so they could be front and center to slap hands with the football players as they walked by.

And then, we met the Other Smokey! He engaged with Jackson and played with the small Smokey stuffed animal he brought to the game. Lil’ J nearly lost his mind.

Meeting the other Smokey

Thumbs up to SmokeyI squatted down so I wouldn’t block other fans and took pictures like crazy of our boys giving well wishes to the team.

Slapping hands with the playersI am so grateful to Barb Jones for seeing Jeremy and Jackson and pulling them out of the crowd for this special treat. We will never forget it!

Finally, we stayed to hear The Pride of the Southland Band, my personal favorite. I love hearing each section play its part. Even though we lost to Missouri last night, my heart swells with pride whenever I hear Rocky Top.

It’s Football Time in Tennessee!

You knew we were gonna do this. We just had to wait for football season to start.Game time

In fact, I bought a dog jersey from the pet store last week but ended up returning it because a large was too small. Major is nearing 60 pounds.It's football timeDo not be fooled by his good looks. I took this photo right after he stole a green tomato off the picnic table and ate it. What a stinker!

Go Vols!

Baby Smokey

We took Major to the park for the first time this week now that he’s been properly vaccinated. I’ve been eager to get him walking on a leash, which is dreadfully difficult for coonhounds. (They are consistently tempted to nose a trail, which is like having Doggy ADHD.)

I’m just going to boast a little now because every passerby at the park loved Major. I mean, LOVED him. They asked questions, called him Baby Smokey, allowed their dogs to sniff him and so on and so forth. Major ate it up like celebrity. He wagged his bum and jumped around and licked everyone’s hands. I was a proud mama.

at the parkOf course, there was one gentleman who did not stop his walk to pet Major. But he was wearing a Georgia Bulldogs hat, so I’m just going to let that one slide.

sitting like a good boyTaking Major on walks is essential because this little guy is SUPER DUPER HYPER when he’s awake. It’s no surprise that nighttime is my favorite part of the day when he crawls up in our laps to snuggle and fall asleep.snuggle time

Major and Smokey

This is Chuck’s old Smokey stuffed animal. It mostly stays in Jackson’s room. When I saw it under the bed I remembered we also had one of Chuck’s old Tennessee t-shirts which Jackson has recently outgrown.

So then we played dress-up. Smokey and MajorMajor has gotten significantly bigger in the last two weeks. He has to be more than ten pounds now, and I’m happy to say his potty training is going well. He’s even stood by the door a few times to signal he has to go outside. The biting is still an issue, but our hope is losing his milk teeth will lessen that problem. He certainly doesn’t lack for chew toys.

PoseSunday night was horrific for Jeremy. Vomiting and other stomach activities raged on for hours. He couldn’t even keep down water. After a rough night with a fever, he rested most of yesterday. By last night he was able to keep down food. Today he seems fine but I can tell by his pale face that he’s worn and weak. Another day of rest might do him good.

Like the awesome cat he is, Salem kept Jeremy company in bed most of the day.


The Major

I failed to mention yesterday why we named our dog Major. If you’re familiar with the Tennessee Vols, then you probably already connected the dots to former football coach Johnny Majors. We weren’t going to name our Smokey dog “Smokey,” but we intentionally pulled his name from Vol Country. He may not look like a Major now (Chuck said he’s more Minor than Major, which is hilarious and true) but he’ll grow to be a big Tennessee dog with a deep howl to match his size.


Big pawsWe’re all smitten. Except when he’s howling at 3:30 in the morning. We’re a little less smitten at 3:30 in the morning.

Just look at that face… all is forgiven. Major's closeup

Orange and White

What a busy and wonderful weekend it was! There is much to share, but today I’ll start with Fan Appreciation Day at the University of Tennessee. It was a sea of orange and white as folks came in droves to meet the players and coaches inside Neyland Stadium on Saturday. We didn’t tell the boys where we were going (even though we were all decked out in jerseys and such), and it was perfect because just outside the campus Jeremy says, “I can’t wait until I get to go inside Neyland Stadium. It would be fun to go at least once.” Chuck and I exchanged a peripheral glance to one another in awe of our parental awesomeness.

Once we told them what we were doing, they were thrilled. What a line!

Feeling the field at the 50 yard line… Who knew it would be so soft?

Coach Dooley! I wonder how much advice (or how many threats?) he received from eager fan(atics)…

Checkerboard end zone:

After the meet-and-greet it was time for the annual Orange and White Game, which we didn’t stay for since we had other plans. Next year maybe!

The highlight of Fan Day, for Jackson anyway, was meeting Smokey. It was the first and only thing he talked about when we got inside the stadium. The lines to meet all the players and coaches were so long, so we chose only one in which to stand: the line to take a photo with Smokey. It is so endearing to see that Jackson and Smokey held hands for the picture. (This was after he ran up to the dog and gave him a huge hug.)

I was most disappointed to miss seeing the real Smokey. We looked all around that stadium and didn’t find him. Quarterbacks? Yeah, we saw them. Offensive line? Sure. Them too. But Smokey, the most adorable blue tick hound in Vol Country? Nope. Phooey.

The brief time we spent in Neyland was really so fun. We’re all ready for football season so Fan Day was a great tease.

A Win in Overtime

A couple months ago Amy asked if we’d be interested in going to a Tennessee game with her and Matt, which was of course a big YES. She purchased discounted tickets through her workplace and they drove up Saturday afternoon from Chattanooga. After a quick bite in town, we hopped the bus from Maryville to Knoxville and arrived just in time for kickoff.

The weather was perfectly chilly and the game was STRESSFUL. Tennessee is still rebuilding its team with young, eager players, so even though a win against Vanderbilt shouldn’t be that big of a deal, it was a huge deal on Saturday night. The game went into overtime, tied at 21, when Tennessee intercepted the ball and took it into the end zone for the win. The crowd erupted into screams and singing Rocky Top. From our top tier seats we could see Smokey howling at all the ruckus. It was great.

(photo courtesy of

What in the world will we do when football season is over?

I suppose we can start by praying for a better 2012 season.