Category Archives: Parenting

Cranky, Spanky, and Cries

Get it? It’s a play on “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” because this past week we have all been early to bed and early to rise, thanks to school, but…you know what, that’s enough, I’m sure you get it, and I’m sure I just overkilled it. Sorry. I have a sense of humor people have defined as, “quirky,” which is just a polite way to say, “unfunny.”

So back to life, back to reality, Bug is now finishing his first week of second grade. This means several things for me (and Bean):

I. Getting up at 6:30 is way too early to start thinking about what to fix for breakfast. But since I’ve vowed to have a hot meal waiting for a bleary-eyed Bug this year, getting up at 6:30 is also necessary.

  • A. The Montessori school up the road starts a whole 45 minutes later than the public schools. Is the extra 45 minutes of sleep worth the private school tuition? No, but ask me again after a few weeks of zombie-like awareness.
  • B. My vow allows some leeway.

II. Bug is not a morning person. I am not a morning person. Hubs is not a morning person. The only one who wakes up happy is Bean, and she sleeps in her own urine, so her opinion about morning doesn’t count.

  • A. Three non-morning people stumbling around the house getting ready for school/work/the day in general does not a happy home make.
  • B. Is that stubborn cowlick really worth the temper tantrum? Some would say not, Hubs. (Psych, Bug is the one whimpering over his reflection, at least until he gets some food in his tummy. Then it’s all karate chops and sword fights from there.)

III. I can actually get to the gym. Haha, good one, just seeing if you were still paying attention.

  • A. What I really meant was, I can finally watch the Netflix DVDs I’ve had since April, as well as the dozens of Conan episodes monopolizing our DVR. (Sorry, Hubs, but consider: do you really need to record that episode of Swamp People? Spoiler alert: they wrassle gators and talk funny. Says the Alabamian.)
  • B. My skinny jeans might have a different opinion of the gym.

IV. I can write. Without Disney Channel, constant requests for a snack, Transformer duels, and/or (and) an ongoing game of Categories interrupting my flow. Opus, here I come!

  • A. Oh, yeah, and Bean can actually get a full nap without all of the above noises.
  • B. I tend to ignore Hubs when he asks when I want to go back to work, so if I can start getting paid for this writing gig, then my answer can be, “Never! Bahaha!”
    • 1. Evil laugh mandatory.
    • 2. I’ll also consider job openings for a professional laugher.

V. After an entire summer of all day, everyday togetherness, Bug and Bean have started to annoy the crap out of each other (see Exhibit A). Now that they spend a full seven hours apart, they can go back to missing each other by the time 3:00 rolls around.

  • A. Don’t you hate it when Babyzilla comes along and wrecks the wicked cool K’nex roller coaster you spent three hours building?
  • B. And don’t you hate it when you’re minding your own business, playing with blocks or eating crumbs off the floor, and your big brother picks you up and moves you just because he can?
  • C. And don’t you hate it when one kid is squalling because she isn’t allowed to eat crumbs off the floor, and the other kid is tattling on his sister for wrecking his wicked cool K’nex roller coaster SEVENTEEN TIMES A DAY?

Although, I have to admit, they're still pretty stinkin' cute.

And that’s just the five-point outline I’ve prepared for today. I didn’t even mention how I can now tell you what day of the week it is (as opposed to, “Not Sunday” and “Not Trash Day”), or how 3/4 of the house are now required to change out of pajamas before 8AM.

Then again, I guess I could drop Bug off in my pajamas, but no one wants to see my puppy feet pants. That’s an intimacy I’m just not ready to afford the fifth graders manning the car rider lane.

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At Least For Today

There’s this thing about the human body: it is a complex, complicated thing. I know. So scientific, right? Where’s my Nobel Peace Prize, John Nash?

And because of its glorious intricacies, the idea of our accidental existence is unfathomable to me. God, a creative God, is evident in each perplexing detail. And the study of this God has led me to believe that not only is He a purposeful and artistic God, but He is also a very fond God.

I know this. I KNOW this. (Did you hear that, heart? Brain says we KNOW this.)

Despite my knowledge that God is quite fond of His creation, His puzzling, mysterious, esoteric creation, I also know, more consistently, how devastating it can be when a piece of that creation doesn’t seem to work right.

What do I know more? Do I know God’s goodness more deeply than my anxiety?

And so the pull begins, more tautly, more recently.

In February, Bug was given a tentative All-Clear sign regarding his epilepsy. After two years of being seizure-free and an EEG within normal limits, his neurologist gave us the hope that he might be one of the slim majority of kids who outgrow their epilepsy with minimal treatment. Over the following six weeks, we slowly weaned him from his medication with the knowledge that up to 40% of children relapse within the first two years, with the hope that he would find himself in the 60%.

Two nights ago, Bug and I were curled up on the open, cool space of the bathroom floor, waiting for the seizure to begin.

I am thankful that his precursor to a seizure is lengthy, that I have time to prepare his body and my heart for what is about to happen, that the warning sign of an oncoming epileptic episode is a bright and flashing red, that I can keep him safe while his brain reboots. I am thankful that I have his neurologist on speed dial, that she is warm and understanding and involved and brilliant. I am thankful that my own brain is packed with information and experience and knowledge that I can recall with ease in the thick of uncertainty. I am thankful that we now know he has not outgrown his epilepsy, instead of spending the following years holding our breaths, wondering and waiting if it will strike again. I am thankful that he has epilepsy, and not a heart defect.

I am thankful that I am smaller than the God who created such a complex organ, that I am more ignorant than the God who knows every cell of my son’s body, that I am not the one in charge of healing, because I would make a mess of things. I am thankful that the God who designed my son with a clear and grand purpose in mind also makes it His purpose to be my Comfort.

I am thankful, at least for today.

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Eight Days

The First

Day 1, The First: You had your own agenda, even from conception. You were unexpected, the gift despite our fallibilities, the consequence of our indiscretions, the reward in spite of our explicit ineptitude, the bright, bold, glorious silver lining. You came quickly and easily, you made your presence known, you shook the foundation of my limited understanding of unconditional love. You changed me, inside and out, physically and emotionally, mentally and spiritually, daily and eternally.

Day 2, The Experience: I never thought two people could experience so much in just one year’s time. You learned so much in your first year of life, and you taught me even more. You learned to smile, I learned that the English language is incapable of expressing the emotion of the human heart. You learned to roll over, I learned there isn’t enough film in the world to capture you accurately or sufficiently. You learned to crawl, I learned I cannot fuse you to my hip by sheer longing and willpower. You learned to speak, I learned the feeling of knowing my identity and my purpose so strongly and steadfastly. You learned to walk, I learned the heart can shatter into a million pieces just to find itself mended within your sticky palm forever.

The Separation

Day 3, The Separation: At two years old, you were confident and intelligent, knowing the certainty of me while testing your separate self. You knew what it meant to be near me each minute of everyday, an arrangement we both thrived on. You understood my permanence, you sensed my tangency, you needed more. After two years of devoted attention, you experienced sharing and separation and absence and reuniting. You bloomed, more eagerly than I did, more openly than I showed. You were becoming more of yourself, while I experienced the loss of a limb.

Day 4, The Growth: From daycare to preschool, you made the transition more flawlessly than I anticipated, a hint to the man you will one day grow to be. We spent our days apart. You learned from child development majors the alphabet and how high you could count and how things are spelled and proper manners, I learned how to exist outside of myself as Mom, how to converse without baby talk, how to be both a mother and an employee, how to be efficient, how to be present. You made friends, I made friends, friends who, to this day, remain. Our sphere grew larger together, apart.

The Experience

Day 5, The Newness: We moved from the home you spent the first three years of your life in, a small, warm apartment, to our first house, a larger, shinier building with empty walls, new carpet, and the smell of fresh paint, a place where the dents and the stains and the nail-holes will testify to ever more growth. You celebrated your birthday here, your fourth, its first, and the memories began to build and pulse. I cried when I turned in the apartment key, despite my big talk that I couldn’t wait to get out of that tiny hole, despite my new blank slate of a house with my personal taste and touches. I cried because our new house would not be the place you first crawled or walked, the carpet would be far too white without sippy cup stains, your bedroom, painted red as you requested, will never be the room where I rocked you back to sleep, nestled small and tight in the shape of my embrace.

Day 6, New World: A spot or two of chipped paint, where you threw a light saber or a Hot Wheel against the wall, and dust beneath the couch, the walls no longer bare, the carpet no longer pristine. Another year of memories, some that haunt, but most that hint to a house and family full of laughter, a group of people who enjoy one another thoroughly and without hesitation. Another backyard barbecue to celebrate your birthday, with family and friends, friends you learned to say goodbye to, as you scattered across the city to different schools. You learned what it meant to be prepared for Kindergarten, you prepared yourself for the big day, you came with a new disclaimer that you have epilepsy, you are unstoppable.

New Identity

Day 7, New Identity: You made new best friends. You received a Kindergarten education with flying colors. You learned to read and write and count with ease. You run until you pass out, you talk incessantly, you love so generously, you are a big brother. The memories we created together from the past six years, many of just the two of us, grew even richer as we relived them through your little sister. As my firstborn, you made it easy. As your father’s son, you are curious and energetic. As a student, you are ideal. As a big brother, you are a natural. You are protective. You are smitten. You are inspiring.

Day 8, New Heartbreak: Today, seven years old as of 5:49am, you are heartbreaking. Seven years celebrated in eight twenty-four hour periods, and that is just not sufficient. You continue to grow smarter, faster, wiser, more independent, more separate, and I am helpless to stop it, or even slow it down. I am altogether depressed as I remember the tiny baby you used to be, glued to my hip, wary of anyone and anything that didn’t have my scent, didn’t have my touch, and elated as I think of the man you are well on your way of becoming, the greatness instilled in you, the goodness and purpose and confidence that transcend anything I could have taught you, the essence of you, my son.

It is the paradox of growth, that something must become less to give room for something to become more.

You, my seven-year-old, are much less dependent of me, but more, infinitely more, than I could have ever dreamt.

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How To Save a Life : Redux

I originally wrote this post when Bean was almost two months old.

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Okay, so as a disclaimer, let me just say…I’ve been waffling back and forth about whether or not to blog about this particular incident, because, true to form, I’m sure I’m blowing it all out of proportion. (Because the title to this blog sets such great precedent.) But I have been “writing” it for the past week in my mind, and came to the conclusion that this particular story should be shared.

So a week ago, I got a completely unexpected message from someone* I went to college with. In fact, at the end of the message, he even said the last thing he expected to do when he logged onto his computer was to send me that message. So needless to say, on the receiving end…surprise!

*This particular someone will remain nameless out of etiquette. And if he ever stumbles across our little blog, I hope he forgives me for allowing my three-and-a-half readers (hi, Mom!) an anonymous crack into his life.

Okay, on to the good stuff.

Essentially, in this message, he informed me that he and his ex-girlfriend are in the thick of an unexpected pregnancy. He told me that they were facing some really tough issues with her strict family, her religious background, and their fizzled relationship. He said that she has been bouncing between whether or not to continue the pregnancy, given the circumstances, and that he was intending to support whichever decision she chose.

But then he “met” Bean through a bit of light internet stalking via Facebook, and consequently fell in love with his unborn child. Thanks to Bean and the happiness and fulfillment that radiate through a handful of jpegs, he is choosing life. And support of that life, a little half-heart that is oblivious to his (or her) parents’ turmoil during his (or her) elemental existence. And while the circumstances surrounding Bean’s conception and birth are a world away from what this new little family are up against, I know from experience that the joy of parenthood is almost transcendental.

Now it’s highly unlikely I will ever get a follow-up about this particular situation, except maybe if photos crop up on Facebook, but knowing that Bean made a difference, however small it actually was (or if I’m making it out to be more than my old college buddy intended) is…breathtaking. (Literally. When I told Hubs about the surprise message, I teared up all over again.)

Even a week later, I still can’t quite wrap my mind about what he really meant when he said that our family photo album had an impact on him. Like, there was a chance, however big or small, that a clump of cells vaguely resembling a tiny person would have been stopped from forming an actual tiny person. And now, maybe because of my tiny person, this world will welcome one more squishy baby, two more awestruck parents, and who knows how many google-eyed, smitten grandparents, and so on. Does that actually make sense? Do things actually work that way? It is mind-boggling, to say the least.

Wow. Less than two months old, and she’s already outdone me.

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A week or so ago, I met up with my old College Buddy, who was practically glowing in his new fatherhood. His baby girl is now around five months old, lighting up when she catches sight of her daddy, offering a coo and a smile and a giggle, and probably soon, if not already, crawling to meet him at the door. I know CB swings by this blog every now and then, so if you’re here today, CB, just know that you wear the Daddy life well. Enjoy your first Father’s Day, and a belated Congratulations to your growing family!

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The Whole World Stops and Stares For Awhile

If this past year set the pace, then I’m ready for a heartbreak.

Yesterday, at 1:58am, my little lady love turned a year old.

What's a "birthday"?

A year ago, I was staring at this tiny new person sleeping nestled against the warmth of my chest, trying out her name, growing familiar to the letters that spelled out her place in our family, as the three of us became four, separating to surround her, molding her into our hearts.

A year ago, I marveled at how perfect her skin was, how dark her eyes were, how much hair she had, how she was the exact image of Newly Born Bug six years before, how easily we slipped into our stride, the role of New Mother worn smooth.

A year ago, I wondered how someone so sudden could slide into our lives in three short pushes, clutching in her pink fist a significant piece of my heart, completely unaware of her magnetism as I struggled with the impossibility of absorbing her, of never, ever, ever letting her go.

A year ago, I thought I might maybe probably unlikely but slightly possibly get used to this feeling.

Today, I wonder how I ever even considered that.

Today, I watch her fall asleep in her crib, perched on her knees like a baby frog, as her long lashes slow their blink, my fingertips hovering over the sweet spot on the bridge of her nose, and sleep is irresistible.

Pretty sure this is how I get out.

Today, I look at my one-year-old and beg her to slow down, to sit down, to stay, in my lap, against my shoulder, in my arms, on my chest, my baby girl, my little Bean, my sweet belle who loves and chooses me over all the others.

Today, I am in awe of her laugh, her toothy grin growing ever brighter, her beauty as it steals my breath, her sense of humor, her curiosity, her mobility, her affection, her small hands, her chubby knees, her wispy hair, her open-mouthed kisses, the shape her lips make when she is on the verge of tears, the feel of her arm as she squeezes my neck, the sound of my name, my identity, on her tongue.

Today, nothing really has changed, except my Bean has grown from a fragile, sleeping, needy newborn to a mobile, agile, adventurous baby girl.

Today, I’m still hopelessly in love and growing more so. I’m still possessed by a need to be near her, constantly. I’m still watching, shell-shocked and jaw dropped, as she morphs before my very eyes, much more quickly than I am ready for. I am still completely and irrevocably stunned by her.

It’s been a year, and I’m still navigating the magic of motherhood, trying not to stumble through the looking glass.

Only today, I’ve got a billion more photographs.

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I Think It’s Fly When Girls Stop By For the Summer

Bug and I survived a very rainy first (half) week of summer vacation with only one I’m-overwhelmingly-bored meltdown. Like Milli Vanilli(‘s stunt doubles), I blame it on the rain.

Whew. Only seventy-eight more days to go. But who’s counting?

For the record, I love having Bug home with me. I love snuggling with him in the mornings without having to rush to get ready for school. I love reading quietly with him while Bean naps. I love having a conversation during lunchtime that doesn’t consist of thirteen games of Peek-a-Boo and using repetition using repetition using repetition to teach the baby sign language.

But he’s six-and-three-fourths years old of 115% boy. Which, for the summer, means:

1. He gets bored roughly 11 seconds after finishing a book or activity, which means I have approximately 7 seconds to come up with something new for him to do to avoid DISASTER.

2. He owns somewhere upwards of 9,294 pieces of Legos, which is manageable when he only had about 2 hours a day to play with them. Not so much now that he has 12 hours a day.

3. Being six-and-three-fourths (more accurately, six-and-five-sixths, but that just doesn’t roll off the tongue), Bug has long passed needing a nap. Bean, on the other hand, still hasn’t gotten used to sleeping through Transformer duels happening next door.

4. I actually have to be responsible about what I eat for lunch. No more Cookie Dough Bites and Sunkist in the middle of the day.

5. “Me” time has been drastically reduced from the couple hours a day Bean naps to -3.25 hours a day. How is that even possible? Casualties of this tragedy include: Facebook, blogging, DVR’ed episodes of Glee and Conan, all the art and home projects I thought about doing during all that “Me” time, showering, peace, quiet, and Cheddar ‘n Sour Cream Ruffles.

So in order to come out on the other end of this summer vacation without any bald patches on my head, I have spent a significant amount of time researching Things to Do around our area, have mapped out a weekly plan so we don’t waste precious golden time wondering what we can do today, and have created a short list of Field Trips for this summer, which are really just cheap places to go with a new, snazzier name so it sounds exciting.

Let’s go to the Museum! (Um. Okay.)

Let’s go on a Field Trip! To the Museum! (WHAT!)

See?

I hope my sanity doesn’t take a Field Trip. Ba-dump-ch!

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The Three Faces of Bean

Ninety-nine percent of the time she’s happy. Really, really happy.

But sometimes she’s mad.

And other times, she’s…resigned.

This girl has my heart in her hands. I am putty. When she crawls across the room to come lay her head on my chest, even for a brief second or two, I melt a little. In the rarest of moments when she is content to just let me hold her, her cheek resting against the curve of my shoulder, her chubby arm curled tightly around my neck, I hold my breath for fear of losing this magic.

We are three weeks out from the big O-N-E. It still amazes me that I’ve had this little pixie for only a year, despite my very identity being unrecognizable from the time before her.

She has two and a half teeth. She walks with the help of her brother, or the couch, or her train that scoots across the floor. She eats anything you set in front of her, and anything that looks like food off the floor. She shares goldfish crackers and fruit cups with me. She calls me by name, sort of. She has a distinct vowel sound for calling her brother. Her hair is getting longer, and blow-drying it into a giant fuzzball after bath time is one of my favorite things to do. People say she’s me, almost thirty years ago. She is my doppelgänger (which is only fair, since Bug is Hubs’ six-and-three-fourths-year-old clone). She is my little lady love and she is the stuff of fairy tales.

Spitting Image, Right?

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What My Heart Looks Like

Right now I’m watching my son pull his baby sister into his lap. He’s opening a picture book and reading the words far too simple for him to struggle over, words that read, “Where is Spot? Is he in the basket?” She is kicking her little feet, half-interested in the colors and the sounds her big brother is presenting to her, half-interested in the microscopic ball of fuzz two feet away, torn between staying in his embrace and crawling to get a closer look, and maybe a taste, if I don’t catch her fast enough.

The fuzz wins out, and she’s squirming to get out of his grasp, so Bug gives up and announces that he is going to work on his handwriting, but can he watch some TV first?, and look how loose this tooth is!

Bean loses interest in the fuzz when I pull it out of her mouth, and finds a scrap of paper to munch on, and then a sock, and then a forgotten gift card, holding onto the little plastic rectangle as she roams around the playroom. She finds and re-finds things that interest her, holding them up to me like an offering before deciding she’d rather keep them.

Big Brother forgets he has homework, so he leaves the room to retrieve his backpack, and Bean races toward the door as fast as her little knees can carry her, hoping to escape before he closes it on her, giggling and squealing as if she can taste freedom. But she doesn’t make it, and gets distracted by the shiny brass hinges connecting the door to its frame. Every now and then, she makes her way to where I sit, pulls up on my knees, raising her hands in need for me. I eagerly oblige, and she gives me a snotty, open-mouthed kiss before shoving her sticky fingers in my mouth, trying to feel my teeth before I can turn my head away. And then she’s spotted something else, or her quota for sitting still has been met, so she squirms to get back onto the carpet, where she can wander freely.

Brother is back, notebook in hand, and decides to write a letter to his teacher, thanking her “for all her hard work,” because this week is Teacher Appreciation Week. He tells her she rocks, thanks her for teaching him so well, signs it, “Your Friend,” and then asks if he can give her his pen shaped like a fighter jet, because she loves pens.

And then he notices his sister dancing to the tinny music coming from her Heffalump rocker, looking especially adorable, so he drops to the floor and showers her with kisses, trying again and again to pull her into his lap, but she isn’t interested because her stillness quota is still full, so she complains the only way she knows how, by screeching and kicking. He switches tactics and makes funny faces and noises at her, which delights her to no end, her laughter uncontrolled and uninhibited, overwhelming her little body, her face turning red, her laughter losing sound and she’s shaking silently until she can catch her breath.

And Bug is off again because he’s forgotten a pencil for his math homework, and needs an envelope to seal his letter to his teacher in, and Bean calls for him from underneath the desk, but he is back before she can miss him.

And this is all happening in one small room in our house, inside the space of one half hour of our entire day, my children existing beside one another, sometimes interacting, sometimes orbiting separately, stopping what they are doing every so often to kiss each other or laugh at one another, Bug looking up from his math worksheet to echo my warning tone when Bean puts something forbidden in her mouth, Bean making her way to where Brother sits, pulling up on his chair to look up at him in expectation and curiosity, Bug hollering, “No, ma’am, no, ma’am!” when she quick-as-a-wink grabs a fistful of his crayons.

Who knew the feel of tiny hands on my knees would be precisely how my heart feels when I look at my children? Who knew watching an eleven-month-old crawl around with a golf ball in each hand would be one of the funniest things I see all day? Who knew that genuine fulfillment looked like a baby girl laying her head on her big brother’s chest while he watches Disney Channel?

Who knew that the celebration of mothers everywhere come this Sunday would be empty without tiny humans like these two?

What My Heart Looks Like

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And Sooner or Later, Nana, People Have to Grow Up

I Love This Bug

It is impossible that this face used to be small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Now, it is impossible to get him to sit still long enough just to capture it.

He is a beautiful child (objectively speaking), but don’t tell him so, because he will blush and roll his eyes and in an attempt to show you how un-beautiful and manly he really is, will probably try to head butt his father.

I can’t do anything for him anymore.

Bug, Outrunning Me

I spent nine months growing him, protecting him, feeding him secondhand Snickers and Mexican food, a year holding him, rocking him, introducing him to grass and the effects of laughter, another year chasing him, reading with him, curling up on the sofa for a nap with him, another year leaving him with strangers certified in Child Development who taught him chapel songs and how to share, as his shadow went from one adjacent to mine to one yards ahead of me and picking up speed.

Sometime overnight he grew big enough and tall enough to help himself to a glass of milk, to make himself a peanut butter sandwich, to fold his own laundry, to comb his hair, to take a shower. And when I try to help, the mom in me taking over for the baby in him, he tells me, “Mo-om, I got this.” I know he does and I know he can, but what he doesn’t know is that I can’t let him.

Maybe one day I’ll be cool enough or smart enough or busy enough to be ready to lose my baby boy to manhood. But that day is not today.

(Tomorrow doesn’t look so good either.)

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When Their Eloquence Escapes Me

So this is what I’m going to be doing today.

Today I am going to be gathering up each of the four billion pieces my heart is in, sitting down with a tub of gorilla glue, and trying to put it all back together.

My heart is broken, y’all.

Yesterday, I had a delightful conversation with Bean, one that I was lucky enough to get on video. After trying to email the video to family, being rejected by everyone’s email hosts harder than Lisa Turtle rejected Screech, and almost giving up, resigned to admire my videography all by my lonesome, or until someone came over and I could sequester him or her to our desktop, I remembered that I had signed up for a YouTube channel years ago to circumvent this very issue.

What happened next was this:

  • I uploaded the video to YouTube and emailed the link out to roughly 11,943 people.
  • I decided that those not on my email list but amazingly still interested in my blog might want to watch, too, so I tried to embed it into this little space.
  • Decided the resolution was, in a word, craptastic, and I don’t want to upgrade my free blog to include higher-quality videos. Paying WordPress to blog is pretty much the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do here.
  • Watched the video seventeen more times before remembering I had another handful of videos uploaded, so I navigated back to the main page.
  • Watched every single video on there until I couldn’t see past my tears, because once upon a time, Bug was two years old, and the footage on there was heartbreaking.

The end.

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