Residential Space A creative outlet during residency, turned ongoing virtual soap box

Dallas airport could stand to assist new mothers  0

Posted on February 26th, 2010. About Baby Dodds, Ramblings.

I am typing this from the airplane as I return to Seattle from San Antonio (after a stop in Dallas). I have had negative experiences in the past with Dallas’ airport, but I figured that a stop there was better than having to transfer to another plane. Dallas did not fail to incite my frustration, and now I compose this blog post to honor the airport’s not-so-outstanding customer service efforts.

After the flight landed in Dallas, I opted to leave the plane (with my carry-on bags) in order to locate either a lactation room or a family bathroom. I have a five month old baby at home. The Seattle-Tacoma airport, to its great credit, has spoiled me with a children’s play area and adjoining “mother’s room.” Prior to leaving Seattle on this trip, I was able to use this room just before boarding the airplane, and the seven hours of travel did not seem as bad (four hours to Houston, hour layover, 45 minute flight to San Antonio, and a cab ride to the hotel). In anticipation of a four hour flight from Dallas to Seattle, I thought it was a reasonable plan.

We landed at the A terminal. I spent almost ten minutes searching for a family bathroom or “mother’s room.” All I found was a large restroom with multiple stalls and busy traffic in and out. No good. I asked an American Airlines rep where the nearest family bathroom or lactation room was (I used the words “lactation room” to illustrate why I needed some degree of privacy). She informed me there was no such place in the A terminal, but to go to the C terminal. I carted my bags to the C terminal (a nice hike), and found the family bathroom with the sign on its door: “Closed for Renovation.” Hmmm…that’s frustrating.

I asked another American Airlines rep the same question, and she suggested (I am not fabricating this) that I try the A terminal. When I explained that I had just been there and was told there was no family bathroom there, she said, “Oh, maybe there isn’t one there then.” My frustration was peaking when I noticed the American Airlines Special Travelers office, and I thought: Maybe I’m a special traveler. I have a special need, right? A need that many, many, MANY women have at some point during their lives. This is not unheard of.

I asked the woman at the desk the same question. She told me she didn’t know where a family bathroom or a lactation room was. I then clarified: “Do you have a private bathroom with an electrical outlet that I can use?” There was a children’s play area behind her (completely empty – not a soul there) with an attached family bathroom. She took me around the corner to a small bathroom. I waited for the occupant to exit, and once she did, I entered, only to find the lack of an electrical outlet. I returned to the desk and relayed this information to her. She said, “We don’t have anything then.” I asked specifically about the family bathroom behind her. She replied (again, this is what she actually said): “That’s an area for kids and families so you can’t use that.” When I told her there were, in fact, no kids and families back there, and I was trying to take care of a need for a baby at home, she told me again I could not use it. She then explained that there was a bathroom in the area for people staying overnight with them, but I could not use that either. So basically – nada.

So that was it – I returned to terminal A, reboarded the plane, and that was that.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding. The benefits at this point are not disputed, even by companies who produce formula. It is good for babies. It benefits the mother as well, not just financially and emotionally but physically (lower risk of developing breast cancer). All we need is one small room with an electrical outlet. While pumping in the bathroom is kind of gross, I sought anything. Had I been in Seattle perhaps I would have thrown my jacket over my front and pumped at the gate. However, because I was in Texas (whether this is rational or not) I did not want to be arrested should one of the other passengers or employees decide he/she was uncomfortable with this.

I’m sure the city of Dallas does not care that I will not fly through its airport again. I’m even more sure that American Airlines would remain indifferent to my dilemma, even if I wrote to the CEO (which I am contemplating). But it makes me feel better to write about it anyway, because I think the more that is out there about this topic, the better in the long run. Hopefully by the time my five month old daughter has children, she will be able to find at least a dark storage closet to pump milk for her baby, should she choose to do so. 

Caroline joins our family  0

Posted on October 3rd, 2009. About Baby Dodds.

We welcomed the newest member of our family, Caroline Erin Dodds, on Friday, September 25, 2009 at 3:43am. She weighed 7lb10.5oz, and measured 18.5” long (and arrived complete with dark red hair)! She is a sweet, wonderful addition to the Dodds household, and we are delighted that she is finally here.

Caroline Photos:

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Gabriel is an excellent and enthusiastic big brother and seems very taken with his baby sister. We’re all doing well and resting when we can!

Long time, no blog  2

Posted on July 27th, 2008. About Baby Dodds, Books, News and Politics, Ramblings.

My last substantive blog post was published on June 6th. I’ve fallen behind after two demanding months (albeit, intriguing and important months, but demanding). There are many topics about which I would like to write, so I will try to hit on highlights:

  • Gabriel turned one year old in mid-July! People always manage to sound a bit cheesy when they use that hackneyed expression: “It seems like only yesterday that…” It is so appropriate when thinking about how quickly time is passing in your child’s life, though – or rather, your time with your child. I honestly have a tough time believing the labor, the delivery, the first days home from the hospital – that all of that was now over a year ago. Gabriel has grown from a helpless (adorable!) neonate to a crawling, climbing, laughing, mischievous (yes, he’s already figuring some things out), and loving little boy. It’s been a terrific year.
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  • My two chief resident months at Harborview in May and June brought me back into the acute neurological care setting, and reminded me of how exciting and rewarding it can be. I had the chance to be a part of early intervention in several potentially very bad stroke cases with very happy endings, and these persuaded me to apply for a fellowship in vascular neurology (ie, stroke). I was accepted for it several weeks ago – so I will be the stroke fellow at Harborview for 2009-2010. I look forward to my career as a stroke neurologist.
  • I’m trying to keep a long-term perspective about the economy. Surely it will improve, right? It has not been that bad for that long. Still, I know there is a problem when my best-performing investment is my money market savings account. Hopefully it’s all about dollar-cost averaging.
  • I will blog more about this soon (it warrants its own post), but I’m reading a book right now entitled The Smartest Guys in the Room. It’s about the rise and fall of Enron, and how Enron was able to become as large as it became while operating with fake numbers. I find the California energy “crisis” part of the Enron tale the most intriguing. Remember those rolling blackouts in California years ago? Enron apparently had power grids brought down to create a sense of panic about a presumed electricity shortage, thus driving up the prices. George Bush and others in Washington, D.C. publicly commented that California got itself into this mess, so it has to work it out for itself. Yet, California didn’t get itself into this mess – Enron was manipulating the price. Which brings me to our current oil situation. I’m not a big fan of oil for environmental reasons – but come on. I don’t care how quickly China and India are growing; I just refuse to believe that they have grown so fast in three or four years that the price of a barrel of oil suddenly needs to be greater than $140/barrel. I smell Enron. Oil companies have been posting record profits. After learning about the ins and outs of Enron, I’m thinking, “This game has been played before.” There is potentially an artificial shortage being created to cause a panic, thus pushing people to pay $4.50/gallon of gasoline and persuading people to allow off-shore drilling. What has George Bush pushed for his entire time as president? Drilling in Anwar. This seems awfully suspicious. But more of this later, once I’ve finished reading the book. Disclaimer: I’m not an economist. Just a citizen.
  • Learning French, while very difficult as an adult, must be so much easier now than it was even ten years ago. Evan gave me a Zune last December, and it has changed my life. Now, thanks to Coffee Break French and Learn French By Podcast, while my French is still very poor (I never took a class in it in high school or college), it is leaps and bounds ahead of where I was before I got my Zune. It’s fascinating. Because it’s so portable, I can learn on the bus, at lunch in the cafeteria, or on an airplane (although not recently because I always seem to be at the mercy of a certain little boy traveling with me). Anyway – it’s worth pointing out that with the Zune, unlike the iPod, I can listen to NPR while walking from my car into work if I don’t want to leave a segment unfinished. It’s a delightful little device!

I’ll stop here for now, but these are some of my recent activities/contemplations/celebrations/concerns! A la prochaine.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival – Third Annual! (for us)  4

Posted on April 13th, 2008. About Baby Dodds, Ramblings.

The festival has definitely occurred more than three times, but this was the third time that Evan and I made the trip to Mount Vernon, WA to celebrate the local tulips (and the coming of spring!). This was the best one to date – not only because it was a gorgeous 70-plus degrees and clear, but this year we had the chance to relish Gabriel’s delight at seeing flowers and sitting in lush green grass. He smiled, laughed, and babbled the whole day! It was such a wonderful day for our family.

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Some thoughts after my least relaxing vacation to date – part II  0

Posted on April 5th, 2008. About Baby Dodds, Health Care, Ramblings.

I recently posted this entry describing the least relaxing vacation/week-and-a-half I have experienced – ever, perhaps. My original bulleted list of events looked like this:

  • Friday, March 21st – a trip to the emergency room with Little G after he manages to eat a clear plastic wrapper and chokes on it; got home at 11PM, packed until 1:30AM Saturday
  • Saturday, March 22nd – got up at 3:30AM to get ready and get all of our stuff to the airport for our 6AM flight; flew from Seattle to Chicago O’Hare with a layover, then from Chicago to Pittsburgh
  • Sunday, March 23rd – Gabriel met his great-grandparents for the first time! Happy Easter to us.
  • Monday, March 24th and Tuesday, March 25th – time with the family in Cranberry Twp, PA and Beaver Falls, PA
  • Wednesday, March 26th – flew from Pittsburgh to Dallas, layover, then Dallas to Austin for my cousin Kelli’s wedding
  • Thursday, March 27th – Gabriel met eight first-cousins-once-removed (all nine years old and younger) and many of my first cousins
  • Friday, March 28th – wedding preparation stuff, rehearsal dinner
  • Saturday, March 29th – wedding! It was beautiful.
  • Sunday, March 30th – flew from Austin to San Jose, CA, lay-over, then San Jose to Seattle, arriving into the Sea-Tac airport at 9PM, and getting home by 11PM
  • Monday, March 31st – Gabriel takes a long nap in the morning, eats lunch at 10AM, and at 11AM starts vomiting. He proceeds to either vomit or dry heave around 12 or 13 times between 11AM and 8PM, when it finally stopped. Thank you to our pediatrician, Dr. Spector, for seeing him yesterday afternoon, reassuring us that this was just “the crud” and not something more serious, and also a special thanks to PediaLyte.
  • Here is an addendum:

    Tuesday, April 1st – I was home from work with Gabriel, and he was looking much better. He was able to tolerate rice cereal, bananas, and larger amounts of PediaLyte.
    Wednesday April 2nd – I returned to work, but Evan woke up sick that morning with the flu. He was at home from work that day with – let’s say an array of symptoms very convincing for flu (I won’t go into details, since he should have at least some modicum of privacy!). When I got home from work in the early evening, Gabriel had just thrown up again, and his diet regressed back to PediaLyte sips.
    Thursday, April 3rd – I woke up at 3AM with nausea, night sweats, and chills. By 8AM the severe muscle aches had set in. Evan was feeling better, but not great – but he went to work while I stayed home, recovering.
    Friday, April 4th – I wasn’t well, but needed to go to work because my sick days are limited after being out on maternity leave last year. I spent the day mostly doing work at my desk, or if I had to interact with a patient, wearing a mask and gloves with lots of hand-washing. The nausea and muscle aches were better, but I was wiped out and had only had sips of Gatorade for 36 hours. I was also on call that night. However, it wasn’t the hospital that kept me up during the night, but Gabriel’s constant coughing over the baby monitor. I must have checked on him five or six times during the night, and rocked him back to sleep once. The nausea is gone, but all three of us are still quite congested with nasty coughs.

    Now, today is finally Saturday – a weekend day, where no one expects anything from any of us. I had hoped, a week ago, to have a play date between Gabriel and one of his baby friends, but this is the wrong weekend for that. I really hope we are all back to normal by Monday. What a crazy two weeks it has been.

    I apologize – I realize this is not interesting for anyone except for me, but having lived through it, I felt it was worth documenting. I really wonder what diseases I will end up catching from Gabriel – he’s not in daycare, but he will be around other children, and will start pre-school eventually. I have a friend whose son started daycare two months ago, and he’s already given her diarrhea twice and now a bad case of hand-foot-and-mouth disease (Coxsackie virus). Not too fun!

    Revisiting Pampers diapers  0

    Posted on March 14th, 2008. About Baby Dodds.

    After becoming a new mother, I posted an entry on this blog providing unsolicited advice to first-time parents, covering topics from breastfeeding to diapers. I had mentioned my enthusiasm for Pampers Swaddlers in that entry, and shortly after writing about this, a member of the marketing team for Pampers contacted me, asking for further feedback on their products. She sent me a package of Pampers Cruisers and Pampers Unscented Natural Aloe Wipes to use in order to write an adequate review for my blog.

    I wanted to wait until Gabriel was mobile enough to adequately test the Cruisers, as these are diapers designed for “newly active to walking babies.” Gabriel is not walking, but is vigorously rolling across the room, swiveling his hips to redirect his movement, and is, indeed, quite active. At eight months of age now, and with this vigorous activity, it seemed a good time to test the Cruisers.

    I’ll start with the Aloe Wipes, because this part of my review is pretty straight-forward. After using several brands of baby wipes, I have never noticed a particular difference between them. They all clean up poop nicely, and none seem particularly irritating to Gabriel’s skin. He has a diaper rash at the moment, which I think is due to moving to a more formula-heavy and breastmilk-reduced diet in addition to a lot of new solids over the past few months, and any wipes are going to sting. Wet wash rags are the kindest thing for this during diaper changes, along with air-drying, A&D ointment, and either Vasoline or Aquaphor prior to going to bed.

    Now, onto diapers. I, personally, prefer the Pampers to Huggies, which we had been purchasing because they can be obtained at Costco in bulk at a lower price. We used Pampers Swaddlers almost exclusively when Gabriel with a newborn, but as he grew we switched over to the Huggies because of the price difference. It has been interesting returning to Pampers because they are so different from what I had grown used to. I like that Pampers do not leak. Occasionally if Gabriel has a very large poopy explosion, some of it will escape up through the top of the Huggies diaper. He did have at least one large poopy diaper in the Pampers Cruisers diapers, and it retained the material nicely. :-) They also fit very well – the fasteners are more flexible, and the waist section stretches more to conform to the shape of his abdomen snuggly without being tight. I can also easily tell if he is wet just by feeling the front of the diaper through his pants, as the diaper puffs out quite a bit when it becomes wet. I can’t always tell with the Huggies if he is truly wet or not, and then have to endure the hassle of finding a changing table and checking, only to find that his diaper does not need changing.

    I asked Evan for his opinion on the Cruisers vs. Huggies, and he also preferred the Cruisers for the reasons above, but also because he likes the Sesame Street characters featured on the Pampers diapers as opposed to the Disney characters on the Huggies (of course, not a reason to spend extra on a diaper, but Gabriel enjoys his Sesame Street CD and Cookie Monster doll).

    Then, I asked our nanny which diaper she preferred, and she actually liked the Huggies diaper more. She asserts that the Pampers diaper evenly distributes moisture throughout the diaper instead of containing it in one area, while the Huggies diaper seems to absorb moisture locally without distributing it. I had not noticed this initially, but it did seem to be true on further diaper changes.

    Maybe some day I will be brave enough to attempt the cloth diapers. I know they are better for the environment, although given how much laundry we run now and after seeing our water bill for the last month, I’m not sure that would be a great option either. Maybe if I could wash them in a pure, microbe-free stream running behind my house, although that would still be putting waste into the environment. I’m not sure there is an ideal, earth-friendly solution to keeping babies diapered.

    My advice for brand new parents remains the same – when bringing a new baby home from the hospital, the Pampers Swaddlers are the way to go. They are worth the extra expense because they fit so snuggly and they don’t leak. Now that Gabriel is older, the difference between the two brands is not as noticeable to me, and we will likely continue to purchase the Huggies diapers at Costco, given all of the other expenses that babies bring. If Pampers were to start selling diapers in bulk at Costco, we would probably make the switch.

    Thoughts on breastfeeding at 2:30AM  1

    Posted on February 21st, 2008. About Baby Dodds, Ramblings.

    I have been very fortunate in that I have been able to successfully breastfeed Gabriel for the past seven months. During the first three days of his life, I wondered if it would ever work, and told those around me that learning to breastfeed was the most difficult, most frustrating thing I have ever done. He did not latch at first, and I was exhausted and without much patience. Once milk arrived around day three, then it got easy.

    It has been such a wonderful way to nourish my son. He has consistently been either in the 90th percentile for height/weight/head circumference or between the 75th and 90th as an exclusively breastfed baby. His neurological development has been astonishing. Of course, the act of feeding him brings us physically close to one another multiple times per day (and before, per night), and has given me many opportunities to cradle this new little person in my arms in an ongoing hug.

    I returned to work last October when he was eleven weeks old and began the much less satisfying – but well worthwhile – experiencing of pumping three times daily. He was still eating every three hours at home, so I continued to pump during his feeding times. This worked well in October (on some days it was stressful, but I made it happen), November and December (elective months with flexible schedules). In January, several things happened – I became the chief neurology resident at UW Medical Center and was running around constantly during the day, and while there was a lactation room in the hospital, it was a good walk from where I spent most of my time. I suddenly had days where I would desperately sneak away to pump five hours from my last pumping session, only to be paged overhead emergently to a patient’s room where an acute stroke was occurring or a patient was in the process of seizing. The next day I would try to compensate by sneaking away more than usual, but the less frequent pumping, combined with passing that six month mark, resulted in the start of a dwindling milk supply problem. However, it was the last week of January that started to kill it – I was on call every other night, alternating with another resident on my team because our third resident went on vacation, and the days when I was not on call were nearly as stressful.

    In December I had gastroenteritis, and with the dehydration came a near loss of milk – I thought, “Well, this is it – I’m done breastfeeding.” Gabriel would eat 4-5 ounces in a feeding, and I would only be able to pump 1/2 to 1 ounce every few hours. I really thought it was over, and 120 ounces of milk in the freezer got consumed quickly. Then, about a week later, I woke up at the hospital one morning and was able to pump nine ounces in one sitting. It was back! Breastfeeding would continue.

    I think about that experience in December now, as my supply is once again dwindling. After gastroenteritis in December I vigorously built another large freezer stash of emergency milk. Each day this week, give or take, I have had to supplement Gabriel with a bag from the freezer, which is only sustainable for a finite period of time. I am concerned that he may end up on formula, which objectively would not be awful, given that he is now seven months old, and many babies grow up to be healthy, intelligent human beings having never been breastfed. My goal had originally been six months, so if anything I should be proud of myself for sticking with it – but for some reason, I am frustrated and disappointed. I know if I were a stay-at-home mom I probably would not have this problem, and that it arises from my job. I have told that I just have to make pumping a top priority during the day. What happens when you do, but your milk supply is decreased anyway? Then, you find yourself getting up at 2AM just to pump, but unable to get anything.

    I can count the number of formula bottles on two hands that Gabriel has had in his first seven months – about three during his first three days of life before my milk arrived, several bottles of Alimentum when I was on an antibiotic when he was a month old and he had some mucousy stools, and one at Christmas when I had to take my grandmother to an ER while I was in Texas and had no pumped milk with me (and didn’t want to take Gabriel to a hospital for obvious reasons). Evan tried to feed Gabriel with formula while I was gone, and Little G screamed for almost two hours until I came home to feed him. When I experienced that episode, I decided to breastfeed for one year, and then transition him directly to regular cow’s milk (babies cannot have cow’s milk earlier than one year of age, according to the AAP).

    It has definitely been worth bringing the Medela pump back and forth to work each day, and sneaking away even when time doesn’t permit in order to pump, in order to continue breastfeeding after going back to work. I have watched my son grow from a newborn infant into a healthy, very active, and starting-to-get-into-everything little boy. Pumping at work and knowing he is getting my milk during the days has been my connection to him when I am away from him, and it has permitted me to enjoy those quiet moments in the mornings and evenings when I can feed him in person. It makes me sad to think that our time breastfeeding may be limited, but I’ll appreciate each day where it can be sustained and hope that another one follows. In any case, I know that the important portion of my time with him is yet to come over many years.

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    My first caucus!  0

    Posted on February 10th, 2008. About Baby Dodds, News and Politics.

    It was not only my first caucus, but Evan’s and Gabriel’s as well. See Evan’s blog post on this topic for full details of the numbers from our precinct – let’s just say the turnout was HUGE. There were more people packed into Washington Middle School yesterday for the Democratic caucus than there are on a typical school day. Our particular precinct was to hold its caucus in a normal-sized classroom as about 30-50 people were expected. The room was packed – shoulder-to-shoulder people stood. Evan tells me 173 people from our caucus showed up – that’s a lot of people standing in a classroom (and spreading to the hallway). Here is a picture of G and I at our first caucus:

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    I agonized for weeks over the decision as to who I would support. Initially I, like many residents of Washington state, did not think our caucus would matter that much because it fell after Super Tuesday, but about one week prior to Super Tuesday I had a feeling we would have a say. Anyone who has had to work with me has endured my annoying vocalized contemplations over who my candidate would be – but in the end, I am very pleased with both Clinton and Obama, and I think we could have worse problems than two inspiring, intelligent people battling to run the country.

    Hillary Clinton visited Seattle on Thursday, and I thought, “It’s too bad her visit is during the work week because I can’t go.” On Friday, Barack Obama visited, and as I drove to work, I thought, “I absolutely have to find a way to attend this rally because I’m dying to hear him speak.” I realized my decision had been made – it took a lot of effort and motivation to get to Key Arena to hear him speak, and it was worth it. I was happy to caucus for him yesterday, but since Gabriel attended as well, and since he had not yet had his afternoon nap, we signed in for Obama, stuck around for about ten minutes, and returned home. Evan was our precinct officer, so he had the pleasure of leading the caucus, and did an excellent job!

    It will be interesting to watch the Democratic race unfold over the next few months – I say “months” because I really think this one could be decided at the convention. I hope it isn’t, though – there will be a lot of disappointed Democrats if they hope until August, and then lose -there may not be enough time for healing before November if that happens. But we’ll see. I’m excited that what could be the turning point in the election did not occur in New Hampshire, or in South Carolina or on Super Tuesday – but this past weekend, when Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Maine all decisively went for Obama.

    Gabriel is punished for refusing his nap  0

    Posted on January 6th, 2008. About Baby Dodds, News and Politics.

    This morning, Gabriel became screechy and cranky and needed to go down for a nap. When he was placed in his crib, he was moaning and fussing. We had recorded the ABC Republican debate and were watching it in the living room. After a few minutes of fussing, once we realized G was not going to be falling asleep anytime soon, Evan got up from the couch, went into the nursery, and said, “Okay, little boy. You asked for it. Now you get to listen to what John McCain thinks of healthcare.”

    My guess is G will be asleep within minutes. :-)

    A quick comment about the debate itself – Mitt Romney made the almost laughable comment that if someone can afford health insurance and chooses not to buy it, then he should pay for his own healthcare interventions. My first thought was – so if a person making $50,000 chooses to send his child to college rather than paying for health insurance, then we tell him – sorry, you should have spent that money on health insurance instead? Romney then went on to explain if the patient has to go to the hospital and pay “$1000″ because he needs “some sort of repair” he should be responsible for it. I appreciated Huckabee’s response – that a kleenex in a hospital these days will run $1000. This interaction reminded me of Bush, Sr. not knowing how much a gallon of milk would cost. Romney is so out of touch with what it is like to live as a normal person in America. He is my least favorite of the major candidates from either party. Does he even realize that a single MRI out of pocket is more than $1000?

    Gabriel’s First Christmas  0

    Posted on December 30th, 2007. About Baby Dodds.

    We were fortunate enough to be able to take Gabriel to Texas to meet my family for Christmas – three great-grandparents, three great-aunts, two great-uncles, and five cousins. Traveling with a baby is exhausting, but Gabriel lived up to his name and was a real angel during the trip. He was so good on both the flight to Houston and the flight back to Seattle, sleeping most of the way on his daddy’s lap, and being sweet and cuddly the rest of the time. He laughed and cooed when his relatives held him and kept us in stitches with his games and his cute looks he gave us.

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    He received some terrific and useful presents on his first Christmas. Above is a photo of him with his first baby toothbrush and toothpaste! Other favorites – classics, such as a Little Tikes piano, a set of blocks, and a Glow Worm, and new toys, like his animal train from BG.

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    He also has a lot more hair now, although it’s so lightly colored it is difficult to appreciate in photographs. The blue eyes are still prominent and inquisitive!

    He is such a joy to have as a son – everything for which I could have hoped, times a hundred. And he’s growing so fast! Evan is right, though – only five and a half months have passed, and we have so much to await as he becomes more communicative, more mobile, learns to give kisses, learns to read…

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