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Archive for the 'Family' Category

September 5th…remembering a lifetime of laughter.

September 5th…remembering a lifetime of laughter.

With my mama at a beautiful beach outside Melbourne, Australia.  July 2006

I always knew I’d laugh about the times I cried, but never knew I’d cry about the times I laughed.  ~ Anonymous

It is softly drizzling outside, gradually soaking our parched lawn and I’m sitting in the kitchen with my two sons.  My oldest is a replica of his daddy, my youngest more closely resembles my daddy.  Tomorrow, September 5th, is my dad’s birthday.  He would have been 62 tomorrow.  I suppose you never “get over” the death of a parent or loved one, but I am learning (for me, anyway) that it has gotten easier to be at peace with.  I still tear up (or full out sob) from time to time, but not as regularly as I did during his illness and immediately after his death.  I am reminded of him very often, but it brings back happy memories…snippets of love and laughter nestled in every fiber of my body.

I want to share a few things with you about him.  Things we laughed about then and things I laugh about now.

He had what my siblings and I dubbed a “dad chuckle” that you would only hear when he was trying not to laugh at something that my mom did not find as amusing as her children did…inappropriate jokes, asinine tv shows and the like.  He was watching a South Park episode with me late one night when I was in high school.  We weren’t snuggled on the couch together or anything, but we were both in the kitchen at the same time and there was a small tv in there.  I was at the table close to the television, while he was playing solitaire at the built in computer desk area about 10 feet behind me.  It was the episode when they tried to say the “shit” word as much as possible in the allotted run time and there was a counter/ticker thing in one of the lower corners of the screen (come on y’all….you 90’s teenagers know which one I’m referring to).  The higher the number on the ticker got, the more he “dad chuckled”.  I could tell he was trying to pretend not to be paying attention to the show as my mom was meandering in and out of the kitchen.  She was not fond of my then infatuation with South Park.  I finally looked over my shoulder near the end of the show and daddy was laughing so hard he wasn’t making any noise (sounds weird, but it’s a thing I swear).

He did the same thing when I made him watch the first Ace Venture movie with me.  We guffawed through the whole thing, but in the scenes where Jim Carrey is dressed in the Hawaiian shirt, combat boots and pink tutu trying to scope out the mental institution we were crying rivers of tears and leaning on each other for support as our laughter worked our abs to the max.

He used to laugh with us at restaurants when we would blow our straw wrappers off the straws like paper missiles…until one of them would cross the border into another patron’s booth and land in their salad plate…then we would get “the look” and he would say either:

“Daggummit, (insert appropriate child’s name here)!”  or “Bless a Cow!”

We started most road trips with an annoying round of “the song that never ends” a la Sherry Lewis and Lambchop.  Or we would wait till we were about thirty minutes down the road to start asking if we “were there yet” or begging sarcastically for a bathroom break.

I have 28 years of fantastical memories of my dad and I am so lucky to have those.  These cover one small  lily-pad in the whole pond…

He loved the Eagles and Derek and the Dominoes (original version of Layla all the way, none of that slow, mopey crap!!!)

He loved Blazing Saddles & True Lies & James Bond

He loved Saturday morning breakfasts with his crew at Cloverdale Kitchen.

He loved trips to Disney World

Pecan pie a la mode

Being at the beach with my mom

His cowboy boots

The Cowboys

and the Tarheels for anyone who was wondering

His Subaru

His business

His community

His church

His family

I have one more quote for you from the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian.

Integrity is not what you appear to be when all eyes are on you.  It’s who you are when no one is looking.  It’s a level of morality below which you never fall, no matter what’s happening around you.  It’s a high standard of honesty, truthfulness, decency, and honor that is never breached.  It’s doing for others the way you would want them to do for you.

He certainly treated me with love and respect.  Teamed up with my mom, he was a gentle and logical guide through adolescence and into adulthood and mom mom was and continues to be my creative inspiration and maternal role model.

Sharing a few things about him keeps the memories of him alive.  They shine out of my heart and I love sharing him with my boys.

Zeb, my four year old, asked me about my wrist tattoo yesterday morning.  I read it to him as he softly touched the words and told him my daddy died before he was born, but that part of my daddy was inside him.  Zeb replied, “Mama, I’ll put the pieces of your daddy back together for you and it would make you so happy.”  Oh how my heart wept and sang at the same time.  A little man of integrity, just like his granddaddy.

The closing sentiment from a letter my dad wrote me just after I told him I was getting married.  In his own script.

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European Adventure: Part II – Paris

European Adventure: Part II


On my husband’s 30th birthday we hopped aboard a train, much to our toddler’s delight, and were whisked off to Paris.  We loved seeing all the charming little towns and villages nestled in groves of trees as we sped towards our next destination.  We saw plenty of windmills – old and new construction, plenty of flower nurseries – no doubt hiding away next year’s plethora of tulips, and had an easy 3-hour trip.  The closer we got to Paris, the more the clouds dissipated…we were heading for lovely weather and hoped it would stick with us for the duration.

Our hotel was just gorgeous, tucked just one block off of the Champs Elysees and very close to the Arc de Triomph.  Our room adjoined my mom’s via a little entry hallway, and our room had a nice seating/dining area which made for the perfect communal space.  Mom and I laid out our journals and paints almost immediately, and we all made ourselves right at home.  Our days were sprinkled with marvelous adventures: A Siene riverboat cruise, Centre Pompidou, The Louvre (FINALLY!!), the Eiffel Tower, Chateau Chantilly, and a variety of cafes, restaurants and fou-fou boutiques.  My mom even gave the hubby and I the opportunity for a few date nights!!  IN PARIS!  How lucky are we & how awesome is my mom!!

Though they may not remember it, my children (at 2 years and 9 months respectively) have seen the Notre Dame Cathedral, they have been in the Louvre and seen the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and a whole exhibit of Rembrandt’s work, and the toddler chased pigeons in the park while we enjoyed a cafe break and some fresh chocolate crepes!  It was all very magical, the weather was impeccable and we made family memories to last our lifetime.

Evan and his big truck (and the Eiffel Tower, of course)

Evan upon our arrival at the Chateau Chantilly

One of the breathtaking (and HEEE_YUGE) rose windows at Notre Dame

My littlest little & I at the Louvre with the Venus de Milo

The sparkling display we could watch from the balcony of our rooms!

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European Adventure: Part I – Amsterdam

European Adventure: Part I


Hello!  Nice to be back!

I have been absent for a while for a few reasons, some being personal.  One of the big ones, though, was that I was trying to organize, prepare and pack up my little family for a semi-extended overseas jaunt.  We are lucky enough to have been able to plan a grand two week adventure to Europe with both little boys and my mom.  The inspiration behind this trip is the temporary residence of my childhood best friend, her husband and their little boy who is just a few months younger than our oldest.  I never thought we’d be able to visit them while they lived abroad, as they moved 3 months before we were due to have our second son.  But my courageous husband said he wanted to go see them in Amsterdam, AND take the kids!  Whoo boy!  We were planning, but we weren’t sure if we were brave or insane…but in deciding to travel with two small children we wanted to make the effort worth it and we used up all of my husband’s vacation time for the year.

After a month long expedition in Australia and New Zealand back in 2006 with my husband and my immediate family and being aboard 18 flights in 26 days, I swore I would never never take small children on an airplane for any reason to any place.  And looky here…we were about to take two tots international.  A very daunting thought, and I had major anxiety about the actual process of getting to and fro.  I wasn’t worried about being there, I knew the kids would be fine after the initial time adjustment, but I sprouted what I swear are my first gray hairs worrying about the 7-8 hour flights across the Atlantic.

To our amazement and great pleasure, both boys were excellent travelers. We prepped for the time difference a few days before our journey by waking earlier and earlier, and moving nap times and bedtimes accordingly.  It really only took a day for us to find our balance again when we got to Amsterdam.  Of course, the extended sunlight hours messed us up (it was light outside till 10pm!!!) but we kept our early morning wake-ups and naps regular and did the best we could.  I had a large zip lock bag filled with little cars and trains that were new to our toddler (that were doled out one at a time if the situation called for it), we uploaded his favorite Disney movies in the iPad and purchased a child-size set of puffy headphones (which he thought made him super cool), and AMEN for the snacks I packed (granola bars, peanut butter crackers and snack packs of mini-fig newtons).

The weather was typical for Amsterdam so we were told…in the 50’s and rainy.  But because we were there to see our friends and let the kids play, it didn’t matter much and it wasn’t a mood/sightseeing killer.  My mom and I took the baby to the Van Gogh museum one afternoon (y’all – it was heaven for me…rooms and rooms of his work and his sketches AND there was a Picasso exhibit, too!!!!), we took a canal boat tour, the guys had a guy’s night out, and the girls had a girl’s night out…both evenings involved a stroll through the famous Red Light District, which was verrrrry interesting in a weird way (maybe another post on that later).  We ate out at a few divine places – one Italian, one Persian, had Greek delivered, napped, went to the local “mall” where a Kitchen Aid stand mixer cost a whopping 579 Euros (that’s like $700 or more US dollars!!!  I can’t do the conversion math in my head, but GEEEZ y’all, that it TOO much for their stand mixer!), and were generally lazy bums and just played with the kids.

The Dutch people were very cold in general.  Very snooty and mostly horrified that they had to endure the presence of Americans AND our offspring.  It was completely off-putting and amusing at the same time (trying to smile, be sweet and see how much we could make them squirm).  A strange highlight for me, though, was a street waffle vendor just outside the RL district, who proclaimed his love for me after less then 30 seconds…compared me to Hillary Clinton (um…thanks, I think??) and whom I bought a delicious fluffy “waffle to go” that I ate happily as we made our way home from our evening escapades.

Mom and I had time during nap hour & in the evenings to write/sketch/watercolor in our travel journals.  I still need to affix a few things in mine and finish decorating a few pages.  I may post pictures of that later.  Heck, I may borrow my mom’s to show you – she went wild with the watercolors, while I dabbled and returned to my favored black ink.  We saw a few flower markets, we saw old and new windmills, we saw the canals, we saw the girls with the Red Lights and we experienced the rainy cold grey weather in late May.  I think I can satisfactorily check Amsterdam off my list!

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Foam Bath People

Daddy, Mama, Evan & baby brother

Foam Bath People

They live at our house, but only momentarily, only in the bathtub and their sole purpose is a few moments of entertainment before sacrificing their foamy lives to clean my son’s elbow, knee or tummy.

Bath time is most often held in my bathroom because I can sit on the edge of the large tub with my legs in the water while my 2-year old son plays in the “little pool”.  It’s just easier and more comfortable than jamming myself on the floor in between the toilet and tub, killing my knees and back while he splashes and gets clean.  Parents – you know how it is, and boy, this is a MARVELOUS alternative!

Foam people came about one evening when I decided the water felt too tempting on just my legs and I jumped in the tub with Evan.  We drew with bath crayons, scrubbed up and then played with the sieves and containers we have stockpiled.  He likes his little boat (a $2 Target find almost a year ago!) and I thought it needed a little something.  I added a foam “Captain”, which tickled Evan and he asked for another one…so we quickly had a boat of foam people who were all dubbed one of the family – mama gets to be the pink foam and Evan is blue and usually gets a basket ball added (a small-ish blob of pink foam)!  And one by one Evan scoops them out to rub their foaminess on whatever body part I name.

What also fascinates me and makes me proud, is that though they look nothing like actual people in the sense that he’s familiar with, he gets it – he knows what they’re supposed to be and which person in his life they represent.  Kids are amazing.  So, I look forward to bath time with him and seeing where he’ll ask me to put a foam Evan, and seeing if he’s in the mood to add a “ball” of some sort.

Here are our foam people on the edge of the tub for the lineup, in their $2 speedboat and in their wannabee life raft (chinese takeout container).  Meet the Foam Family!

Daddy, Mama, Evan (with “basketball”) and baby brother.

Going for a boat ride on Lake ScrubbaDubbaToeCheese

Wouldn’t you know, their three hour tour went bad and they’re a’driftin’

Ahhh….the random things we do and take delight in for our kids!!!

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Closet Exhibition…ism

Closet Exhibition…..ism

So I’m backing up a few weeks ~ I’ve been in and out of town, trying to enjoy the last few weeks of freedom before I’m “grounded” due to the imminent arrival of baby #2.

I spent my little sister’s birthday weekend with her in Atlanta.  Just the two of us – the kind of trip that hasn’t happened in years due to school, family, kids.  The last trip we took alone was a Caribbean cruise in March of ‘08 – it was her senior year spring break and I was pregnant with my first son.   She is a whole decade younger than me, just turning 20!  But we’ve been inseparable since her birth.  Our relationship has been a variety of things…sister/sister, mother/daughter, babysitter/babysittee, therapist/client, fashion coordinator/client (the last two have gone both ways)…

So, needless to say, we were both quite excited about this rendez-vous!  Shopping, neat little restaurants, just planning our days as we went and not having to worry about the precious toddler I usually have with me when I’m visiting her in Hot-lanta.

Now another bit of background for you – and I’ll try to keep this short.  I’m an art major, and I did a few strange projects while in my major…some were more like social experiments and I altered my behavior to elicit certain reactions, some were more personally risque – using my entire body as a paint brush and wallowing on a 9′x13′ canvas, which I did do in the privacy of my own school studio, but then showed my technique by wrapping my naked painted self in bubble wrap for my walk from my studio (in a campus dorm) to the art building.  And not that this had to do with my classes, but senior year I enjoyed a near-weekly Friday night outing to see and participate in the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a local movie theater.  It was such an odd thrill to dress up in lingerie, gaudy (but impeccably applied) make-up and the tallest hooker shoes I could find that I was still able to walk in – and present myself to others like me who not only enjoyed the movie, but the act of preparing for it as well.  My mom asked my favorite professor at some point if he could “put me back in my box, just a little”.

Well, the last live Rocky Horror show I went to was the night before my college graduation in May of 2002.  I’ve thought fondly of those shows often, but not having a nearby local group that presents the live part made me figure it was pretty much a thing of my youth.  Until I realized where my sister & I would be – in ATLANTA – and that I would be toddler-less!  And as a bonus, it was not only her birthday weekend, but it would be her first live viewing!  And I’d heard great things about some of the Atlanta rocky troupes…so after a brief internet search, and a few phone calls just to confirm information, I decided that our Friday night activity would be Rocky Horror live!

I know, seems weird to do something like that with your little sister, but she seemed to like the idea very much, and we spent part of our shopping time looking for the perfect debut outfit for her.  She is taller than me by a few inches, extremely slender and fair, and with something like Rocky – the sluttier the better, but we were sure to pick “tasteful” whore clothing – she was fully covered, but looked HOT in her black corset, ruffle boy shorts & fishnets.  Her hot pink wig and matching boa, added to our amazing make-up work made it all just perfect.

Being humongously pregnant didn’t stop me from dressing up, it just stopped me from wearing lingerie as none of my former Rocky outfits fit right now.  We sliced up a black tank top of mine and found iron on rhinestone lettering to insinuate that I was carrying Frankenfurter’s baby, which in itself amused the crap out of me.  And after procuring an awesome lavender colored wig for myself, and a fabulous little top hat and purple boa to accompany it, we were set.  We began make-up application at 10 pm, and with our effortless & time-saving wigs (thank you Craig at Junkman’s Daughter!!) , we were out the door at 11:15 to make it to our movie date!

It was a full theater that evening, and my little “birthday virgin” looked smashing.  She and two other birthday viewers had the audience sing to them before the naughty pre-movie games and prizes.  We Time Warped with everyone in the aisles, shouted obscenities at the screen, while trying to take in the cast & crew’s fairly awesome props and costumes, and we thanked the cast as we left for such an elating, bizarre, fabulous experience!  for Elizabeth’s “first time” I wouldn’t have changed a thing!  We had a ball.  A weird ball, slutting it up together for a Rocky Whore-er evening.

Now I just sigh and count the years until I can do it again….

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Macaroni & Cheese go to the beach

Macaroni & Cheese go to the beach

My sister-in-law & I dubbed ourselves Macaroni & Cheese after seeing “Juno” in theaters and hearing the line that went something like, “you are the cheese to my macaroni.”  If we could have a long lost twin sister, we’d have each other.  Our taste in everything is freakishly similar (translate: exactly the same).  We have the same clothes, shoes, jewelry, silverware, furniture, lamps, paint colors in the houses, we’ve seen the same hair stylist for years now, have artwork by the same artists, and for several years we had the same car (2004 mini-coopers ~ hers blue, mine silver) until I traded mine in for a more practical baby-mobile.  And the kind of scary part is that half of the stuff we do and have the same of, we aren’t even together when we pick it out!  We have joked that we should just build one giant house with two master wings, so we could save ourselves some money and just buy ONE of everything and share the living space instead of buying two of everything for our separate households.

Flashback: I met Tiffany in the summer of 1998 through my brother’s summer job (coincidentally also where I met my husband for the first time).  Tiff and my bro started dating in early 1999, and were married 6 months before my hubby and I took our own vows in 2004.  We’ve been kind of a “4 Muskateers” deal since we all met,  but more so after Matt & I started dating in fall of 2002….trips all over the country and the world, movies, get-togethers, game nights, it’s a pretty awesome little group.  And Tiffany and I have been basically inseparable since the first year we met.

Life is so much easier and awesomer (yes, that’s a word I use) when you like your sibling’s spouse!  So, this weekend – TODAY will be our first girly adventure to the Carolina coastline since all our babies were born.  The last trip I remember was a week or so we spent together in June 2008, a few months before my son arrived.

I’m skipping around, I know, I do that…but here’s a brief timeline for you of the last couple years so perhaps you can see why we are so ecstatic about this barely 48 hour escape…

February 2008 – I find out about being preggo with Evan

September 2008 – Tiffany finds out about being preggo

October-ish 2008 – Tiffany & my brother discover they are expecting TWINS

October 2008 – I deliver my precious redheaded son, Evan

November 2008 – Tiffany gets placed on bed rest due to some minor complications with “Baby A”

And from November-early May 2009, I chauffeur her to most all of her doctor appointments and we hang around the house making use of our Netflix subscriptions and enjoying the lazy days of having a newborn who just eats and sleeps all day (sigh….kinda miss those days now!)

May 2009 – Twin boys are delivered safely into the world, and the chaos hasn’t stopped since!

It’s a zoo around here, and I thought being a new mom to one was hard – I don’t even know how Tiffany and her husband have made it through the last year without their hair falling out and admitting themselves to the looney bin!

So, it’s been two years since Tiff and I were able to abscond together and go somewhere other than just a dinner out, or a monthly pedicure.  And I am fairly sure this will be the least exciting beach trip we’ve ever taken – we both predict lots of SLEEPING, a few of our fave restaurants, some trashy tv, and some more sleep.  But we’re looking forward to it!  We’ve been to the beach a thousand times and been to all the shops and gallivanted down the coastline to Pawley’s Island and Charelston, and I know we’ll go a thousand more times and do the same…so this one time we’re allowed a bum weekend.

It feels odd leaving the kids at home.  We’ve each made several beach trips with our respective mothers and sons, just not together (there isn’t enough room at the condo for all adults and all babies at the same time), and this is the first time for each of us to leave our kiddos for more than a few hours.  We’re not freaking out about it, and we’re confidant in the husbands’ parenting abilities…it just feels kind of weird to take a couple days to ourselves…not to have to get a child (or two) in and out of the car, not to do middle of the night diaper changes, not to have to consciously think of a child friendly place to eat, hell – it’ll be weird not having the car stuffed to the brim with high chairs, pack & plays, strollers, diapers, kid movies and toys ALONG with our stuff!!!

Baby #4 (between the two of us) is due in 11 weeks and counting, and the chaos will continue I’m sure….

This is the first time IN a long time, and the last time FOR a long time so we better enjoy it! 

Macaroni & Cheese ride again!

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day

Just a few minutes ago I read an article about the founder of Mother’s Day, and how once the day was nationally recognized, she spent most of the rest of her life fighting against the commercialization of what was meant to be an intimate and sacred recognition of each family’s mother and everything she does for them on a daily basis.

So, I learned something new and I cannot say I disagree with her seemingly conflicting actions.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, I think if you love someone, you love them every day of the year so why make such a hubbub over this one day?  I can’t stand the commercials pushing flowers and diamonds around that time of year (and around Mother’s Day) – you really shouldn’t need to buy your partner’s or mother’s affections once a year or spend wads of cash trying to prove something.  And Christmas has unfortunately become that way, too.  I love Christmas not for the exchanging of gifts, but for the sparkly lights all over town…the festive music…the abundance of delicious cooking (and sharing) between friends and neighbors…that special feeling in the air…the constant gathering of friends and family just to be together and celebrate the joy of having one another in our lives.

And Mother’s Day…I think a card is appropriate, but not nearly as good as a *GASP* handwritten letter, a visit (if possible) or a phone call…but again, these are things that can be done throughout the year ~little reminders that you love your family, appreciate your mom, and just want to check in and say “hello”.

Being a new mother myself, I think it’s pretty freaking awesome in itself just to have kids!  I adore my little one, and I’m counting the weeks until our second is to make his debut.  The way he says “mama”, the fun things we do together during the day, the way he falls asleep on me at night in the rocking chair – it’s enough for me.  Let’s just spend the day together!  Make muffins for breakfast, stay in your pj’s a little longer and watch cartoons in the playroom, take a family nap, go to the playground, play with bubbles on the back deck….that’s my idea of a perfect Mother’s Day and none of it costs a cent!

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.  You are all amazing and wonderful and without you – we wouldn’t be here!!!

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Evan’s First “Safety Blanket”

Evan’s First “Safety Blanket”

It all began last Sunday, when my 18-month old, Evan, found a tote bag in our closet filled with excess Christmas gifts that some very generous, yet overzealous relatives had given him. All still new, unopened, forgotten by the wee one moments after their paper came off nearly 4 months ago. We, of course, opened and assembled and gave him a bunch of the gifts at Christmas, but I stashed this large tote full to supplement through the rest of this year. You know – to reward extra good behavior, to have something new and different to take on a long car trip, etc.

Anyway, he found this tote and right on top was one of the Thomas the Train characters – the red one, whatever its’ name is. He’s never watched Thomas, we don’t have any of the DVD’s, though his favorite toys and books are about trucks and large mobile objects that make noise. He looooves his little chunky Tonka trucks, and the boats he sinks in the bathtub, he adores firetrucks (and any rescue type vehicle) and we try to point them out to him whenever possible while out on the town. I suppose trains are the obvious choice next on the list. So, my husband gives me the “can we let him have this one thing?” look and I nod and smile. The red train is opened, battery installed, and handed over to its’ new engineer, Evan. He pushes it around the floor, runs it across his chest, happily experimenting with the new “chooo chooo!” sound effect in his growing vocabulary. This train lights up and makes whistling sounds when activated, capturing and holding the munchkins attention for an amazing 2 hours straight – all the way through a trip to Pottery Barn and all the way through a sit down lunch. We are amazed and somewhat appreciative for this new toy’s cool factor.

It continues through the week in this way. Red train goes in the car with us. Red train must be at hand during meals whether clutched in a tiny fist or sitting on the table where he can gaze upon Evan as he eats. Red train cannot go in the shower or tub with us, which has caused some distressed tears that end as soon as Evan is out of the bath, swathed in a towel and can resume control of his little rolling friend. Red train is even in hand at bedtime, and only comes loose when little man is fast asleep, gently removed and sat upon the dresser until morning comes and Evan remembers that he had him when he fell asleep.

This, in a way, is a big deal for us as a family because Evan has never in his short life been this attached to anything. He has never had to carry around a favorite blanky, he has never been glued at the hip to a stuffed animal of any kind…hell, the kid never even wanted a pacifier (which is fine with me considering the age of a few kids I know that still use them). It’s new for us, bizarre, but not in a bad way, and oh so fascinating. I even went by TJ Maxx while my short handsome man was in preschool the other day and attained 2 additional characters for his little collection – the green one and the purple one (again – sorry, I don’t know their names!)

We’ll see how this goes over the next few weeks. He doesn’t seem to have a preference for which color he has, but he has had one with him every waking moment over the last 7 days. Verrry interesting!

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