Feeding Elijah

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My milk came in just like Elijah, an unannounced whirlwind – this, one of hormones, tears and fullness of milk. I collapsed on the floor of Elijah’s room on Night 3 and cried from sheer exhaustion.

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Elijah latched easily and ate efficiently. I breastfed on demand during those baby months, and demand he did. At the height of things, we were nursing 12+ times a day, every hour in 5 or 10 minute spurts. The kid likes snacks, just like his mama. We had an easy start to our feeding relationship, with minimal pain and no bleeding nipples. I know now how good we had it in those early days as I’ve watched friends fight to keep breastfeeding, but even easy feels hard when it’s new and weird and there’s so much to figure out. Elijah went on a 12-hour nursing strike once that remains one of my most frustrating parenting moments to date. I must have spent hours on KellyMom.com and called my mom a million times.

It didn’t take me long to realize that breastfeeding in public was the only way we were ever going to get anywhere, and I quickly shed the gentle protection of the nursing cover my mom made. A baby blanket sufficed for a while, then that was dropped for the convenience of nothing but common sense and discretion. I’ve become a staunch advocate for normalizing breastfeeding wherever and whenever. I didn’t expect that of myself. So much of parenting is a surprise.

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At Elijah’s 4 month appointment, our beloved pediatrician casually mentioned that we could start infant cereal. My throat tightened and I felt the anxiety fall over me. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have words to express my discomfort, and Chad and I went back and forth back and forth. But as Elijah’s primary caregiver, my No became the default, and we continued to exclusively breastfeed through a rough 4-month sleep regression, and well into the fifth month.

One day when Elijah was 5 ½ months old, with a perfectly ripe avocado in hand, I realized how much I wanted to see his reaction to its creamy summertime goodness. He had been eyeing our food for weeks, and eating without him grabbing a bite had become difficult. My resistance to starting cereal was ultimately trumped by my delighted curiosity in Elijah’s discovery of the world. I was somehow able to let go of my need to be the source of his sole nourishment even though I still couldn’t define it then.

Elijah took quickly to avocado, then sweet potato, then anything he could get in his mouth. With every new food we introduced to his palate, his nursing slowed naturally, until we settled into a new routine around 7 months. 7am, wake and nurse. Then breakfast. Nurse and nap at 9am. Wake up and nurse. Play, then eat lunch. Nurse and nap around 1pm. Wake up and nurse. Play, then nurse around 3pm. Afternoon snack around 4pm. Dinner at 6pm. Nurse before bedtime at 7pm. Occasionally wake up once overnight and nurse. Typing that out is amazing – even when his breastfeeding slowed, we were still nursing 7 or 8 times a day, plus 3 meals and snack. My life revolved around Elijah’s food.

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I knew that I wanted to breastfeed through a year, but really couldn’t see myself nursing a toddler, and I definitely didn’t have a desire to tandem nurse – nursing while pregnant or nursing an infant and toddler. Weaning was inevitable.

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The first feed I dropped was the mid-afternoon. That first day, around 10 months, I mustered all my courage, wore a crewneck sweater and stood up the whole afternoon lest Elijah try to climb into my lap to nurse. He didn’t know what was going on but he knew he didn’t like it. By the time Chad got home, we were both in tears. Day 2 I got smarter, and planned a well-timed trip to the grocery store, armed with Elijah’s favorite little snacks. By Day 4, he was over it, and our afternoon progressed smoothly. A week or two later, I dropped the feed after morning nap, going straight to an earlier lunch. One by one, week by week, we slowly managed to wean until he was just nursing before nap and bedtime.

That was maybe not my smartest move, since I was left breaking the sleep association. Elijah wasn’t nursing to sleep, but it was definitely part of the before-sleep routine. I stalled for a while, then Chad and I figured out that bedtime went fine on nights I wasn’t around. Elijah went down for Chad or a babysitter with a cup of milk or water, no big deal. So for 6 nights in a row, Chad put Elijah to bed like a champ. Night 7 Chad had a meeting, and it was rough for Elijah and for me. He was sad and confused. We both cried. But we got through it. We can do hard things.

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We dropped nursing at afternoon nap pretty easily a few weeks ago, and the morning nap nurse went by the wayside last week. So now we’re just nursing at 5am when he inevitably wakes up. Best case scenario, he nurses a bit and goes back to sleep until 7, but that doesn’t always happen, and sometimes he’s up for the day. Help me Jesus and send coffee. Elijah loves all the foods now and I’m pretty sure nursing is just habit and comfort at this point. For me too, kid.  For me, too.

I stopped wearing nursing bras a month ago, and I love having my old undergarments back in place. The days of engorgement are long gone, and no one tells you (no one told me!) how weird it feels to have (almost) non-nursing breasts again. They’re not pre-pregnancy breasts, for sure. The girls will never be the same again. Womp womp.

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A friend asked for weaning advice a few weeks back, and I knew I wanted to document it all. This took a lot of words but I don’t want to forget the strange richness of being the primary source of food for my son for so many months. Sure, I’ll pass on the cluster feeding and season of biting and leaking at night and clogged ducts and your battle with the bottle, but really, Little One, I’ll take it all again, and I wish I had taken more pictures. There’s so much shame and guilt around breastfeeding or not. Breast is best except really a fed baby is best, and we’re all just doing the best we can. I’m so glad this was our story.

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Edited to add: I started pumping when Elijah was about 8 weeks old. I produced plenty and easily pumped 5-8 oz at a time.  I begrudgingly pumped once a day for a few months and built up a stash. Good supply or no, pumping is a hassle.  Bless all you EP mamas, and those that pump at work to send milk to daycare etc. Chad bottle broke Elijah while I went to a movie, and Elijah took a bottle from a babysitter without issue until 4 months. While I was getting ready to be a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding, during a long night in a hotel when I was battling a UTI, Elijah decided to strike against the bottle, and refused one for the next three months. After he was eating solids confidently, he took up bottle drinking again, until 9 or 10 months, when he refused again. I donated my freezer stash, sanitized my pump and said a grateful goodbye.

Wayne Wastell

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Wayne Wastell, Chad’s paternal grandfather, died on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, of the effects of advanced aging.  He was 100 years, 5 months and 10 days old.  He had 3 children, 9 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren, and 17 great-great-grandchildren, with #18 on the way. He was buried in Beresford, SD, this weekend. Following are the remarks Chad shared at his memorial service.

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I am the youngest grandchild of the oldest person I know.  There’s a 67 year age difference between us.  Everyone has their own perspective on Grandpa – their own facet or lens.  There is only one person who really knew the whole person of Wayne Wastell.  My goal today is just to share my facet, my lens.

I always wanted a closer relationship with my grandfather, but in reflection of our relationship, I learned a lot from my grandfather.

Lesson One.

Not everything needs to be said.  And the corollary – if you wait long enough, someone will say it.

Wayne Wastell was a man of few words, and I learned that wisdom doesn’t have to be verbose.  There is humor and wisdom in one liners.  And, watching and listening is how you learn the truth of a thing, not from talking.  Grandpa never sat me down and said “here’s something you should learn” but rather, these lessons came from observation, and pondering his few words.

Lesson Two.

Grandpa was an avid Pitch player.  Through watching him play Pitch, I learned that you don’t have to have all the pieces – or really any at all – to be pretty sure it will all work out.  Grandpa was famous for saying “7 on nothing” before he was even dealt his hand.  I learned that taking risks is often a more successful strategy than sitting back and being timid or waiting for absolutely everything to line up.

Lesson Three.

Stubbornness gets you more time.  God has lessons for us all, and He has more patience than we have stubbornness.  Time softens most things – even Wayne Wastell.

Lesson Four.

You can play the odds, but they’re not guaranteed.  If you have a good hand it doesn’t mean you will win, and if you have a poor hand it does not mean you will lose. Grandpa did everything medically unadvised, and he lived 100 years 5 months, and 10 days.

Lesson Five.

You always need other people to help.  Grandpa couldn’t care for himself those last few years, but he’s the only person I know that managed to have tobacco inside a tobacco free facility.

Not everything about my Grandpa was perfect, and I don’t want to embellish his life after his death.  Grandpa never embellished his words; he always told it as he saw it.  As I said before, only one person, God, knew the whole person of Wayne Wastell.  So we each have our piece.  And it’s our responsibility and honor – as his fifty descendants, friends and other relatives – to carry on his legacy in our own way.

In the words of Wayne Wastell, “Let’s all play!”

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Wastell Men

Four generations of Wastell men: Wayne, Marvin, Blaine, Tristen, Chad, Elijah. Photo taken on Wayne’s 100th birthday – June 7, 2015.

It’s been a year 

It’s been a year, love. It’s been quite a year.

This winter was hard and long and we wondered what would be next. The miles on the road flew by out the car window and the days and pain of my pregnancy passed slowly on the calendar while we cried and talked and worked to heal some broken pieces.

Spring broke fresh and clean with new disappointments and we said goodbye to some old dreams and goals.  Elijah Graham arrived and now we are a 3-family.  And then the lay off, and again we wondered what would be next.

Summer burned hot and we made plans to pack up our life and move our dreams abroad. Then Germany and Holland fell apart and we worked hard to keep from falling apart ourselves. And again we wondered what would be next.

Autumn fell and a new season started for both of us, and we started dreaming a bit again. We started new jobs, we keep on with our therapy and work and growth, and we keep on chasing Jesus.  And still, we wonder what is next.

We don’t know. But here’s what I do know.

I love you.  I love how you fit me so well. How you’re strong in ways that I’m not. How you challenge me, how you encourage me, how you seek to understand me, how you love me.

I love watching you be a father. I look at Eggs, at our silly Elijah Graham, and see you and me and wonder how he’ll grow and really, it’s all a wonder.  You are a great dad.

I still choose you.  I still choose us.  In small ways, in big ways, in sometimes not quite enough or the right ways, I choose us.

It’ll be another year, and another, and by the everyday unfailing grace of God who loves us most and chooses us best, it’ll be lots more years of you and me.

Elijah Graham, you are

You are 7 months, 1 week and 5 days.  You stood up today, right there in the cart at Walmart.  Your mama’s heart skipped a beat in amazement and fear and wonder and pride. You learn and grow every day and I can’t quite believe that your dad and I get to bear witness to this little life of yours.Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.17.21 PM

 

You are a whirling dervish. You are brave and adventurous and can flip over during a diaper change faster than anything, and it still catches me by surprise, how quick you are, Mr. Eggs.  Even Dr. Davey commented how quick your defenses are. You sure don’t like people messing with your face, but you’ll turn circles in someone’s arms, alternating between twirling and snuggling.  You roll and scoot and crawl and squirm and twist and get where you want to go so very fast. Faster than a chariot, our Elijah Graham.

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You are an eating machine.  You’ve always been a fast and efficient nurser, done and on to the next thing in 10 minutes or less.  You’d snack all day, just like your mama.  And whoever said “Food before one is just for fun” has never met our Elijah Graham and his big kid food.  Your body gets all tense and your little legs go a kickin’ and you open your mouth like a little bird. Your Helper Hands are a little less participatory lately, thankfully, so your turkey and peas don’t get all over your stomach and hair every time anymore. But boy, you can eat, nugget.  If I had to say what was your favorite food right now, it would be all of them.  They’re all your favorites.

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You are Curious George. You’re such a little feeler. You love texture and exploring fabric and faces and paper and upholstery and furniture and hair – others or your own – and even the little Kenmore label on our dishwasher. You want to inspect and feel everything, like Helen Keller meets Inspector Gadget meets Eggs Wastell.  I love watching you discover and learn the world around you.

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You are a snuggly bear.  When you’re not moving, you want to be held, and you’re quick to rest your face on mine or nuzzle your head under your daddy’s arm.  You’re learning about gentle hands and how to share and be a friend.  Nighttime sleeping is still a challenge but you fall asleep in my arms and my heart melts a little.Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.37.28 PMScreen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.17.01 PM

 

You are my son, and I love you. And you still make the best faces in the west.

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We keep your memories on Instagram, and I unapologetically post a million pictures every day. #raisingelijah

The Wonder Weeks: 5-20

IMG_9398I rocked and sang and prayed while you fussed and nursed.  It had been a hard day, smack in the middle of Week 5.  Your daddy had been laid off, I was facing the impending end of my short maternity leave, and I was exhausted, overwhelmed and scared. And then, in the middle of the night, came the message from Hayley, telling me about the wonder weeks.  I downloaded the app and read about your leaps and your sunny seasons and your storms.  Right over the middle of Week 5, I saw a little rain cloud and remembered how Jesus calms the storms.  Tears shone on my cheeks in the glow of my cell phone as I held you tight.  Pure grace, that app in the middle of the night.

And so the Wonder Weeks pass.

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I love watching you learn, Elijah.  You go through leap after leap, and sometimes your new tricks are obvious and important, like holding your head up, and other times, you grab hold of your hair, or you just hold onto your finger for a whole afternoon and I can’t help but laugh.  You’ve conquered smiling and grabbing and chewing and playing with your toes and scooting on your butt and rolling over back to front and you’ve almost got front to back. You have outgrown your chair on the counter and moved on to rockin’ & rollin’ in the exersaucer.  For several weeks you would happily hang out on your play mat for long stretches, but now we play the fun game called Not Where I Left You. You’re on the move, Eggs.  It’s terrifying, but I love it.

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You’ve been on so many adventures already.  At 6 weeks, we packed you up and flew to Seattle.  People thought we were crazy. Maybe we were, but you did great.  And now you’ve been to Kansas, Washington, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan and North Carolina, with airport stops in St Louis and Denver, and you’ve also been to Canada.  That’s the one great thing about your dad being unemployed right now and you sleep so well in the car – it’s easy to go places.  I love that you’ve met all 4 of your living great grandparents and all but one set of your great aunts/uncles, plus lots and lots of our friends.  You were born into a pretty incredible family, Elijah Graham, and you are so loved.

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We’ve pretty well managed to keep you out of the Doctor’s office except for your 2- and 4-month shots.  We’re all about the vaccinations, and we love seeing how you stretch and grow.  You’ve still got your blocked tear duct, but you’ve outgrown your reflux and Zantac, and you had nearly doubled your birth weight by 3 months.  You do love to eat, Nugget.  You’re a champion breastfeeder – easy and efficient – and I’m so grateful.

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We dedicated you to God on the hottest day of the summer. Tim and Cheryl spoke words of blessing over you and our family, and all your friends and relations were there to support us.  You are our son, Elijah, but you are first God’s.  May you always know that God is God.

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You slept like a champ for the first few months of your life and then your sleep fell apart in spectacular fashion.  Months two and three you generally only woke once to eat, and I counted my lucky stars.  Then.  4 months, day 1.  Womp womp. You woke 6 times between 1 and 4:30AM and I thought I would lose my mind. I have discovered that sleep deprivation heightens my anxiety like nothing else, and only therapy and Jesus kept the racing heart at manageable speeds.  We hunkered down, built a routine, and take one day and one night at a time.  It’s all any of us can really do.

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Your daddy’s kisses make you giggle, and you snuggle and wrestle and fly through the air and take the best naps with him.  I’ll say it again, sweet son of ours.  May you always know how much your father loves you.    IMG_0008

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Your hair is growing in like Donald Trump, your skin is soft and white like winter butter, and your smile melts my heart each day.  It seems like every week you have a new expression, and I delight in each and every one of them.  You are new grace in the morning, living, breathing, giggling, squirming.  We love being a 3-family, and we love you so.  Here’s to so many more weeks of wonder.

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We keep your memories on Instagram, and I unapologetically post a million pictures every day. #raisingelijah

L1: Month One

Ooh child, things are gonna get easier

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We sing the song over and over again.  Those five stair steps; we barely know the words, but we’re learning together.  We have SO much to learn, little one.  The first night home, it was your tiny pajamas that drove me to tears on your bedroom floor.  I didn’t know what you should wear to bed and hormones crashed hard around me and all I could do was cry.  Cry, and call for help.  Aunt Sarah to the rescue.

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There’s bubbles in your belly that make you burp and fart and make silly faces and sometimes we can’t help but laugh at you, Mr. Eggs.  But I know you’re uncomfortable by the way you fuss and stretch your little tummy, and all we can do is try home remedies on the weekend (turns out gripe water is for the birds) and wait for Dr. Kurt to come to work on Monday so we can call for help.

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One day on week two I lost grip on a diaper tab and the elastic snapped back at you.  Your daddy assured me that you were far more startled than hurt, but you cried a little.  I’m so sorry, baby.  I cried a lot over that, E.  And sometimes my words snap at Daddy and all I can do is cry and say I’m so sorry, and pray for more help, more sleep, more grace.

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Ooh child, things will be brighter

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We sing a lot of songs at night, you and I.  You’re a pretty good sleeper, but you get hungry at midnight and four and seven and I get up with you.  And He is just the same today, all you’ve got to do is trust and pray.  We rock and sing and change your pants (you are a professional pants-filler, sir).  Great is thy faithfulness, oh God, my father.  If I could sing it in all four parts, I would.  I sing blessings over you and reminders to my weary self.  Mommy gets you through the nights and Daddy gets us both through the days.  He has the harder job, I think.  He’s so good, Elijah.  You have such a good Daddy.

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E Daddy

I think your Daddy loved you even before I did in those first moments of your life.  I’m the one with the squishy baby hormones – my body tells me you’re cute.  But oh, if you could remember just one thing from this first month, Elijah, I would have you know how much your father loves you.  How fascinated by your tiny little self he is, even when you pee all over him.  The sweet words of silliness and delight he sings over you.  The way he stares at you in utter captivation, the special names he gives you.  It’s a strange thing, to love a little person who has no real means yet of returning love.  But son of ours, may you never doubt your father’s love for you.  It runs so, so deep.

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Ooh child, things are gonna get easier

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A friend asked about my transition to motherhood and mentioned that photos of you make it look like we’ve settled in well.  I laughed and had to cry a little and we’re just doing the best we can, all three of us.  Many days do feel so light and easy and you’re just so darn cute, and some days I’m crying in Walgreens, overwhelmed by the sheer strength of your need for me, or you’re having a sad and vulnerable moment, but your Instagram scrapbook, well, it makes us smile.

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E mornings

You eat like a champ.  A sprint champ, that is.  You’re not a marathon eater, that’s for sure.  You latch easily as long as your diaper is clean, and your little fingers already grip my robe and my hair and my heart.  You nurse and nurse again, Daddy changes most of your diapers, and I…eat chocolate. No one told me about breastfeeding cravings, but your mama eats her chocolate so we all go on long walks in the neighborhood as life springs up new around us.

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E LaundryYou love the noise of the washing machine and steaming in the shower and flapping your hands, and you really hate having your little arms tucked inside your swaddle wrap at night.  The look on your face is just so sad, but then you settle down into your little glow worm self, snuggle in under my chin and there my heart goes bursting.  The vacuum cleaner, blender and handyman’s power saw don’t bother you while napping, but the soft closing of a door or zipper on my purse make you startle in your sleep. You grunt and snort and raise those eyebrows and give the best side eye west of the Mississippi.

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Ooh child, things will be brighter

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Being parents is harder than we could have ever known, and we’ve learned that nothing is routine except needing to ask for help. Don’t expect a letter here every month, but morning by every morning, new mercies I see.  You are just so fun when you wake up, Squeaks the Squirrel. You are bright eyes and sticky-up hair and tentative milky smiles and endless diapers and eternal laundry. You light up our world in brand new ways every day, Elijah Graham.  Happy one month birthday!  I’m so grateful you made us a 3-family.

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What I’m Into / March 2015

March, I hardly knew ye.

I spent the first two weeks of March mostly at home, large and pregnant, and I’ve spent the last two weeks of March mostly at home, snuggling and feeding and changing Elijah.

That’s right, folks, we had a baby.  !!!!!

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Elijah Graham Wastell was born Sunday, March 15. He is, in a word, adorable.

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I’ll spare you 800 more pictures here and just send you over to my Instagram feed: @annawastell where I typically end up posting several times a day.  There’s just so much cuteness to share.

Elijah arrived with a whirlwind fitting for his name.  Read the whole birth story here.

What I’m reading & What I’m watching
Reading is proving more difficult with a newborn than I had imagined.  It seems overly luxurious to sit down with only a book in my hands.  Watching TV feels far more multi-tasking friendly, so I should probably switch to audiobooks so I don’t become the girl who watches 12 hours of Netflix a day.  On that note, oh hey, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I think I love you.  Such a fun new show, and just the perfect length for nursing E.

Little things I’m loving: new mommy edition

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Food brought by others. AMEN.  Lasagna, kolaches, groceries, whatever. Food = LOVE.

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Baby K’Tan.  This crazy wrap is saving our lives.  It’s easy to wear, and E loves hanging out in it.  Look mom, two hands!

IMG_8678IMG_8235Spring!  And taking walks with Elijah.  I can’t imagine trying to do these first few weeks at home in the winter.  I would go crazy, I think.

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Maybe in April I’ll have ore interesting thoughts about life, but for now, I’m just going to go back to snuggling this guy and praying he sleeps well tonight.  Wish us luck.

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.