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Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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Dennis is a huge fan of blackened meat.  And by blackened, I don’t meant burnt (that would be me that likes burnt meat), I mean meat that’s been rubbed with spicy blackening seasoning.  So when I ran across this recipe, I knew it would be perfect for Father’s Day.  It was perfectly suited for him, is impressive, but simple to prepare, which is pretty much a requirement for all the recipes I make these days.  It was incredibly delicious, and I would make it again, and again, and again.

Blackened Chicken with Roasted Garlic Alfredo

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2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
1 tablespoon blackening seasoning
1 (10 oz) container Buitoni Light Alfredo sauce
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
8 oz bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente & drained

Drizzle olive oil over chicken breasts to lightly coat. Sprinkle blackening seasoning liberally over both sides of the chicken. Heat skillet on medium-high and cook chicken 3 minutes on each side. While chicken is cooking, heat Alfredo sauce and roasted garlic. Add pasta and toss; divide between two dishes. Slice chicken and place on top of pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Veronica’s notes: In a pinch, you can sprinkle in some garlic powder to taste instead of the roasted garlic.  Also, Bertolli’s jarred light alfredo works great for this recipe if you can’t find the fresh stuff.

Recipe source: Plain Chicken

Here’s the card I made for Dennis this year.  It may be my favorite card I’ve ever made. :) He loved it!

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Whoooooa Nelly, y’all.  I’ve been making the same chocolate chip cookie recipe for six years, after trying recipe after recipe and finally settling on the one I thought was the BEST and the only one worth making.  Until I made this one.  Which is much easier, and even better.

I won a blue ribbon at the 2011 Kansas State Fair for my Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  And these are better, in my humble opinion. :)

My ideal chocolate chip cookie is crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and have superior flavor.  This one beats every recipe I’ve ever tried and knocks my standards out of the park.  So crispy on the outside, so melty and chewy on the inside, so chocolate & brown sugar-y, with just a hint of coconut flavor.  It’s that coconut flavor that makes it for me.  It’s not in-your-face obvious, and I’m not sure anyone who didn’t know the coconut oil was in there would be able to put their finger on the flavor, but it adds a little something extra that just kills it for me.  It’s out of this wooooorld, people.

I’m weird about labeling my recipes with “Best,” aside from World’s Best Salmon, and avoid it since my definition of best is likely different than your definition of best.  (Hint: any time you see the word “favorite” in a recipe name on my blog, that’s a recipe I consider “best.”)  So I won’t say these are the best.  I haven’t tried every single recipe, so I can’t say it’s the best. But it’s really, really good.  And definitely worth a try, even if you have already found your best.

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

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½ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)

With a mixer, cream together the coconut oil, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda for 4 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the egg and vanilla and whip another minute. Add the flour and stir together by hand until almost combined, then add the chips continue to stir until combined. Press a sheet of plastic wrap down on top of the dough and refrigerate while the oven is preheating.

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Once the oven is preheated, remove the dough from the fridge and scoop out enough dough to make 1-inch balls using either a cookie scoop, or a metal spoon. If the dough has become too firm, you can smoosh the balls together and roll in balls, or leave the bowl out a few minutes to soften a bit before scooping.

Space about 2” apart on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, just until beginning to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to rest on the cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes, then remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store cookies in airtight container or Ziploc bag(s) with air pressed out.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Veronica’s note: Virgin coconut oil is different from regular coconut oil and you can usually find it by the healthier oils, like extra-virgin olive oil, in a glass jar. If you have coconut oil and aren’t sure what kind you have, look for the word “virgin” on the label. If you can’t find it, it’s most likely refined, but the final test is to take a sniff. It should smell lovely, like coconut, and taste the same way. Regular coconut oil will likely work, but won’t give it the special flavor.

Recipe source: adapted from Alida’s Kitchen

Oh, hi there!

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It has been nearly two months since I last posted a recipe! Time flies when you’re having fun. :)

Today, I thought I’d share some pictures of the little guy that I like to blame for my lack of blogging.  We had some professional photos back in March and I thought it was about time I showed off my handsome little man in his suit he got from his Nana D!

This little guy constantly amazes me how much he seems to learn every day!  I think I still expect him to be an immobile, uncomprehending infant, and can’t stop marveling that he now understands and responds to nearly everything I say.

He’s not talking much, though he does repeat things in his own language.  The things he can say that are recognizable are Dada, Mama, Yaya (Jessie), ah dah (all done), yeah, duck (although he says duck duck, never just duck), that that (he does this while pointing, indicating excitement, as with big trucks, or because he wants to know what something is), mo (more).  The only animal sound he will make is a dog panting and barking. Dogs are the only animal worthy of imitation, obviously.

His favorite foods are cheddar cheese (has been since he first had some), corn, tomatoes, fried eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches , my potato and onion hash, and all fruit, especially berries and watermelon.  He gets a kick out of making slurpy sounds while eating watermelon.

He loves to help.  He recently helped me make a loaf of banana bread, sifting the dry ingredients, cracking eggs (with Mom’s help) and stirring…and licking the spatula.  I think licking is his favorite way to help, especially when we make brownies.  He also loves to help clean, and loves to put ice in my cup (our cup) for me.  I’m working on letting him help in more ways.

He got his first burn by touching the mower’s muffler after Dennis mowed, before it had cooled.  He burnt his other hand the next week on my flat iron, and then got his first cut after breaking a porcelain decoration in the kitchen (did I mention the climbing yet? He was climbing on the kitchen chairs and pulled something down off the table) and trying to help clean up the mess.  And the climbing!!!  Oohhhh the climbing. I hope he survives the climbing.

People often ask me if he’s always so happy.  Pretty much!  He is such a good-natured little guy, although he has his daily fits as well, not gonna lie.  Things that set him off are taking something away that he really wants (like Jessie’s leash, he loves walking her), or not opening the door when he wants to go outside (outside is his favorite) or the door to the car (pretending to drive is also his favorite). OR DIAPER CHANGES.  Diaper change = war, in this house.

We joined a new church and we love that there are lots of kids there.  The photo below wasn’t taken at church, but at a fish fry with all our church friends, and it’s so nice to see Joshua playing with other kids.  We will not be able to give him a sibling unless God gives us another huge miracle, so it does my heart good to see him playing with other little kids.

And if you can only have one kid, it’s hard to complain when you get such a stellar one. To this day I still look at Dennis and say, “Can you even believe we have him?”  I think I will die with that amazement still in my heart.  Thank you, God.

Be sure to check back Monday, I do have a recipe ready to share, and it’s a doozy!

Banana Muffins of Perfection

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I got this recipe from my friend, Staci, and have made them twice in the last month. They were originally called “Banana Nut Muffins” but Dennis insisted on this new title and since it makes me laugh, I obliged him.  They really are perfect, so much so that I’m thinking about turning this recipe into a loaf and entering it into the fair this year.  Such a nice, soft, texture!

I shared them with an old co-worker and she deemed them the “best muffins ever.”  The base recipe is a good one that results in a tender, moist muffin with great banana flavor.  These are now my favorite thing to make with bananas!

Banana Muffins of Perfection

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2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 cup mix-in’s

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients all at once, stirring just enough to moisten. Gently stir in mix-in’s. Spoon into greased muffin tin, filling 2/3 full. Bake in 350F oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Makes 15-18 muffins.

Staci’s & V’s favorite mix-in’s: chopped nuts, diced prunes, chopped strawberries, blueberries, dried cranberries, chocolate chips. Staci also likes to add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom, but doesn’t measure so you’ll have to figure out how much you like if you add them. I’d add a teaspoon total of spices (max) if it was me, but you might like more or less.

I make mine nut-free to keep them easy to chew for Joshua. My two favorite ways (so far) are with blueberries (above) and dried cranberries (first picture)! I can’t wait to try them with FRESH cranberries come fall. Oh my!

Joshua’s Birth Story

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I’m not sure if anyone is interested in this story, especially since it has been nearly 17 months, but a friend recently asked me if I ever posted Joshua’s birth story because she still didn’t know if I’d gone without an epidural, as I planned, how long my labor was, etc.  I figured it was about time I post it not only for anyone interested, but so I can remember every magical, disgusting moment.  It’s quite long, just to warn you. And of course includes all the fun stuff involved with childbirth, so if things like blood and reproductive systems aren’t your favorite thing to read about, I suggest you stop now. :)

I wasn’t one of those “I’m so tired of being pregnant, I wish this baby would come right now!” mama’s. I wanted as much time with my baby inside me as possible and if I wasn’t diabetic, I’d have been hoping for a 41 or 42 week gestation. I wanted more time to prepare (procrastinator) and to have as much “just us” time as possible before things changed forever.  So when I woke up Friday, November 22nd of 2013, a little over two weeks before my due date, and figured out that my water was leaking, I freaked out.  This was not how it was supposed to happen!

My amniotic fluid had been a little low at my appointment the previous day, and my OBGyn had told me to come with hospital bag packed to my appointment the following week because if it was any lower, he was sending me straight over to the hospital to be induced. So at least I had some warning that things might progress sooner than I anticipated.

After waking, I went to the bathroom to pee. When I stood up to flush the toilet, more pee trickled down my leg. I’d managed to make it to nearly 38 weeks without having any bladder control issues, and I wondered if that was now starting for me in my final weeks.  I sat back down but had no more I could pee. But when I stood up, again, I leaked. That’s when it clicked. That I might be leaking amniotic fluid.

I called my mother, and asked her if her water broke before she went into labor. It did with me, but it was a big gush, not a leak like this.  I called Lacey to see what her experience was, and she said hers never broke so they had to break it in the hospital.  So I went a-Googling and decided to do the lay-down test.  Lay down for half an hour with a pad in, then stand up and see if the pad was wet.  While I laid there, I prayed fervently for God to calm my anxious heart and carry me through what was to come.  I felt 90% NOT READY.

Once I determined that I was most likely leaking amniotic fluid and not peeing myself, I considered going straight to the hospital because I knew full well you were supposed to if your water broke (complications can arise from low fluid, such as infection).  But I didn’t want to go without Dennis, who wasn’t due home for another four hours, and since it was a slow leak I thought I’d just wait until he got home.  I hadn’t yet packed a hospital bag (procrastinator, remember?), so I got to packing my bag but mostly chatting online with friends about what was going on.

When Dennis got home,  my bag still wasn’t packed, and I still hadn’t started the postpartum padsicles I’d wanted to make to help me heal after my return (procrastinator to the end!).  I’d started feeling contractions around 4pm, nothing very impressive and not at even intervals.  When he arrived he was floored when I told him my water broke and we needed to go to the hospital. His jaw just dropped, utter astonishment.  At least I wasn’t the only one unprepared for early delivery!  But I felt fairly calm (thank you, Lord) and that kept him calm.  I asked if he could help me pack a bag and if we could go get something to eat before we went, because I knew they wouldn’t let me eat while in labor.

So we packed two bags, ate at West Street Burgers and called my MIL to let her know we stopped for burgers just like she had predicted (she had joked that Dennis wouldn’t recognize the urgency and would probably want to stop for burgers when I went into labor, and we both laughed that it turned out to be me that wanted to stop for burgers).  While we were there, my contractions started being strong enough to qualify as painful.  But I didn’t want to go straight to the hospital. I knew I wouldn’t want to make the padsicles after giving birth and while taking care of a newborn, so we went back home and Dennis helped me make 24 pads coated with aloe gel and lavender witch hazel, which we wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer.

We finally checked into the hospital about 8 pm, seven hours after I first started leaking.  They confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid with a test, and I was admitted into L&D. I was only 1 cm dilated, so they first tried to kick my labor into gear by inserting a foley bulb that inflates to slowly dilate the cervix to 4 cm.  We both decided around midnight that Dennis should leave to go walk Jessie since she hadn’t gotten her usual late-night walk, and my sister, Danielle, came to be with me while he was gone.  He got to be absent for most of the fun lol.

The foley bulb did start my labor going a lot stronger, and my sister, who has never had children and doesn’t ever want to, just shook her head every time I had a contraction and kept telling me I should just get an epidural.  I was determined to try and have a natural birth, and her insistence that I just give up was not what I wanted to hear.

I felt awful, and like I was trapped to that table – I wanted to be up and moving and I really wanted to bend over on my hands and knees to help relieve the enormous pressure & tension I felt in my back with each contraction, but I was hooked up to all kinds of monitors since I was high risk, plus had the foley bulb up my hooha, and just felt like I couldn’t move even though they told me they could unhook me and let me move if I wanted. I should have said YES but I didn’t.  At that point I couldn’t imagine myself contorting into weird positions b/c it would have been so embarrassing. *sigh* REALLY?! What about childbirth isn’t embarrassing?

Momma Donna showed up after her shift was over, about 1 am, and was even more hell bent on me getting an epidural.  Obviously neither one liked me being in pain, which is nice, but it wasn’t helpful to me.  I was in the most pain of my life, but felt I had very good reasons not to get an epidural, and I had two women working against me instead of helping me through it.  While they were both trying to convince me, I had a contraction so bad I vomited from my chest all the way to my toes, all over the bed.  So much for delivering on a full stomach! You think maybe they know what they’re doing, not allowing food during labor?

The nurses got the bed changed and gave me a new gown to change into.  I continued puking and dry heaving with contractions and Momma D was ready with the trashcan and bed pan each time.  I so wanted Dennis there and wanted these women out of the room.  I’m so grateful that I wasn’t alone, but really just wanted my husband.

He finally returned around 2, and not long after Danielle and Donna were gone, I told him I was going to request an epidural and although he hadn’t been there long before I told him that, I could tell he was greatly relieved. Poor guy, lol.  I hadn’t decided on the epidural because of Donna and Danielle, in fact I probably would have never gotten one if they stayed b/c they ticked me off trying to persuade me to do something I didn’t want to do, and my stubbornness might have won against my desire to ease the pain.  But without them there, and with Dennis there ready to support me in whatever I wanted, I couldn’t take it any more.

I was really disappointed in myself b/c I’ve always thought of myself as a strong person, with a high threshold for pain, and it was hard to realize what a wuss I really was.  Nevertheless, it was a huge relief once the pain started to subside.  By this point I’d been in labor for ten hours, though most of that was tolerable.

After the foley bulb had done it’s work, which was finished before the epidural, they had to start me on Pitocin because my labor still wasn’t progressing fast enough.  They checked my temperature every hour and I was running a fever almost from the beginning, so they finally antibiotics to my IV, in case of infection.  I had been on a saline drip from the beginning to keep me hydrated.  (The next day my legs were swollen stiff up to my thighs from all the extra fluid they gave me!) They kept increasing the Pitocin until they reached the max dosage and my cervix continued to dilate at what seemed a snail’s pace.  I could tell when I was contracting because my stomach would turn into a rock hard ball, but I couldn’t feel it internally.  I wasn’t able to sleep at all, even with no pain, so I stayed on Facebook all night while Dennis snored beside me in the chair that folded out into a bed.

Finally, finally, by 3 pm the next day I was 10 cm, 100% effaced, and ready to start practice pushing.  It’s so funny because I’d been so worried about being hungry, when food was the last thing on my mind the whole time and I never felt hungry until the next day.  They called my OB for the delivery and in the mean time we practiced.  Dennis was on my right side, and a nurse on my left.  When each contraction started, they would pull my knees backwards toward my head, and I would lean forward between my knees and push.  I learned quickly that what I thought was strong pushing was not the least impressive, and learned that even more when my OB arrived and threatened to use suction if I couldn’t push any harder.  He also said that Joshua was face up and he tried to move him while still in the womb to face downward but couldn’t.  I asked if that was a problem and he said no, but it was generally more difficult to give birth to babies that were sunnyside up.  Oh goody.

Joshua’s hearbeat was starting to decrease after pushing, so they gave me oxygen after each contraction to help him.  They brought a huge mirror out so that we could see the baby’s head as it emerged, and it was freaky deaky so I didn’t really look that much. I’m sorry but whatever, birth isn’t beautiful. It’s a bloody disgusting mess.  Dennis thought I was going to give birth to a huge hair ball when he saw the top of Joshua’s head, but thankfully didn’t say that until after I’d given birth to a normal human baby, and it was actually funny. LOL

After my OB threatened the suction, I pushed like I didn’t think possible, and funny man that he is, informed me I was going to have some hemorrhoids while he was watching them pop out on my butt.  And finally our baby was born at 4:30 pm on 11/23/13, face-down. Doc had been mistaken, which is good because it was hard enough to deliver him facing the right way!  I had been taken off the epidural (it was a continuous drip through my back) an hour before, and I did feel the birth, which felt painful to me, so I can’t imagine how painful it must be without an epidural at all.  I have mad respect for my mother and all the women who’ve done it drug-free.  Dennis cut the cord in one try, which impressed my OB because guys usually underestimate how strong the cord is and have to try two or three times to get it cut all the way through.  They took Joshua briefly to clamp his cord stump, and then handed him to me.  The little guy I’d waited my whole life to meet.

I wish I could tell you the heavens opened up and I heard choirs of angels singing, and I fell instantly in love.  But, no.  I was kind of in a daze, and overwhelmed. Twenty-eight hours ago, I was still under the delusion that I had two weeks before his arrival, and I don’t deal with change well, even a change I’d been waiting my whole life for. He looked funny to me, I mean come on, babies are ugliest right after birth, and his eyes were flickering and rolling all around.  I worried I had messed him up with the epidural.

My main reason for not wanting an epidural was that it could affect how well breastfeeding started off, and since I wanted to breastfeed due to the nutrition and the cost (free, which is wonderful when you’re planning to quit working and stay at home!), this was a big deal to me.  The nurses helped me position him and allowed him to nurse for an entire hour after birth while the doctors were sewing up my second degree lacerations.  I think they only usually allow half an hour of skin-to-skin time before taking the baby to put gunk in their eyes and all the other fun stuff they do, but they said they don’t interfere as long as a baby is continuing to nurse well.  I wouldn’t say he nursed well, as he actually gave me a hicky on my boob where he’d latched off the nipple, but he was pretty diligent at least. LOL

After they gunked up his eyes, weighed him (6 lb 14 oz), measured him (18 1/2 inches), and swaddled him, Daddy finally got to hold him. That was probably the moment I started to fall in love with Joshua. Seeing his Daddy hold him was so amazing.  He held him like he had been practicing all his life, like Joshua was the thing that was always supposed to be there.  I definitely fell in love with my husband deeper than ever before, which I hadn’t even thought possible.

I had to pee and the nurse said she would bring a bedpan but I could feel my legs and thought I could walk, so she agreed to help me stand to see if I could make it to the restroom.  She helped me to the toilet and was going to stay there b/c she was worried about me falling off the toilet I guess (lol) but I asked her if she could leave because peeing after giving birth felt so scary and I knew I couldn’t pee with her there.  I think it took me like five or ten minutes, but I finally figured out how to pee. LOL!  With the epidural and all the pushing combined, my kegal muscles were probably like, “Seriously, you want us to do what? We’re on vacation for the next month!”

She gave me a huge ice pad and the awesome stretchy mesh hospital underpants and it felt so nice to put that on and sit with an ice pack between my legs. I was so glad I had the padsicles waiting at home!  (Though I will tell you, the ones at home were WAY TOO COLD and didn’t feel nice at all but they were perfectly cool at room temp so that’s how I wore after I about freezer burned myself with the first one.)  I went straight into a wheelchair and I was handed my sleeping, bundled up baby and cradled him all the way to the room we would stay in for the next day and a half.  It was pretty surreal and I was still in a daze and honestly can’t tell you the moment the daze wore off and I realized I finally had my wish come true and fell madly in love with him. It happened without me being conscious of it, during the struggles of becoming a parent.

The first week was very little sleep, lots of stress, tears and heartbreak as he was hospitalized in the NICU for jaundice after having him home just one full day to ourselves, and finally taking him home for good a week and a day after he was born.  I think it was when I had to give him back to the hospital that I realized how much I loved him, because it hurt SO much not to have him with us at home any more, and I was SO scared of losing him (his bilirubin was high enough to cause brain damage).  And the second time we got to take him home, by then he was definitely imprinted on my heart forever.  And I have only fallen deeper in love with him every day since.


Thank you, Lord, for entrusting me with such a precious soul.  I pray I raise him right by You.


Apricot & Pineapple Jam

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This is yet another winner from my Foodie Mama’s cookbook (I think she still has a few available, just let me know if you’re interested) that she has not only won a blue ribbon for, but included it in a coffee cake recipe and won a blue ribbon for that as well. She’s pretty much unstoppable. :)

I don’t know what to tell you about this jam other than it’s really good! The pineapple isn’t very pronounced, but does decrease the intensity of the apricot a little and make it more exotic.  If you do adult Easter baskets like our family, this would be a wonderful addition.  A certain Mother-in-law may be getting one from the Easter bunny this year! :)

Apricot & Pineapple Jam

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1 lb. dried apricots
1 quart warm water
6 cups sugar
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, undrained
5 whole cinnamon sticks
5 pint jars

Soak apricots 3 hours in warm water. Process in a food processor with blade attachment until finely ground. Place apricots and the undrained pineapples into a medium pot. Add sugar and cook rapidly until thick, stirring often. Pour into prepared jars. Insert one cinnamon stick to each jar and processes with simmering water bath about 5 minutes. Cool jars completely.

Veronica’s notes: I didn’t measure my soaking water, I just put the apricots in a very large bowl and covered them with twice as much water as the line they came to in the bowl. I let them soak for 8 hours, just because I was too busy to get back to them any sooner, and then drained before processing. I also did my canning the cheater way I learned from Suzie and Erin, which doesn’t include processing the jars in a water bath. I just put the jam in the sterilized jars and screwed on the caps and the heat from the jam sealed them all, as it always does. I only do this with jams or cranberry sauce, basically stuff with lots of sugar in it (which if you didn’t know, is an incredible preservative), and have never had any go bad within a year, though I’m not making any guarantees here and this certainly isn’t FDA approved. There’s my disclaimer so try it at your own risk. :) And perhaps it was because I didn’t process my jars in a water bath and reheat them once the cinnamon stick was inserted, but I couldn’t detect any flavor that the stick imparted so would likely just skip that ingredient unless I was going to can them properly. I might even try stirring a little cinnamon directly into the jam next time, which sounds so lovely to me.

Recipe source: Splendour In My Kitchen by Marina Castle

Daddy’s Boy

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a baby/toddler update, and even longer since I shared a video.  I took this one recently and I love it so much that I just had to share. I think it’s my favorite video to date. Joshua has suddenly turned into a Daddy’s boy and calls for his Daddy all day while he’s gone at work. This particular day, Dennis went in very early to work and Joshua didn’t get his usual morning time with him.  When I put him to bed, he woke up crying every 15-30 minutes for two hours until I finally allowed him to stay up a bit longer and wrestle with his favorite person.  You can tell he missed him. This just fills my heart so much.  Oh, and don’t be frightened by Den’s appearance, he was utterly exhausted but he got to sleep 12 hours the next day and no longer has those awful sunken eyes.


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