Getting Lost on Dirt Roads.

17 Jul cows-sky

There are advantages to having a baby. Anders Knox is adorable, giggly, and a genius (in my unbiased opinion). He makes life more fun and more meaningful. But one thing I didn’t expect about having is a baby is the way life would slow down.

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Even though I’m back at work and we’re in the throes of a crazy busy summer, something about Anders has changed the tempo of life. My priorities have shifted, my dreams have recalibrated. I’ve been forced into a calmer, more carnal place.

This calm has caused me to do things I’ve never done before. Like intentionally getting lost in the country wilderness.

Every once and a while I take the long (long, long) way home when I pick up Anders after work. He needs a good nap before his next feeding at 6:00 and I need an opportunity to take a breath.

Paved roads won’t do. Highways won’t cut it. In true farm-boy fashion, my son takes his best naps while bouncing and jostling around on dirt roads.

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Such thoroughfares aren’t hard to come by near our dairy.

Usually my life is all about productivity. Efficiency. Get the job done, get there quickly, move on to the next thing. But these early evening drives with my son (and occasionally my furry firstborn even joins us) force me to slow down. While Anders peacefully snoozes, I drink in the impossibly big blue skies and rolling green hills. We bask in the middle-of-freaking-nowhere.

Last night was one such night. The A-man needed a nap and the clouds were breathtaking. We left civilization behind and turned onto a long dirt road near our house. I leisurely cruised through the deep ruts and gullies left by a recent rain, pausing every so often to snap a photo.

We drove through leafy tunnels.

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We said hi to the neighbors.

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We checked on the corn.

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We were rendered speechless by this ridiculous sky over the silage pack.

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I could have been home cooking dinner, doing laundry, or mopping the floor. But instead, I’m was awe. In awe of the size of the sky. In awe of the peaceful isolation of these dusty back roads. In awe of the sweet baby boy snoring in the backseat.

My former city girl self found catharsis in concrete, steel, skyscrapers, and the hustle of humanity. I still love those things. But now my soul also does somersaults for muddy roads, cornfields, cows, and the silence of the wind.

And that’s certainly worth a car wash (or three).

Update From The Farm: It’s Not Just Spit Up and Diapers

16 Jun

Phew. People, life with a baby is a lot of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The last two months have been a blur of hundreds of diaper changes (over 330 in May according to the app on my phone) and a whole lot of spit up.

But today I’m showered, wearing real pants (versus yoga pants), and the sun is blazing. I’m feeling like a human. Life is bright and happy.

It doesn’t hurt that the weather in our patch of of the world has been gorgeous lately. The skies are impossibly blue.

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The fields are patchwork shades of brown, green, and yellow as the corn starts to come in.

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These pre-summer scenes remind me why I love Michigan. I could have done without the six-ish months of frigid, dreary, soul-sucking winter, but those days are a distant memory in the glow of today’s sunshine.

The recent pleasant weather has allowed Jersey, the A-man, the Baby Bjorn, and I to get out of the house on foot to check out what’s happening around the dairy.

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For example: did you know we’re expanding another barn?

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Last summer was a flurry of barn expansion activities. Dairy Man must have enjoyed every minute of it, because he started construction on another barn expansion about a week after Anders was born (because we weren’t busy enough, oof). But things have been going well and it’s almost time to let a new batch of bovine ladies stampede into their new digs like last year’s lucky ducks. As of this week, the concrete is poured and the anticipatory mooing is palpable.

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In addition to a new barn, the boys and I have noticed that our farm is home to a pack of adorable calves.

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This year we’re housing some young heifer (female) calves in our former steer barn. It’s nice to know they’ll be around longer than our steers. I never wanted to get too attached to those guys–I’m still a delicate city girl deep down. Typically we don’t have calves at our facility (the pregnant ladies live here during their gestational period, but they journey to the other dairy to give birth), so I’m really enjoying the cuteness.

Anders is less enthralled, but he’ll get there someday.

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It’s been wonderful to walk around with my boys, even if it is nerve-wracking to be carrying a baby when Jersey takes off after a barn cat or woodchuck. But walking around feels normal. It feels right. It feels like I’m reclaiming a favorite pre-baby pastime.

It even gives us a chance to visit Daddy at work.

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Honestly, I’m feeling a bit panicked about returning to work from maternity leave in two short weeks (more on that later). For now I’m trying to seize every opportunity to bask in the beauty all around me.

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And according to the Dairy Man, the remainder of my maternity leave is the perfect time to introduce Anders to the awesomeness that is a dairy farm. Train ‘em young and all that.

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He’s got to get used to the smells sometime.

10 Things I Learned in April: The Parenting Edition

1 May

I can’t quite wrap my head around the reality that it’s been almost a month since our sweet Anders Knox joined the family.

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The past four weeks have been a blur of visitors, spit up, diapers, yoga pants, late night feedings, and sleep deprivation. It’s been the most challenging four weeks of my life, but it’s also been the most beautiful.

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Since April was entrenched in babyland, my monthly “10 things” isn’t going to be a very diverse list. I may not have showered today, but I’m seizing a quiet moment (Anders finally went down for a nap) to share 10 things I learned last month.

10 Things I Learned in April

1. Babies poop. A lot.
They warn you. The books tell you. But nothing can prepare you for the awe-inspiring amount of poop a tiny human being can produce. It’s baffling how much of my day is spent dealing with, assessing, smelling for, washing off, evaluating, logging, and transporting poop. Dairy Man and I are both black belt changers at this point.

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2. I can eat any meal in under 60 seconds.
Anders’ crankiest time of the day is typically between 5 and 10 p.m. That means DM and I stagger our dinners: one person consoles the baby while the other scarfs down their food. During the day I also have to eat breakfast and lunch with a baby in my arms or frantically while he’s napping. At this point I think I could win some sort of speed-eating competition.

3. I can do a lot of things with one hand.
Anders isn’t the best napper and DM is busy at work every day, so I spend a lot of time alone in the house with a baby in my arms. Thankfully I’ve gotten quite proficient at doing things with one hand. The list includes eating a bowl of cereal (though I did spill milk all over the table), loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, typing emails, and mopping baby vomit from the floor. If only onehandedness was a marketable job skill.

4. The human body can survive on minuscule amounts of sleep.
Anders needs to eat every 2-3 hours. Since I’m breastfeeding, this means that I never get more than three hours of sleep at a time. The fact that I’m still standing, speaking, and functioning is nothing short of a miracle.

5. Seeing my husband as a father is the most beautiful thing in the world. 
My heart wasn’t prepared for the gut-bursting joy I would feel in seeing DM as a father. He’s patient, gentle, and enamored with our little blue-eyed bundle of joy. My soul melts into my shoes when I see them together. I can’t wait to watch them grow closer and learn from each other.

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6. Sometimes just taking a shower is an inconceivable accomplishment.
I feel like I’m really kicking life’s butt if I manage to take a shower every day. I never thought something so small would puff me up with such a sense of pride. If I’m really feeling crazy, I might even wear makeup.

7. Flexibility is the new norm.
I’ve grown in flexibility ever since marrying a dairy farmer. My plans and schedules often fall victim to a broken tractor or escaped bovine. But I can already tell that parenthood is going to require an unprecedented amount of flexibility. My schedule, my sleep, my favorite shirts, my furniture, my chores, my sanity, and my relationships are already outside of my control. This leaves me with two choices: become completely unhinged or let it all go. Since I don’t want to take a trip to crazytown, I need to learn to let go. I need to be ok with being late. I need to ask for help. I need to accept failure. I need to put everything I do into the hands of my Creator.

8. I have the best family and friends in the world.
There’s nothing like having a baby to make you feel loved. I’m ridiculously grateful for the people who have held Anders while I napped, changed diapers, cleaned our house, given advice, brought dinners, walked Jersey, sent encouraging messages, delivered chocolate milkshakes, and tolerated a steady stream of adorable baby photos on Facebook. DM and I couldn’t have made it through April without this support. We are so blessed by our tribe. I’m also so grateful for the love I’ve received from YOU, our online community. Your sweet messages and comments are so appreciated!

9. Parenting is the most frustrating, fulfilling, exhausting, amazing thing I’ve ever done.
Dairy Man and I wake up each morning as different parents to a different child. We learn more about this strange creature every day and he learns about us. We have good days and bad days. We’ve had triumphant parenting moments and moments that make us want to curl into a ball and weep uncontrollably. Like most new parents, we’ve done a lot of things wrong. But we’re learning. We’re trying to be patient with ourselves and each other. We rejoice in our small victories and live to parent another day. This life is beautiful and we are so in love with this child.

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10. Babies don’t really appreciate new machinery.
Despite DM’s best efforts, our youngest farmhand isn’t quite ready to report for duty. But we have complete confidence that he will one day appreciate the excitement of a brand new loader.

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He’s Here!

18 Apr

Dairy Man and I are thrilled to introduce you to the newest member of our family! (And the reason for my radio silence over here in blogland. Who knew infants were so much work?)

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On Saturday, April 5 at 3:11 p.m., Anders Knox was born weighing in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces and 19 inches long. I might be biased, but he’s adorable. I can’t get enough of his adorably chubby cheeks and bright blue eyes. No odd-looking newborn Benjamin Button here. We’re in love.

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It’s been the most exhausting, amazing, frustrating, humbling, and exhilarating two weeks of my life. Labor and delivery was difficult, but we feel so blessed to have a healthy baby boy.

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I’m floored how much I love this tiny little human already.

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Thank you all for the love, prayers, kind words, well-wishes, and tolerance of a flood of baby pictures on my Facebook page. It’s been so much fun to share my pregnancy journey and I can’t wait to see how Anders changes our lives.

Jersey is settling comfortably into his role as big brother. He occasionally sniffs Anders to make sure things are still ok and seems happily ambivalent the rest of the time. I’m sure they will be best friends. And I’m half tempted to dress them alike like this awesome dog/baby duo.

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Thanks to my new sleep schedule (or lack thereof), I think things may slow down for a little bit here on the blog, but check out Facebook and Instagram for current updates.

And never fear, I will be back with dairy updates soon. As if our lives aren’t crazy enough right now, this is happening on the dairy.

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Yep. We’re beginning another barn expansion just like last year. Never a dull moment around here. More details to come.

For now, I leave you with one of the many faces of Mister Anders. He’s keeping us on our toes!

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10 Things I Learned in March.

31 Mar

Hello, March. I think you might have misunderstood your role in this 12-month saga known as a year. We’re supposed to be on the road to spring.

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This was the scene from my office window last week. Ugh. I’m trying so hard to stay positive, but the truth is that I’m tired. So very tired of winter. Normal Michigan winters are nothing to sneeze at, but this winter has been extreme. Extremely cold temperatures, extremely constant snow accumulation (with no melting), extremely hyper border collie suffering from cabin fever.

Thank heavens that today is predicted to be an unfathomable 60 degrees. I was ready to break out my shorts and flip flops when temps tipped over 40 yesterday, so I might just sunbathe today. Maybe spring is more than a figment of my deepest memory.

As we go out like a lamb, here are the things I learned this month.

10 Things I Learned in March

1. Dairy Man and I have different ideas about Baby F’s wardrobe.
#Carharttsversusbowties

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2. The World Wide Web is 25 years old.
Our little Webby is turned 25 in March. Though it’s hard to fathom a world without LOLCats, snarky tweets about Vogue covers, and the bottomless pit of information on Google, the Internet as we know it did not exist before 1989. Congratulations, WWW. Go rent a car.

3. It takes 4-5 adults to put together one IKEA dresser.
The nursery is finally coming along (and not a minute too soon for my mega-nesting impulses). A few weeks ago we invited my parents and sister over to help set up the nursery and organize baby crap. Yes, that is the technical term. Somehow we all got involved in the construction of one very complicated IKEA Hemnes dresser. Talk about family bonding.

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4. Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel pulled off an epic duet of “Confrontation” from Les Misérables.
Never before has there been a more perfect union of one of my favorite sitcoms and one of my favorite musicals.

5. I’m the best wife ever.
Even though I couldn’t participate in one of my favorite national holidays—Oberon Day—I made sure that Dairy Man was able to ring in spring with our favorite summer brew. Major points for the nine-month pregnant lady.

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6. Babies need pets.
These photos are proof. Baby F and Jersey simply must be best friends.

7. A lot can change in three short weeks.
Somehow I grew a torpedo between weeks 33 and 36. Now that I’m in week 38, I can’t even begin to fathom how this torpedo can get any bigger.

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8. A medium shamrock shake from McDonalds has 660 calories.
SIX-HUNDRED AND SIXTY calories, people. Insanity. This did not stop me from partaking, mind you, but it did add a minty layer of guilt to my annual green treat. I wish I could unlearn this particular fact.

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9. Snow frisbee > regular frisbee
Just ask the one puppy in our family who is not ready for the snow to melt. He’s all about anything that allows him to dramatically hurl his body through the air like a furry David Beckham into a cold, white foam pit.

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10. This balancing dog is smarter and more awesome than I’ll ever be. 
Just take a look at these mad skills. Jersey, we have a new spring project.

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It’s Not About the Closet Doors: On Motherhood, Fears, and Faith

26 Mar

A friend told me recently that one of her biggest fears in regards to her baby boy isn’t that he won’t sleep through the night, eat his vegetables, or learn to spell.

She’s afraid that his future wife will hate her.

I can honestly say that such a thought had never even crossed my mind until then. Should I be worried about my unborn baby’s betrothed!? I’m barely grasping the idea that I’m going to have an infant.

The more I thought about what she said, the more I started to realize the gravity of my upcoming entrance into parenthood.

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Within the next 2-3 weeks I will give birth to a living, breathing, functioning little boy. This boy will skin his knees, go to kindergarten, get holes in his jeans, bust a move at school dances, and one day bring home a woman who will be his wife.

The trajectory starts with his first cry, his first gasp into life. And then, someday, he’ll bring home a girl who might hate me.

I recognize the insanity of this logical leap, particularly since I haven’t even met my son yet. But something about the late third trimester flips a switch in your brain between pregnancy and parenthood.

I’m so excited. I’m wonderfully, ecstatically, fearfully, joyfully waiting for life to change forever. I’m elated to meet the little being that has been growing and kickboxing in my womb for the past nine months. I can’t wait to hold him, to see if he has Dairy Man’s eyes, to watch him grow.

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But if I’m honest, I’m also terrified.

This terror has spawned a few moments of pure, unadulterated irrationality throughout this pregnancy. One such moment came when Dairy Man asked me what kind of closet doors I wanted in the nursery and I melted into an indecisive pile of emotional goo.

I know there’s nothing existentially significant about closet doors. But for some reason it felt like if I picked the wrong doors for a room that was going to house MY CHILD, everything else would fall apart.

The doors had to be perfect. I had to be perfect. Because, clearly my child’s whole future would hinge on closet doors. The wrong doors could keep him from sleeping through the night, getting good grades, making friends, eating his vegetables.

I’d like to blame it solely on pregnancy hormones, but I think it’s deeper than that.

Because it’s not about the closet doors. It’s about feeling overwhelmed. It’s about the unknown. It’s about life changing. It’s about a long-awaited blessing so beautiful it simultaneously makes me want to laugh and weep.

Pregnancy has been a growing experience (no pun intended – bahdoomCHHH) for this self-aware Type A. The baby-baking process has been the ultimate exercise in loss of control. And it’s liberating. Everything up to this point and everything that will come after requires complete trust in God.

My son might not like broccoli. He might get detention. He might draw on his perfect closet doors with a red Sharpie. He might marry a girl who is lactose intolerant (the horror).

I have to put it all, even that future woman who will steal …ahem… I mean marry my son away, in His hands.

This is all part of a plan—a plan outside of my control. The road was paved with frustration and heartbreak, but God finally blessed us with a viable pregnancy. My fear of parenthood pales in comparison to my intense, overwhelming gratitude. That’s what matters. I might not know how to swaddle a baby or discipline a misbehaving toddler, but I’ve been given the incredible chance to figure it out. This child is already in someone else’s hands.

I’m realizing that this is it. Right now. My life isn’t about tomorrow or growing up or my son’s future wife, it’s about the beautiful terror of each moment. The realization that I’m not in charge. The recognition that each mundane or shattering moment can take me straight to the feet of glory.

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I’m so thankful I get to live this life. I wouldn’t trade all of the pain, anger, fear, and uncertainty that comes along with it. It’s not about what already happened or what could be, it’s about where I am now. There is nothing more sacred or profound than this day.

So I’ll keep nesting, reading baby books, saving money, and practicing my breathing techniques. But ultimately I know that this new adventure is out of my hands. Everything will be new, but everything will be painfully beautiful. Life will change and we’ll change with it.

That’s the best kind of fear.

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——

All photos for this post were taken from our maternity shoot with the talented Ashley Folkema.

10 Things I Learned in February.

27 Feb

Not to sound like a broken record, but I can honestly say that I’m not sorry to see the backside of February. I’m sick of winter. DM is sick of winter. The cows are sick of winter. Jersey is…not, but he’s a furry anomaly who is blinded by his love of snow Frisbee.

Practically speaking, I need things to warm up because my winter coat will no longer button over my pregnant girth. The whole “I can stuff myself into it until spring” plan isn’t really working and a milder season is nowhere in sight.

Stuffed-sausage-coats notwithstanding, February cannot not squeak by without teaching me a few things. Thus, I give you:

10 Things I Learned In February

1. You can supply an entire home with water through a garden hose.
How, pray tell, do I know this fun fact? Well, thanks to the delightful little winter we’re having, the pipe running from the farm’s main water source to our house froze SOLID. So did the ground all around it. Short of digging up 70 feet of pipe in frozen ground, we’re stuck. The solution? Run several garden hoses from the water supply to our house. The hose connects directly to our system in the house (even running through the water heater), so I can’t complain too much, but we live in constant fear of the hose freezing too. Seriously. Is it spring yet?

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2. While Dairy Man is away, MFW will play.

Or binge watch the entire season 2 of House of Cards. DM spent a week in California this month to attend the World Ag Expo and tour around dairy country. He soaked up the sun, ogled at rotary parlors, and ate from taco trucks. I didn’t clean anything, ate cinnamon rolls for dinner, and watched an embarrassing number of HOC episodes. The show is so addicting. And to those who have seen the last episode, can I just say: WHAAAAAAT!?!?!? Season 3 is going to be a thrill ride.

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3. I have a secret to avoid speeding tickets.

Well, sort of. True confession: I force out a big yawn whenever I pass a police car because I think it makes me look nonchalant. Obviously no laws can be broken while yawning. I like to believe it’s impossible to perceive a yawner as a speeder.

4. I have not overcome my donut cravings.
I’ve never wanted sugar more than I have during this pregnancy. Proof? This is what my body required to get through my weekly grocery shopping trip this Monday. I couldn’t even talk myself out of it with the “you’ll spoil your dinner” argument because farmers don’t eat until 8 p.m. anyway! Curses.

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5. Just as DM suspected, whole milk may keep you lean.

I admit to you that I came into my marriage as a fervent lover of skim milk, margarine, and low-fat yogurt. Oh the horror. Dairy Man was so ashamed. But I gradually began to see that my perceptions about “healthy” dairy were far from the truth. Studies are starting to suggest that natural fats are actually better for us than the empty low-fat/no-fat options on the market. DM is quite smug.

6. Ice cover on the Great Lakes stood at 77% as of Tuesday.
This winter has been unlike any we’ve seen in the last 20-30 years. As a result, the Great Lakes were 77 percent frozen this week! And they were a mind-boggling 88 percent frozen on February 13. I’m not quite ready to ice skate to Wisconsin (especially since Lake Michigan is only about 50 percent frozen), but these stats boggle my mind.

7. It’s possible for Dairy Man to love Paul Rudd even more than he already does.
DM has two primary man-crushes in his life: James Franco (which I do not understand) and Paul Rudd (which I do). This unfettered man-love often dictates his movie choices and even trickles into his YouTube browsing. Paul’s recent lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon propelled DM’s warm fuzzy feelings to new heights.

8. Somewhere in the world, tropical pigs are swimming.
This is the stuff that gets me through the day.

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9. There is one sure-fire way to ruin your husband’s day.
Just swap the melted Snickers bar he was saving for a “special occasion” with raisins. Oops.

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10. I have less than 50 days until my due date.

Y-to the-IKES. I can’t believe how quickly the third trimester is flying by. And how big I feel. I like to surprise people with the size of my belly by turning sideways quickly, bouncing on my toes, and shouting, “WA-BUM!” It’s dramatic. This baby boy/dairy spawn will be here soon. Now if we could just finish the nursery or agree on a name…

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