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Seriously. I shouldn’t complain about having to come home from Mexico. Granted, I had to leave this…

Moon Palace - Cancun, Mexico

Around the pool in the evening - Moon Palace Sunrise, Riviera Maya

Moon Palace - Cancun, Mexico

The pool - Moon Palace Grand, Riviera Maya

Moon Palace - Cancun, Mexico

One of eight infinity pools at Moon Palace Grand

Moon Palace - Cancun, Mexico

The view from our balcony

Moon Palace - Cancun, Mexico

The view from the sushi bar

Moon Palace - Cancun, Mexico

Sunrise over Moon Palace Grand

But I got to come home to this…

Spring in Kansas City

Tulips along Shawnee Mission Parkway

Spring in Kansas City

The Aristocrat Pear off our back porch

Spring in Kansas City

The neighbor's redbud

Spring in Kansas City

Buds on our flowering crabapple

Spring in Kansas City

Another flowering crabapple framed by our Aristocrat Pear

So you see, it’s really ridiculous for me to complain. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this gorgeous spring for anything! I hope your spring, wherever you are, is just as beautiful…maybe less pollen soaked than we are here at the moment…but still showy and colorful and glorious. Oh, dang it, hold on…AhhhhhhCHOOOO! Whew! Sigh.

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My aunt, the Meandering Matriarch, has been doing major home improvement projects around her place off and on for the last several years. Her projects have included remodeling the kitchen, painting inside and out, and redecorating various rooms. She’s very ambitious. Very.

Just recently, she wrote a hilarious post about her latest project that I encourage you to read…especially if you’ve ever had your driveway full of worker-guy pickup trucks day after day for weeks, found yourself inhaling dry wall dust like air freshener, saved yourself from tripping over a pile of drop cloths only to tumble into stacks of wood and tools, endured paint and varnish fumes that are clearly eating holes in your lungs, and/or spent the better half of a day on the phone trying to track down a contractor.

If any of that sounds familiar, you’ll appreciate the Meandering Matriarch’s situation. Moreover, you’ll get a real kick out of the YouTube video she shares (especially if you are charmed by cockney accents). If you don’t have time to read her post, at least go watch the video. Or watch it here. It perfectly illustrates the reason I’m so hesitant to begin on the long list of remodeling projects Tom and I have been discussing.

Heaven forbid someone might accuse us of being “too ‘asty”!

After 15 days and 4, 072.7 miles, the Tedster and I finally pulled into our driveway last night, spent but happy for our efforts. We were ready to be home even if home was covered in snow and the car thermometer barely topped 20 degrees F. Tom made sure the cold crap-ola outside was negated by the warmth inside. He had a pot of potato soup steaming on the stove, flowers on the island in the kitchen, the house cleaned, and was standing in the doorway smiling when the garage door went up. Damn, it’s good to be home. Teddy doesn’t even seem to mind the snow covering the grass.

That’s the great thing about Teddy. He never complains about anything…except being left alone (see my post about Midland, TX). No matter where we went or what we did, he was a perfect gentleman, accepting love and attention from everyone we encountered. He never got cranky because a meal wasn’t offered at the normal time, never fussed about being in the car for long stretches of time, never complained about the hotel we stayed in (I repeat, avoid the Guesthouse Suites in El Paso at all cost), never whined because the only place to have a wee was a windswept muddy patch of ground with RVs pulling in and out, never bristled at the comments about his bum leg.

And here I must pause for an aside. Since I’ve never had a handicap (at least a visible handicap–bumfuzzlement is a handicap, isn’t it?), I’ve never fully understood why people with handicaps complain that others see only their wheelchairs, their braces, or their white canes. I mean, I understand the lament on an intellectual level, but haven’t on an emotional one. After traveling with Teddy, I think I now have a little better understanding of how they feel. I was blown away by how many people we encountered who first commented on Teddy’s bum wheel. Forget that he’s as well-behaved as any dog on the planet, that he has an adorable wrinkly face, that he’s wearing a jaunty red neckerchief that makes him look quite dapper, or that he spins his tail in a complete circle when he meets someone new. People first noticed and asked about his leg. I did my best to patiently explain his condition, and Teddy eagerly exchanged howdy-dos with anyone who stopped to chat, but after a while I wanted to scream, “He’s a great little dog! Forget about his leg! HE HAS!” Please understand. I’m talking into the mirror here. This rant is all about me. I’m just letting you know I will be making a concerted effort in the future to look beyond visible handicaps to see people. Thanks to the Ted-meister.

That’s not all I learned on our trip. I learned that Teddy likes Elton John…a lot. He also likes Kenny Chesney and the Eagles, but Elton’s the man. I learned he hates rumble strips and slowing down for the tollbooths on the Austin turnpike…totally unnecessary interruptions to a good nap. I also learned that he’s willing to sit in the car and wait for me to have my own potty stop as long as I park the car where he can watch me go into the building and come back out again. If I want to leave him a Beggin’ Strip to nibble on during my absence, well, that’s just fine, too.

Hey, where'd you go?

He learned a few things about me in the process, as well. For example, he now knows that I have little tolerance (and more than a few bad words) for idiots…um hum, excuse me, drivers…who drive down the left lane of the interstate for miles and miles without passing anyone…often without even GOING THE SPEED LIMIT. Deep breath.

He also now knows that if he uses just the right tone of voice I will get out of my hotel bed at four in the morning to take him outside for a wee even when the spot for weeing is surrounded by idling 18-wheelers and that, if he waits me out, I will resort to hand-feeding him to ensure that we don’t get on the road in the morning with an empty stomach. Little shit.

Together, we discovered that the stretch of Interstate 10 between about 60 miles east of El Paso and about 60 miles west of San Antonio runs through some of the prettiest scenery you’ll see anywhere. Albeit, as desolate as you’ll see anywhere, but gorgeous nonetheless. It’s also a great stretch of wide open road for…well, if you must know…for driving fast. My dad, who worries about me a lot, reads my blog, so I can’t tell you exactly how fast Teddy and I were going, but let’s just say that my little six-speed G35 with just over 300 horsepower was very happy. Very, very happy. ‘Nuf said.

Because I have no idea what this little peak is called--and because I can be very juvenile on occasion--I've dubbed this little outcropping "The Texas Titty." See the wide-open highway? It was like this most of the way.

Mostly, we loved our trip because we got to see (or in Teddy’s case, meet) a bunch of people we know and love in Arizona and Texas. I want to thank them all for adjusting their schedules to accommodate our visit. Spending time with them went a long way toward adjusting my pissy attitude. It certainly didn’t hurt that they fixed us great meals, regaled us with hilarious stories, and–in a couple of instances–put us up for several nights. We had a blast with each and every one of them and miss them all like crazy already. Just know, if I ever get to be Queen of the World, I’m going to make it illegal for family members to live more than 100 miles apart from one another.

Is it just me, or does Dad look rather pleased about our departure?

My only regret is that our fifteen-day-long jaunt was an interstate trip–a trip more about the destination than the journey–and not a two-lane county-road-type trip that encouraged lots of stops and dilly-dallying along the way. If we’d stopped at every interesting little town, scenic overlook, and point-of-interest, we’d still be on our way to Arizona. So much to see. So little time. I’m guessing the road will beckon again soon. Teddy and I will be ready.

I’ll admit that I’m quick to point out the missteps of others, including those of family and friends, so in the interest of fairness, I must reveal I’ve recently been victimized by my own lack of judgment. More specifically, the soles of my feet have been victimized…or brutalized. I share this with you as a warning.

Sunday’s paper contained an article about the growing number of runners who have discovered the joys–and benefits–of running barefoot. Although I typically don’t take the time to read articles about any form of strenuous exercise in which I have no intention of ever participating, I read this one just to satisfy myself that the folks involved were, in fact, the nut jobs I imagined them to be. To my shock, they weren’t. They were runners of all shapes, sizes, ages, and experience levels–not just 83-year-old ultra-marathoners who ingest nothing but vegetable smoothies and vitamins every day–so I pointed the article out to Tom, a runner, and asked what he thought. He didn’t have much to say, but instead tossed his January issue of Runner’s World my direction with the comment that it also had an article about running barefoot. I didn’t read the Runner’s World article because…well, because I was already way over my quota of exercise articles for the month. Instead, I made the assumption that RW was also promoting barefoot running and went on reading the rest of the Sunday paper.

Which brings me to yesterday. I’ve been wearing the same ol’ pair of nappy walking shoes for my daily walks on the treadmill now for more than two years. Weeeell, truthfully, I suppose it’s a bald-faced lie to call them “daily” walks, but still I have been walking on a fairly regular basis for about an hour most days of the week. If I’m lucky, I get on the treadmill when the Barefoot Contessa’s show starts at 4 p.m. on the Food Network and walk right through Jeopardy at 4:30. I’m so absorbed in what I’m watching, I’m done before I know it. Encumbered with insipid facts, inspired to cook something yummy for dinner, and feeling pretty cocky for having exercised at all.

Right after Christmas, Tom and I went shopping to find replacements for my beat-up old walking shoes. I couldn’t find any I liked, so yesterday as I got ready to walk…you see where this is going, don’t you…I decided to do my walk barefoot, figuring walking barefoot couldn’t be any worse that walking in those broken-down shoes. Besides, I figured if “research” has shown running barefoot is “safe,” barefoot walking should be too, especially indoors where there aren’t any rocks, glass, or well-hidden tree roots. (Gives you butt squench just to think about it, doesn’t it?) Anyway, I figured wrong. It probably didn’t help that I managed to get on the treadmill in time to catch the Contessa’s opening spiel and walked right through final Jeopardy. By the way, how could anyone not know F.Scott Fitzgerald had flappers in his novels? But I digress.

Just to clarify, my knees, ankles, legs, and hips all felt fine after my hour-long barefoot walk. They still feel fine today. The parts of my body screaming in agony are the soles of my feet. I might as well have walked on a belt sander for an hour. What a dumbass. Seriously. Consider yourself warned.

We don’t get big snows that often around here, but this snowstorm is one I’m sure most of us will remember for a long time. For those whose Christmas plans and /or travels were grievously disrupted by the weather, the memories probably aren’t going to be all that pleasant, but for those of us lucky enough to be able to stay tucked inside, it’s been quite a show. Tom and I–who fall into the latter category–haven’t had to get out into the cold and onto the snow-packed streets unless we really wanted to, so we’ve enjoyed nearly every frosty, wind-blown moment of it. Tom’s even gotten to use his snow blower, and  I just can’t seem to stop taking pictures. Here are just a few of my pictures:

Christmas snow aftermath

Christmas Snow 2009

All the white has provided quite a backdrop for the “wildlife” around here. For instance, as I was working in the kitchen yesterday afternoon, I looked out and saw what I thought was a coyote chasing a rabbit through the snow in our neighbors backyard. I ran for my camera and shot a dozen or so pictures of him frolicking in the snow. We watched him for nearly 10 minutes and then were sorely disappointed when the neighbors let him into their garage. Either they’re bigger nature lovers than they’ve let on, or they’ve gotten a new dog. Check the animal out in the picture below. Help me out, here. That looks like a coyote, doesn’t it? If you think so, tell Tom. He’s still laughing at me.

Wile E. Coyote, a.k.a. Damn Dog

A closer view for your consideration

It's going to be a long time before we can go out our back door again

Yes, it's as cold as it looks, but at least the wind stopped blowing for a while

Any one want to hazard a guess as to how long it's going to take for these busters to melt?

The weather wonks were right! I give them so much grief, I thought it only fair to acknowledge when they are, in fact, correct. We woke up to snow this morning. It’s hard to tell exactly how much because it’s blowing and drifting like crazy, but we have a pile on the deck that’s probably at least 18 inches deep. It really is a white Christmas!

Snow pile on the deck

Snowy Christmas decorations

Merry White Christmas!

For the moment, our plans to go to Tom’s folks are on hold. The highway patrol in both Kansas and Missouri are asking people not to get out and drive unless they have to, so we’re not…at least this morning.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

The UPS man delivered the last box of gifts an hour or so ago. Whew! All the presents are now wrapped and under the tree. Dinner is in the oven. Dessert is cooling on the counter top, and–as the weather wonks predicted–the sleet and ice have begun to fall.

A white Christmas?

We woke up to temperatures in the 50s this morning, but it’s well below freezing now. If the local meteorologists are right, we’ll wake up to a white Christmas tomorrow morning. I’ll believe it when I see it, but they get Brownie points for being right about the sleet. Hey, it’s Christmas. I’m feeling generous. Brownie points for everyone!

The halls--and the tree--are decked...finally

All that’s left to do is fix a nice glass of egg nog with a splash (or a big glug) of rum, take a long, hot shower, and get ready for dinner, but I just had to stop long enough to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I really hope you’re tucked in someplace warm and toasty, surrounded by the people you love–or at least like a lot. May your entire holiday season be filled with family, friends, laughter, good music, and lots of yummy food. And maybe a little rum.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Now that Teddy has been living here for more than two months, I believe we have a clearer understanding of one another. At least I feel safe saying I understand him better. It’s not that hard. He’s a pretty straightforward little guy. No pretenses. No wavering. He let’s you know how he feels about something and then has no more to say on the subject. After all, that’s the way it is. End of story.

Teddy’s Tenets:

  • Salmon and rice will not be tolerated in any form–canned or kibble–under any circumstances. Amen. Pass the lamb.
  • Bodily functions can never be performed in the presence of any of the following: damp grass, wet cement or flagstone, drizzle, rain, thunder, lightning, or lightning bugs. Ever.
  • And while we’re on that topic, privacy is preferred during any and all nature calls. Decorous human beings will avert their gaze while bodily functions are being executed.
  • No tree, bush, flower, tomato plant, asparagus fern, strawberry patch, fence, or wood pile is sacred. Have a  pooper scooper and a plastic bag on your person at all times.
  • Glorious daytime weather must be savored with long periods of rolling in the grass, sneezing, and sleeping in the shade. Any attempt to force other behaviors during such times will be considered sacrilegious and ignored accordingly.
  • During thunderstorms–or any time lightning is within a 20-mile radius–a human being’s presence is required. Preferably mom’s. Snuggling welcome.
  • Snoring and farting are part of the package. Deal with it.
  • Belly-rubs, ear-scratches, and hugs are actively encouraged and always accepted.
  • Attempts at playing chase, catch, or Gotcha! will be met with a blank stare. A good brushing is preferred.
  • Walkers and bicyclists passing on the street out front must be acknowledged with a half-hearted woof. People in the backyard must submit to a full-blown bark or barks. All other vocal emanations are discretionary and meted out accordingly.
  • Ear cleaning and trips to the groomer will be tolerated only if extravagant displays of affection are provided afterwards.
  • Goofy neckerchiefs will be grudgingly tolerated for short periods of time.
  • Failure to extend invitations for all car and/or truck outings will result in The Very-Sad-Dog-Eyes Treatment and other guilt-inducing behaviors, as required. Consider yourself warned.
  • All humans, dogs, and cats must be welcomed as friends. Or ignored.

Like I said, straightforward. He’s a pip.

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Eight years ago next month, Tom, Carey, and I loaded up Tom’s truck, my car, and Carey’s car with suitcases full of clothes; Rubbermaid containers full of bedding, power cords, school supplies, and toiletries; a computer; a stereo; a small refrigerator; and Carey’s bike before heading out to Lawrence to get her settled in the dorms for her freshman year at the University of Kansas. Like any other parent  moving his or her oldest off to college for the first time, I oscillated between feelings of elation and sadness. I was happy for Carey to be starting off on new adventures but sad because it felt very much like we were writing the first page of the last chapter of our lives with the kids as “kids.”

I distinctly remember noticing the Lawrence City Limit sign as we got to the edge of town that hot, muggy August afternoon and taking solace in the thought that we’d be making the trek to Lawrence for a long time to come. The way I figured it, Carey would be out there for at least four years and then Brian would be for at least another three or four after that. Geez. That would be nearly a decade by the time all was said and done. What was I being all gloomy about? It was going to be a long time before we would finish the chapter.

A long time, indeed. Last night, we wrote the final sentence when we moved the last load of Brian’s mountainous pile of stuff (I’m fighting the urge to use the word “crap” here) back home to Kansas City. I won’t lie. I did tear up a bit as we drove out of town. I reminisced about that hot August day eight years before and thought about all the fun times we’d had in Lawrence with both kids. Then I remembered what awaited me at home.

For the last three years, Brian has lived in a two-bedroom house with a two-car garage. During that time, he has amassed…well, he has amassed quite a collection of household goods, including–but not limited to–a queen-size bed, a large desk with an oversize desk chair, two TVs, stereo equipment, a washer and dryer, a side-by-side refrigerator, a small dorm-size refrigerator, a kitchen table with four chairs, an assortment of end tables, enough small appliances and kitchen paraphernalia to put any new bride to shame, a huge rolling tool chest, an air compressor, a shop vac, and enough neon signs to open his own bar. He also has lots of toys: a half dozen wakeboards and snowboards with bindings and boots, video games and accessories, boxes of DVDs, and a wakeboard boat. Oh, and then there are his clothes. Brian doesn’t like to do laundry, so he developed the habit of buying new socks, underwear, and t-shirts when the ones he had were too stinky to wear. I’m pretty sure he could go a whole semester without doing laundry. At least, he should be able to; we hauled home six huge plastic bags crammed full of mostly dirty socks, underwear… I tell you all this only because it’s NOW ALL IN OUR GARAGE! Well, not all of it. We did stack the bags of clothes in his bedroom and the boat is at the repair shop for a new part.

Before the weekend is over, Brian should have it all moved to the storage locker he’s rented, so our cars should only have to sit out on the driveway for a few more nights–and, if I’m lucky–I won’t need a shovel, or a hammer, or any of our other tools because there’s not a snowball’s chance that I COULD GET TO ANY OF IT. Okay, deep breath.

Brian called just a little bit ago to let me know he’d completed the check-out process with the leasing agent, and all had gone well. He also admitted to being more than a bit sad about saying good-bye to his home of three years. According to him, his years on 24th Street “were a blast.” In fact, he said, his entire college experience “couldn’t have been any better.” Well, what more could a mom ask for… except maybe to GET THAT CRAP OUTTA THE GARAGE!

I’ve been thinking for the last several weeks that it’s time to do an update on Teddy, fill you in on how he’s doing. Problem is there’s so too much to tell in one posting. Several times, I’ve started writing, but I quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of information I want to share. Before long, I’m cutting, pasting, and erasing what I’ve written, staring at the screen in frustration. Then this afternoon, I got the bright idea of doing a bulleted list, just like I used to create in my old technical writing days. I’ll still not be able to tell you all the wonderful ways in which Teddy has brightened our lives in one posting, but it feels manageable this way, so here goes:

  • I’m confident saying Teddy loves Tom, me, and the rest of the regulars around here as much as we love him. He fits into our family and our lives like it was all meant to be. And it was, I have no doubt.
  • Teddy has the most expressive eyes and the sweetest little wrinkly face. He uses both to his full advantage. Knowingly. With no apologies. I’m toast.

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    Teddy vogue-ing for the camera

  • After more x-rays, discussions with his vet, and a consultation with a physical therapist, the general consensus is that Teddy’s left front leg doesn’t work properly because of damage to the brachial plexus (the network of nerves that conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and paw) in that limb. Possibly the result of falling from a vehicle or from a high place such as a porch. The physical therapist does not recommend professional physical therapy at this time, nor does she recommend–for multiple reasons–putting Teddy in a brace (much to Tom’s dismay), but she does hold out slim hope (since we don’t know how long ago the limb was hurt) that the damaged nerves may one day start firing again. She has also suggested that we try to get him to put weight on that paw when he is standing by pulling the paw to the ground. We know the poor little guy feels pain (or at least some discomfort) in that limb because he tucks it up tightly to his torso and licks it incessantly when he hasn’t had the daily dose of  his pain med–which we withheld a couple of times on purpose to see how he, and the limb, reacted. Otherwise, he lets his left paw hang freely to the ground and occasionally uses it as a kickstand. On a happy note, Tom is beginning to have a bit of success at getting Teddy to shake with that paw.
  • Our initial assumption that Teddy’s status as a three-wheeling pup would mean no need to have a fence was wrong, wrong, wrong. We have several companies coming next week to give us an estimate.
  • Teddy does have a voice. For the first three weeks he lived here, we heard little more than a whispery “woof” on the few occasions when someone new entered the house, but all that changed after he spent time with Carey and Austin’s dog, Otis. Otis taught Teddy to voice his opinions and concerns boldly to all within earshot. Teddy’s still not what you would call a “barker,” but he’s more than happy to let you know when someone is passing in front of the house or when he’s none too happy with you for leaving him behind when everyone else is getting in the car to leave.

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    Teddy and Otis guarding the homestead

  • The ear infections Teddy had when he came to live with us are all cleared up. Finally. The vet says he’ll be prone to them thanks to the Shar Pei in his lineage. What that means for Teddy is he goes to the vet every two weeks for a bath and to have his ears irrigated. He doesn’t seem to mind either procedure all that much, but he’s none too happy about the scarf the groomer puts on him when it’s all over–especially the sissy-colored ones.
  • Probably as a result of a lifetime of untreated ear infections, Teddy is hard of hearing. Not stone deaf, but dang close. Of course, there are those occasions when I would swear his lack of response is more a matter of selective hearing than non-hearing (learned behavior from the other males in this house?), but I have no way to prove it, and he knows it.
  • Teddy loves to ride in the car, and he practically wets himself at the thought of getting to ride in the truck. His cruising stance of choice in the truck is to stand on the flat surface in the back–created when we fold down the back seats–and then to lie across the large console between the two front seats, gimpy paw in the cup holder for stability, ears flapping in the breeze created by the air conditioner. He can get into all three vehicles without help, but does need to be lifted down out of the truck. No worries, as long as the shapely, little lhaso apso across the street isn’t watching. When he rides in my car, he likes it when I keep the windows down, the stereo turned up, and my hand on the shifter, so he can use my wrist and forearm as a chin rest and drool catcher. He hates it when we come to a light and I have to shift.
  • Teddy is also quite happy to lie at my feet–actually on my feet–here in my office as I write. He’s there now, snoring and farting. Which brings me to…
  • Teddy has a very temperamental tummy. Again, because of the Shar Pei in his background, the vet warned us he would probably have a sensitive digestive tract, and he does. That would be no problem–we’re happy to feed him the salmon and rice dog food recommended by the vet–but, although Teddy ate the fish diet without complaining for the first several weeks, he grew tired of eating the same food every day and refused to eat even a nibble of the stuff after a while. He is both strong-willed and hard-headed, so, of course, I blinked first and got him some other food to eat. Oh, happy dog. A different dog food every other day. And then, because he wasn’t eating the sensitive formula dog food anymore and was doing just fine, we mistakenly reasoned that we might be able to give him…well…give him just a taste of…of bacon bits…of a little baloney and cheese…a nibble of leftover chicken…it can’t hurt. Right? Oh, man. Last night we came back after being gone for a couple of hours and knew immediately when we opened the door that something was wrong. Teddy was uncharacteristically curled up in the laundry room and the house smelled like something had died. Sure enough, the poor little guy had made a mess in our bathroom. An hour or so later, he began dancing again, and I raced him into the backyard. He was a man on a mission and went racing in front of me out into the darkness. When he got about 20 yards from the back of the house, I couldn’t see him, but I heard an explosive sound I typically associate with big burly guys who have been eating hot dogs and drinking beer all afternoon. All I could think as I raced toward him was, That poor little thing just blew his bottom off. It must have un-nerved Teddy, too, because he took off for the back of the yard as fast as his legs would carry him with me in high-speed pursuit, hoping every step of the way that I wouldn’t step in the aftermath of the explosion. After two additional middle-of-the-night excursions into the darkness (me looking lovely in my nightgown and flip flops), Teddy’s tummy seems to finally have settled and Tom and I are in complete agreement that Teddy will never again eat people food.
  • And finally, I must confirm something Marie, Teddy’s foster grandmother, told me the day I picked Teddy up from her house: Teddy is extremely modest. Given the opportunity, Teddy will go as far to the back of the yard to conduct his business as he possibly can–to the point of pooping on the neighbors fence out beyond the bog on the back property line. If he can get behind a bush or a tree, all the better. Whatever you do, don’t look. He hates that.
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Seriously, put the camera down and come feed me!

And now, I must stop, but I will tell Teddy tales again soon. I’ve got a million of ’em.