Archive | October, 2015

All Grace Abounding

27 Oct

IMG_20151013_151122On my way to the grocery store while Travis was in Colorado for eight days elk hunting, I realized that sadly, his being gone actually didn’t feel that much different than his being home (in terms of how much I do taking care of the house and girls). He’s been working so much that it feels somewhat odd when he’s not working; when weekends are spent doing non-work things, like hanging out, running errands, chipping away at projects; when I actually see my husband for more than an hour or two at a time.

His work schedule has been so crazy for the last I-can’t-even-remember-how-long that instead of waiting for Travis to go do fun stuff like the zoo, corn maze, and pumpkin patch, I’ve just started doing those things without him. I’ve stopped expecting him to get off work at a certain time. I’ve (mostly) stopped hoping he’ll spend time with us in the evening. I’m still disappointed when Travis mentions that he has to work for a few hours, especially on weekends, but overall, I’ve adjusted my expectations to be that Travis won’t be hanging out with us.

Do I think that that’s the ideal way to handle this situation? No. I believe strongly in the importance of a husband and father spending quality time with his wife and kids, so I will fight against Travis’ absence being a long-term normal thing. But let me tell you, adjusting my expectations in this way has been a heck of a lot easier – on both me and my marriage – than feeling constant disappointment and unrealized hopes. Doing fun things with my girls and staying busy helps me cope with the ache of a heart that craves more time with my husband.

Travis doesn’t like working this much. He would cut his hours back to a simple 40 in a heartbeat if he could. He’d take more vacation days if he could. He’d be thrilled to spend his evenings and weekends with me and the girls instead of clocking hours in his office (which we’ve nicknamed the Chateau D’if) if he could. “Things are crazy right now, but they should get better soon” has been the echoing refrain of this past year.

But I’m starting to think through the possibility of things not getting better soon, the possibility of this being the reality of our lives for the foreseeable future. (Because that is a very real possibility.) It would be easy to let this situation drift indeterminably while optimistically thinking it’s temporary and have it end up altering what we consider to be our “normal” – that we’d get used to doing things without daddy and it’d no longer feel strange for him to not be there. Indifference to his absence would replace our hope for things to change.

Often, it takes the possibility of a situation not being temporary to make us realize how challenging the circumstance actually is. It’s like, as long as the spark of hope remains that you’re almost to the other side of the trial, you can stay strong and keep trucking. But once you realize that “the other side” might be a long way away, that spark of hope dies and you give up.

It reminds me of Florence Chadwick, the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. In 1952, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to mainland California. She had been swimming 15 hours, was physically and emotionally exhausted, and ended up quitting only 800 meters (1/2 mile) from shore (which to any seasoned swimmer is practically nothing!). “All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it,” she said the next day at a news conference. {source}

Like Florence, I often stop swimming because I can’t see the end. I’m stubborn and determined so I survive for a while by hunkering down and gritting my teeth through trials, willing myself to stay strong until it’s over. “Just get through this. It’ll get better.” But rarely do I make it to the finish line before my resolve gives out. The tipping point is almost always caused by something that, on its own, is small and inconsequential – but added to the heap of stress, fear and pain that has been brimming underneath the surface of my life, it’s the last straw. The dam breaks. A flood of pent-up emotions comes rushing out.

But just like the rainbow that appeared when the waters receded after the great flood of Noah’s time, each flood of my own emotions brings with it with the blessed awareness that once again, I’ve been trying to survive life on my own strength. As seeing the shoreline would’ve most likely given Florence the influx of strength and motivation she needed to persevere, so also seeing the big picture will also strengthen and motivate me.

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What is the big picture? Surely it is not that this trial of Travis’ working so much will come to an end sometime – because that is not certain. Rather, the big picture that gives me hope is that God is sufficient in all things. His sufficiency in being, and providing, everything I need is the way through this trial, and any trial for that matter. For those who work multiple jobs, make minimum wage and still scrape by, this stress of working is a constant reality. But we all find joy in trying circumstances the same way: by looking to God.

Jesus says:

“The thief [of this world] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:9-11)

Joy in God amidst earthly strife is possible – Jesus says it is. He tells us to trust Him, abide in His love for us, and focus on the end – He has already overcome the world. We cannot see the end ourselves; we are stuck swimming in the fog. But God sees the end. And it is by banking on His future promises and His current provision of grace and strength that we can persevere and not give up.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:8)

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to persevere in the face of trials. In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, he writes, “We put no obstacles in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.”

In chapter 11, he continues, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (v. 24-28)

“For we do not want you to ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:8-9)

“But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 9-10

Paul welcomed his trials and hardships as opportunities for him to learn and live out dependence on Christ. As anyone who has been pushed past their capacity or strength knows, that’s often what it takes to break our attempts at self-sufficiency and get us down on our knees before God. In that spirit, I am trying to fight against my natural tendency to grit my teeth through this and instead, embrace this as another opportunity for learning how to live fully in a trying circumstance, trusting God to use it in our lives for our good and His glory.

So Travis and I have been discussing, “If this is our reality for the foreseeable future, what changes do we need to make to live well right now?” Not surprisingly, the changes we are trying to make address the issues that have caused the most problems between us:

1. Communicate in a helpful way.

When Travis has to work in the evening and I am disappointed, I have often expressed that disappointment as anger – because frankly, I’m mad he has to work. But not mad at him, just at the situation. However, he perceives my anger as being directed at him because he is, after all, the one who has to work. The helpful way to communicate my disappointment (according to the man himself) would be to say, “I understand you have to work, but I’m disappointed we can’t hang out.” Duly noted.

To Travis’ credit, he has done a pretty good job (after learning the hard way) of letting me know about his additional work demands a day or two in advance. It helps me to know what to expect. When I have time to process, I can respond better than I can when the situation is sprung upon me at the last minute.

2. Have family time free from the 3 P’s: phones, projects and the paper.

This one is mostly for me, because one of my love languages is quality time. Since we don’t have as much time together as a family as we want, we need to maximize the time we do have. And in my opinion, it just isn’t quality time when the whole family is doing their own thing. Our biggest distractions are our phones, the newspaper and “small, quick” house projects. So, from the time that Travis gets off work to the time that Annabelle goes to bed (which is usually 1-2 hours), those distractions are off-limits.

3. Prioritize date nights.

This is something we’ve (I’ve) been lax about because it’s my job to find a babysitter and I just haven’t put the time or effort into it. But now that Annabelle is 7 months old and can eat some solid food, we wouldn’t have to bring her along, so it would be a true date night! That would be awesome. I need to get my butt in gear and work on this. Our goal is one date night every month.

4. Be generous, but realistic.

There have been numerous good or fun things that we’ve had to say no to because they would have just stretched us too thin. It’s definitely a balancing act to know how much to serve and help out, or when to enjoy time with friends, and when you need to pull back and focus on your own family – but it’s a balance worth striving for. My natural tendency in hardship is to focus all my resources on myself and my family – because in my selfishness, my problems seem the biggest – but that kind of self-preservation usually just ends up magnifying the problem. It nurtures my soul to serve and love others, even when I’m experiencing a hard situation.

This also applies to my marriage. Hunting is an annual sore subject for us, just because it takes so much time – there’s packing, setting up stands, sighting in guns, target practice, traveling, then the actual hunting, and if they’re successful, meat butchering. The selfish part of me thinks that it’s just more time spent away from me and the girls for a “stupid hobby.” But the loving part of me knows that my husband loves hunting and since he spends the majority of his time providing for his family, he could use some time to relax and recharge doing something that je really enjoys (and almost his whole family hunts so it’s also time spent with them).

More and more, I am learning that the balance I need in life is only achievable through the power of the Holy Spirit. As a mere human, I am only capable of swinging from one extreme to another. In this case, from staking my heart on my expectations and demanding my own way to leaving expectations behind in a wake of indifference and cold-heartedness. But with the Spirit’s power and presence, I can continue desiring more time with my husband without that hope smothering our marriage, and I can be content with the time we do have together without losing hope that that time will increase. That balance is possible only when I am staking my heart first and foremost on God. God alone is sufficient in all things.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency [or contentment] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Race Recap: Brainerd Homecoming 10K

7 Oct

Last Saturday, I ran the Brainerd Homecoming 10K. I would’ve loved to run a half marathon this fall but I just wouldn’t have been properly trained in time. So a 10K it was.

My training for this race consisted of running 2-3 times a week. I ran my long runs on Saturdays, which were 4, 4.5 and 5 miles the month before the race. I had planned to run 5.5 miles a week before the race, but life happened and the run didn’t. I ran with two of my running buddies almost every Thursday morning at 6 am (in the dark!) and we did around 3 miles each time. With walking breaks, we averaged about 11:30 minute miles. I also ran with Annabelle in the stroller a few times, though I prefer waking up early to go alone.

So I felt like I was decently prepared going into this race. My 10K PR was set all the way back in 2008 when I was a young whipper-snapper. I ran the 10K as part of a marathon relay and finished in 62:36. I didn’t think I could even get close to that, so my goal going in to the race was mainly to have fun! Running 11 minute miles would be realistic. Running 10:30 miles would be great.

It was a small race so we were able to park just across the street from packet pickup and the race start. We got there around 7:45 and the race started at 8:15. At 37 degrees, it was a little chilly for spectators but nice for running. I registered on race day because I was still waffling about doing the race that morning. After I got my bib and used the indoor restroom, I ate a Gu and talked to a friend who was doing the 5k and then went to line up. There were maybe 30 people doing the 10K. I got my Garmin and iPod ready, they counted down (it was timed using gun time), and we were off!

About 50 steps in, my iPod died. Seriously?!?! I had checked it the night before and it showed 75% battery. I should’ve known to not trust it. Well, then, enjoying nature it was. I chatted with a lady for the first .5 mile or so, but then she stopped to take a walking break and I continued on. I fell into a pace that felt relaxed but slightly challenging, if that makes any sense. I could tell I was pushing myself a little, but it felt doable.

The first mile was on a bike trail. Then we were on a dirt trail for about .5 mile until we met back up with the bike trail. We made a loop so that a little before Mile 2, we ran past the park we had started at, which worked well for me because I got to see my cheering squad and hand off my useless iPod.

Mile 1: 10:38

There was an aid station right at Mile 2 and then a long, gradual hill. A doozy! I walked through the aid station to get a drink and ran a conservative pace up the hill.

Mile 2: 10:32

From that point on, we were either on city sidewalks or paved bike trails. We ran through downtown past the high school, library, city hall, and then we were in a more residential neighborhood. We made another big loop so that we hit the same aid station again right before Mile 5 — and the same long, gradual hill. We followed the same route as the first time for about .75 mile and took a left to end up on the football field.

Mile 3: 10:24

race course

In my training runs, I had hit my stride around mile 3.5. This race, I hit it more around mile 5. Even though I felt mostly strong the whole race, if I hadn’t been encouraged by seeing my average pace decrease each mile, my motivation to keep pushing myself probably would’ve started waning around mile 4.

Mile 4: 10:06

Right before we reached the aid station the second time, I ate a Gu so that I could get a cup of water to wash it down. I gulped the water and started running again. The hill definitely felt more difficult the second time through! But I kept pushing it and was actually gaining on the runner in front of me. The last mile, I passed 3 women who I had been keeping pace with for the whole race. I felt great!

Mile 5: 10:18

As my watch beeped for Mile 6, I looked at my mile pace: 9:33! I was completely stoked. I cruised the last .2 miles and crossed the finish line at 63:02 – only 26 seconds off of my PR from 7.5 years (and 2 babies) ago.

Mile 6: 9:33

Last .2: 1:31 (8:28 pace)

Final Time: 1:03:02

Running a good race is such an awesome high!

Because it was such a small race, I wanted to check my results before leaving just in case I qualified for an age group award. And I did! I got 3rd in my age group (out of 3 – ha!). I was 13/18 in females and 21/27 overall. But hey, a medal is a medal. 🙂
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I really enjoyed this race. It was a nice course, well organized, affordable, they had lots of volunteers, the t-shirts were cute, and the finish line food was a nice variety (bananas, granola bars, fruit snacks, cookies and water). I would do it again!

Emma Grace: 30 Months

7 Oct

Emma is officially 2 1/2 years old today! She won’t go back to the doc until she’s 3 so these are just a few rough estimates by me, but she’s now 27 pounds and 3′ tall. This BabyCenter percentile calculator puts her in the 10-20th percentile for weight and 25-50th percentile for height.

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Fun with chalk

Here’s what Emma has been into the past 3 months (July, August, September):

* Peach tea — She’s obsessed. One day, we had run out of peach tea. While we were playing outside, she wanted to get in the car and be buckled in her carseat. As I’m doing it (hey, she’s asked for weirder things), she says “Peach tea buy.” I laughed, and we went to the store and bought some more. Who was I to turn down that determination?

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Having a living room picnic on a rainy day

* Beach — Even though it is no longer beach-going weather, Emma still asks to go on a regular basis. We went to the beach quite a bit this summer. Probably at least once a week. At the end of summer, we started going in the evening. I loved it because it was still warm but we didn’t need sunscreen, didn’t need to worry about baby getting burned, didn’t need to pack food and we usually had the place to ourselves.

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* Being outside — In addition to the beach, Emma’s favorite things to do outside have been: gather acorns and leaves to throw in the river, ride her truck/trike/bike in the driveway and down the hill in our front yard, play at a playground or swing set, play with water and/or the hose, and go down to the dock and “poke the water” with a stick (there’s lots of algae and weeds to entertain her).

* Taking care of her baby — Emma has started wanting to take her baby doll with her everywhere. She wants baby to swing, go in the stroller, sit in the Bumbo, come in the car, and she’s even asked me to “tick Baby” at night (by that she means rubbing her foot or back). She also likes taking care of Annabelle, but since she is real, I obviously limit what she can do with Annabelle.

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* PINK everything — Emma is so obsessed with pink that she is adamant about getting or using the pink version of anything — even if it’s just a CD of 70s music she wouldn’t like. She even suggested that instead of replacing our roof with gray shingles, we should use pink shingles. She’s also started using pink to describe things that have no color, like the booms we can hear from artillery hitting the ground on the military base near our house (“pink booms”) or the beach (“pink beach”). What a silly girl.

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* Watching TV — Right around 27 months, Emma started getting interested in watching movies and shows on TV, and now she is obsessed. I have to admit that she watches quite a bit now because it’s just so easy to turn a show on while I’m nursing Annabelle and/or putting her down for a nap (and other times, I just don’t feel like fighting Emma over it). But she only sits down for about 20 minutes before running off to do something else, then comes back to watch for a bit, then runs off. She also stands right in front of the TV and jumps up and down during her favorite parts. Emma’s favorite movies/shows so far have been: Ratatouille, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (1&2), Despicable Me 2, Minion mini movies (specifically Banana, Puppy and Training Wheels), Gnomeo and Juliet, Super Why, Horton Hears a Who, Finding Nemo, and Flower Power and Farm Feet from a Little People DVD we got with a toy.

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* Playing games on my smartphone or the iPad — Emma’s favorite games are painting, puzzles, counting, fish in a koi pond, and tea party. I think this could end up being our incentive for potty training…

Speaking of which, no, I have not potty trained her yet. I think about it often, but I am just dreading the time commitment and hassle of it. I’m thinking we might wait until the winter when we’re hunkered down inside and have nothing else to do…

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We’ve had success on the toddler bed front though! For the first 2-2.5 months that Emma was in a toddler bed, we laid with her on her bed until she fell asleep — which sometimes took 1.5 hours! It was not sustainable. Not only were we losing precious “me” and “our” time, we almost always emerged from her room frustrated that it took so long, and too tired to do anything but stumble to bed ourselves.

Finally, about a month ago, I decided enough was enough, so at bedtime, I explained to Emma that we wouldn’t be staying in her room until she fell asleep anymore, that she needed to be a big girl and go to sleep on her own again. Then I went through Emma’s usual nighttime routine of put on pajamas, drink peach tea, watch moons, brush teeth and rub her back/arms/feet/legs (what she calls “tick”). Then when we got to the point where I’d just lay there until she fell asleep, I explained to her again that I wasn’t going to stay until she fell asleep, but that I’d be right on the other side of the door, and would leave it cracked. I gave her extra kisses and snuggles and then went out of the room, leaving the door cracked.

The first few nights and naps, I sat in the hallway outside her room, watching her on the video monitor until she fell asleep. She did get out of her bed a few times, but I just went back in her room and told her that she needed to get back in bed. I kissed and hugged her again, and left the room. That was it. We really haven’t had any problems since. Sure, there are nights when she rolls around in bed for an hour, putting her feet on the wall, and throwing stuff on the floor and then reaching for it with her body half off the bed (really testing the limits). But we are so happy to have “our time” back!

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Now that it’s fall, we’re back into our rhythm of MOPS on 1-2 Mondays per month, daycare on Tuesdays, ECFE and speech appointment on Thursdays, with Wednesdays and Fridays open for play dates, errands or chilling at home. It’s a good mix for us!

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And that’s Emma at 2.5 years!

Annabelle Lyn: 6 Months

6 Oct

Our sweet little Annabelle is already 6 months old (back on September 27)!

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It’s hard to believe that much time has gone by already. At her doctor appointment today, she was a little over 27 weeks, 19 lbs 5 oz (91%), 26 inches long (50%) with a head circumference of 17.76 inches (98%). She’s wearing 6-9 month clothes, and has been wearing 9 month sleepers and shirts for about a month already. She has a long torso and short little legs!

Annabelle has rolled over from her belly to her back a half dozen times but a week will pass between rolls, and she hasn’t done it at all for the past 3 weeks. It’s like she forgets that she knows how to do it. (Our doctor said that she is probably just choosing to not do it, and that we won’t worry about it until 9 months.) She has good neck control during tummy time though and is getting close to being able to sit up on her own. She’s also stronger standing up. No attempts at rolling from back to belly, though she does roll onto her side quite a bit.

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The best part about the past month is that her personality has really started coming out.

Things she loves:

* Making funny noises with her mouth — squawking, gurgling, sighing, spitting, farting
* Hearing other people make fake fart noises — one of the things that has made her laugh the most so far was the air being let out of a partially inflated balloon. We did it over and over to hear that cute giggle.
* Watching big sister’s antics
* Having raspberries blown on her belly and (almost nonexistent) neck — this also makes her laugh, but only sometimes
* Hanging upside down
* Swinging and stroller rides
* Taking baths — she splashes herself in the face because she’s so excited
* Nursing
* Chewing on rubber/plastic spatulas and spoons
* Jumping in her jumperoo — it took probably 3 weeks but she’s finally doing some jumping!
* Sitting in the Bumbo or bouncy seat watching mommy do stuff in the kitchen
* Playing with toys that jingle and/or are a good thing to chew/suck on — she’s gotten good at seeing toys she wants and reaching for them. One of her favorite toys is a jingly blue and yellow ball that reminds me of a cat toy.

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Helping mommy with laundry

Annabelle does NOT like:
* Being put down when she’s tired or hungry (she’ll be fine being held for a while though)
* Solid foods — so far, we’ve tried rice cereal mixed with breastmilk, banana, avocado, applesauce and rice rusks. 99% of it came right back out but she really liked the applesauce. We’ll keep trying! Next up will be probably sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
* Bottles — still won’t take one. I’ve pretty much given up on that — we’re going straight to a sippy cup instead!
* Sleeping flat — she will now sleep without vibration so we have made some progress (though I do still revert to vibration on occasion because she definitely sleeps better/longer with it on)!

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Annabelle is still such a happy, easygoing sweetheart. It takes a lot for her to get worked up and when she’s starting to get upset, her pitiful little whimper just pulls at my heartstrings! There have been a handful of times when she was tired and hungry as we were driving home after eating dinner at a restaurant. She would cry for about 5 minutes and then just fall asleep. In contrast, Emma at that age would’ve screamed harder and harder and harder all the way home, falling asleep right as we were pulling in the driveway. 😉

She takes 2 good naps a day, and sometimes a third catnap in the evening. I can almost always time her afternoon nap for when Emma is taking hers so I get a glorious break! She had been sleeping through the night up until about 3 weeks ago, but now she wakes up hungry between 3:30 and 4:30. She goes right back down after nursing though. She also might be teething (who knows?) because she’s had a few nights of waking up 3-4 times and being unhappy (which is unlike her). She still squawks instead of crying 90% of the time. When she actually does cry, you know she has HAD IT and needs to nurse/sleep NOW. What a sweetheart.

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Annabelle likes stroller rides!20150902_192848

Annabelle fell asleep with me holding her during dinner one night. We didn’t realize it until Emma looked over and said “Baby’s sleeping!”
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Annabelle’s passport photo attempts (for our trip to Mexico this coming Feb) — the top one was the winner.

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And that’s Annabelle at 6 months!