2

It always gets better

A month has gone by; a month of Miss Sunshine being unwell, hospitalization for a few days and gradual recovery. And once again, I am amazed by my daughter’s strength and resilience; that even in her suffering she is able to enjoy life, smile, laugh and play when I find it hard just to see her unwell. I must admit that this time it’s been harder than before, probably because it was so unexpected. I just figured we were dealing with her usual manageable symptoms so I had not even thought of a possible hospital admission.

But today, I want to focus on the bright side. The fact that Miss S has bounced back and even managed to go to school today. The fact that little by little she’s getting to experience her small joys- being with her cousins, going to play areas and just having fun.

The fact that we had almost a whole month together, mostly indoors, with nothing to do but just be. It was claustrophobic some of the time, maybe restrictive but we were together; no pressures, no schedules; only focusing on her recovery.

I appreciate the fact that I am practicing letting go, there’s nothing more I can do to protect her, I have to let her live her life fully and just do the best I can to minimize her symptoms when she falls sick.

I am so grateful that we are back to living our lives fully because it has reduced the frustration and overwhelming feelings that I was experiencing when all I was focusing on was her being unwell. I know as a result of the helplessness I felt seeing her suffering once again, I had so much pent up frustration which unfortunately resulted in a number of outbursts once we were back home when she was getting better. And I appreciate that I can now forgive myself for the outbursts and I am finding ways to react in such unexpected stressful situations. Another reason I’m grateful that we’re back to our normal routines is because the time together became our ‘normal’ so Miss S became so used to our time together, that she became clingy and irritable when I was even away from her for a few minutes when she needed me. And this separation anxiety was a bad trigger for us in the past week. But today has been refreshing, her having her morning at school- which she had missed so much- and myself at work.

The main reason I am grateful is that despite everything, I have Miss Sunshine. I have a happy, healthy, loving, bubbly, bright, funny, strong willed and fulfilled little girl. Nothing beats having her. Storms will come and they will pass. We’ll take whatever life throws at us. I have her and she has me, and that’s what I’m focusing on,

My precious Sunshine, I love you and will always love you the mostest and the bestest.

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My Breaking Point

Another week has started off with Miss Sunshine and I both home- her unwell and myself taking care of her. And I go through the same process I go through each time she’s unwell- panic, sadness, fear- and my life stops. I should be used to this by now. I should have learnt that a minor sickness is normal, that all children fall sick, I should, but I haven’t. This is the one thing I’m not able to be rational about, despite spending my days helping people to be rational and realistic. Yet, I’m unable to.

This is a result of her experiences in infancy, from her 1st week into this world she was in and out of hospital with many common childhood symptoms like fevers, vomiting, dehydration and abdominal issues, which on their own would have been nothing to worry about, but for her ended up in a number of hospital admissions without any confirmed diagnoses. And when at 7 weeks old, she was found to have a number of allergies that led to her symptoms, I thought the battle was over because we had found the root of the problems. But despite elimination of every allergen from my diet (as she was still breastfeeding), she still kept falling sick and needing hospital admission. Miss S has a great paediatrician who was determined to find out the cause of her symptoms and I remember during her last admission, he carried out so many tests, consulted with other doctors abroad and eventually told us that they could not find anything.  I remember that day, we went home with a still sick Sunshine because the hospital was traumatizing her so much and there was nothing they could do apart from manage the symptoms, which we could do at home. And that point is when my trauma began. I stopped working for a while, and spent my mornings and nights watching Miss S, making sure she was breathing, making sure she was ok. I couldn’t understand why she had to suffer so much, I couldn’t understand why we couldn’t get a solution and I knew what true helplessness was. S has been a blessing, such a joy and loving person and it didn’t make sense to me why she had to suffer so much.

So, thank God, even without a diagnosis, Miss S recovered and the incidences of her symptoms almost disappeared. I went back to working a few days a week but would still drop everything when she was unwell. This has always been important to me because she falls sick so suddenly and unexpectedly so it’s important to help her as soon as she does. But she grew up, allergies disappeared and she was able to tolerate dairy and eggs. And I was able to relax somewhat, to stop being on the watch and just let her be. But now what happens is that when she falls sick, I automatically go back to a year or two ago, and the fear returns. And of course no one understands why I’m so afraid. I’m a psychologist, so I do, I’m still traumatized and haven’t moved past that time.

This year, when I knew we were in a calmer period of her life, she was diagnosed with asthma. And I was so angry, I remember crying for days. Not because of asthma per se. But because since she was born, she’s been limited, it’s always been her food, what she can do and can’t do. She’s spent so much time in hospital, so many unpleasant experiences and then here was one other thing added. So once again, more limitation, more protection which would be impossible for her to understand. All I wanted was for her to finally have a normal experience of being a child without lists of dos and don’ts.

Eventually I accepted it, I had to, otherwise I would also unintentionally depress her. And she started school in May, went for 2 days and had her 1st major asthmatic attack on the 2nd night. She ended up being home till the next week recovering and by end of the next week was hesitant about going back to school. I wondered why as she’d enjoyed her two days there but did’t push her to go. A few days later when she was sick again I understood why she’d refused to go, she was already probably feeling irritable and under the weather as a result of the incubating infection. The next few weeks were like that, few days well, some more days sick and when she was well she didn’t want school to come up. And I understood why, most of that half term, she was already unwell, and it feels awful to be sick. Also, her only school experience was now associated with being sick.

Anyway, this September she was back in school and she’s such a fighter she’s been handling school even with numerous infections and asthma- related symptoms. Even when she misses days due to sickness, she’s been able to recover them as she only does 3 days a week. However, even though she’s a tough little fighter, I guess I’m not. I thought I was handing it well, taking it a day at a time- taking her to school when she’s well, taking her back to the hospital when she’s not, taking time out to take care of her when she’s sick. But the truth- I’m broken. Yes, children get sick, really sick and yes, parents handle it. But right now, watching her sleeping I know that I’m breaking inside for her and I cannot focus on anything else but her and having her well. I know that’s impossible as there will always be flu and infections but I hate the tight rope- the waiting for the next time, the worrying, the monitoring, the numerous medications she has to take. I hate that at 3 years old, she knows the names of medicines I had no idea of till she was born. I hate that simple small symptoms like these can take over and cloud everything at times like these. But mostly, I hate that when my little girl is the one suffering, I can’t be stronger and have more faith, and yet she acts and plays like nothing is wrong.

But this is my humanity.

By the time she gets up, I’ll be stronger once again, for her. And I just have to accept that not everyone can understand why I have to stop everything to take care of her when she’s sick. It looks minor, but to me it’s the most major thing as she’s my world.

I love you so much Sunshine. In a perfect world, I would give you a perfect, 100% healthy life with zero time spent in hospital and medication. But this is an imperfect world so I’ll give you my almost perfect love and attention instead.

2

She’s taking the driver’s seat

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Following a post I read today, loved and re-blogged (The Uninfluenced Mummy by lovelifeandlunacy), I’m challenging myself this weekend to let my little preschooler take the lead. That post was a breath of fresh air reminding me how the need to keep up with the Joneses doesn’t stop even in parenting. That’s probably why parents tend to keep comparing sleeping- through- the- night stories, who’s toilet trained before whom, which child has a bigger, better birthday party, who has a well behaved child and who has a constantly tantruming toddler…and it’s so subtle, we probably don’t even know it’s happening.

And couldn’t that be where most of the parenting frustrations come from? The need to be the best, when all the little ones want is us and our best. All they want is quality time playing and being attentive to them. They do not need to be spruced in their best outfits, posing for pretty pictures, being rushed from activity to activity just to give them the best. Whose benefit is it for? Us or them?

I want Miss Sunshine to have the best of the world but more than that I want her to have the best of me and the best of life through her experiences. So that means, relaxing a little bit and letting her take the lead. Following her cues. Letting her be…letting go. Yes, I’m her mama, I may be older and somewhat wiser, but in the long run she is and will always be the expert of herself. That doesn’t mean letting go of the big decisions; it just means I want to try and live like a child in a way, and Miss S is the best person who can teach me that. It’s time to stop, smell the roses and water her trees… stop, look at the butterflies with wonder…stop and notice every little thing we pass on the road as we walk…stop and just let things be without having a plan for every little thing…stop and question whatever seizes my imagination in this great big world…stop, giggle and sing at the top of my voice.

I’m following you Miss S…lead the way. This will be the start of more Yes and less No

Uninfluenced mummy…thank you!

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Taming of the Toddler (Credit to L.R. Knost)

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“So parents, here’s the scoop on tantrums:
They’re your fault.

Okay, okay, so maybe my toddlerhood contributes to them a teensy-weensy bit, but seriously…

You with the obsession with brushing teeth and bedtimes and matching clothes, enough already! Does it ever even occur to you that there’s another person (Yes, I am an actual separate person from you. Remember that whole cutting of the umbilical cord thing?) Who might have an opinion about what goes in my mouth or when I’m tired or not or what I want to wear? And you, the one who thinks carrots and kale are food. Really? You have all kinds of opinions about what tastes good and what doesn’t, but I’m not allowed to have any? And don’t even get me started on the rush-rush, hurry-up craziness that has me being snatched up in the middle of my most fantastic block tower ever and strapped into a torture device (Btw, where’s your car seat?!?) and dragged from one place to another right through snack time. I can’t have an agenda? Don’t my interests mean anything?

Okay, so maybe I don’t know everything yet, but how am I going to learn if you just force these issues instead of communicating with me about things? That whole learning by osmosis thing (a.k.a. passive learning) didn’t work for you in college, and it won’t work with me, either.

You keep going on and on and ooooon about wanting me to listen. “Why won’t you listen?” “If you’d listen for once!” “Would you just listen to me?!?” I’ve got three words for you…
Two. Way. Street. Maybe instead of that whole failed learning by osmosis experiment you keep trying (You do know the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, right? Okay, okay, just checking!) You could read the research and find out that I learn by active engagement (two-way conversation!) and imitation. Yep, that’s right. I learn from what you do, not just what you say.

So here’s the deal… Want me to learn to listen? Then listen to me. Listen and respond to my cries when I’m a baby. Listen and reply to my babbling attempts at talking when I’m a toddler. Listen to my whining and respond patiently when I’m a preschooler. (I know it’s annoying, but whining is my last step, kind of like your ‘last nerve’ you complain I’m stomping on, before I have a meltdown. It’s my last-ditch effort to hold on to the tiny bit of self-control I’ve learned so far in my short life!) Listen and actually pay attention (a.k.a eye contact!) to my endless stories about snails when I’m in middle childhood and to my endless complaints and dramas when I’m in my teen years.

Want me to learn respect? Then show me respect. Show me that you respect my personal space by explaining the things you’re doing to me like changing my diaper or strapping me into a car seat. Show me that you respect others by not talking about them behind their backs (Yes, I can and do hear you!) or yelling at them on the road. Show me that you respect my opinions by asking for them and accommodating them when you can. (I know you won’t always be able to, but the times you do will help me to accept the times you can’t.)

Want me to learn compassion? Then show me compassion. Respond kindly and gently when I’m upset or angry or just out-of-sorts. Stay close when my emotions overwhelm me and I have a meltdown moment. (I need your presence and compassion the most when I seem to deserve it or even want it the least!) And model compassion by treating others kindly in front of me.

Want me to learn self-control? (This is a big one!) Then show me self-control. Take a parental time-out when you get tired or overwhelmed or angry so I learn how to handle those big emotions. Count to ten and take some deep breaths instead of yelling or hitting. And pace yourself in this big world. I need to learn that it’s okay to take care of myself and not feel like I have to fill every moment with plans and schedules and agendas. I’ll learn that from watching you choose wisely from the many opportunities and pressures life will offer.

Okay, so to wrap this up. My tantrums don’t just come out of nowhere. They are the result of tiredness, hunger, frustration, anger, etc. You can prevent them, or at least minimize them, by keeping me fed and rested, by paying attention to my preferences, interests, and attempts to communicate, and by communicating kindly and patiently with me about upcoming changes or things I might not like. And keep in mind, I’m always watching and absorbing everything that goes on around me, so make sure you’re living what you want me to learn! “

Excerpt (The Taming of the Toddler) from Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood by L. R. Knost

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Reflecting on the past three years

The more things change, the more they remain the same…

My precious girl,
It feels like we’ve spent a lifetime together because I can hardly remember a time without you. And as I sit here I realize even though you’re growing older and so much has changed, a lot remains the same. Being almost 3 means you’re more fluent and vocal, more independent and strong willed, toilet trained, ready for school and you sleep easily through the night. And something new that amazed me about a week ago was watching you draw your 1st person. Looking at that picture makes me smile so much because it shows me how you’re steadily growing and learning so much every single minute.

Yet what amazes me even more is how many things remain the same as you grow:

I thought by the time you were this age I’d know more, be an expert on parenting…but what I’ve discovered is that even as you grow, there’s more to learn, more challenges to face, more growth. You’re growing daily, changing daily so I’m getting to know a little new part of you every day. So I’m sure, even when you’re 12, I’ll still feel the ‘newness’ of parenting.

Separation anxiety- thought we were through with that whole phase and then a couple of months ago, there it was again. One day I was getting ready to go to work and you insisted you didn’t want me to leave…and that became your usual mantra whenever I was leaving for work. For a few weeks it was so heart wrenching leaving you, it felt like we were back to a year ago. It’s so easy to forget the past until it happens again. Things are back to normal now but what keeps me going even during the periods of separation anxiety is the thought that you don’t want me to leave just because you love me and want to be with me. And as long as I’ve prepared you and you know I’ll come back, you will always get through this.

Your cries still have the power to break me. They still pierce me. It’s taken a lot of adjustment to accept that it’s okay and healthy for you to cry. To accept that not wanting you to cry is more about how I grew up, in an age when children were encouraged not to cry or told to ‘stop crying.’ I’m still learning to hold you as you cry and let you feel and let out whatever emotions you’re feeling without trying to distract you or ‘make you happy.’ I’m learning to accept responsibility for how I feel when you cry as opposed to unconsciously making you feel guilty for my helplessness in that situation. I want you to grow up knowing that it’s okay for you to feel any emotion, so as to deal with it and express it healthily.

When you were younger, you were sick a lot and you falling sick became one of my greatest fears. That hasn’t changed at all. In fact, I need to work on that. As a result of the constant sickness during your infancy, how much I love you and how helpless I felt each time you were sick or we were in hospital, each time you have even a minor flu or a recurrence of any of your previous symptoms, I’m helpless once again. My life stops, at least mentally. I go through the motions but internally I’m just suffering, trying to protect you, even when you don’t need protecting. I know that’s about me. All that traumatized me and I need to deal with that so I don’t project my powerlessness to you.

I love you so so much, more every day. I didn’t know that was possible but when I see you in the morning, watch you sleep at night, I’m still amazed that you are mine. I want you to know that I mean it when I tell you are such a special gift to me and it is an honour to be given the job to be your mama.

Your love, your warmth,your sensitivity; just grows in leaps and bounds. You have a heart of gold my Sunshine and that hasn’t changed, it just keeps growing.

You still love gymnastics and reading, but you’ve found time to nurture more passions- dancing, singing, gardening… Guess that’s why all you want this birthday is a tree. It always strikes me how you’re inherently your own person, developing interests that aren’t necessarily mine. I have little or no interest in nature but you love trees and animals. I cannot even somersault but you taught yourself that and much more. I hope I’ll always help you be the best version of yourself and not just a copy- cat version of anyone else. I love you just as you are.

You still make the biggest difference in my life. Time hasn’t changed that, I doubt it ever will. You made a difference when you were born, you still make a difference in My life. You changed and are still changing my world.

Even now, when you sleep, you want to hold my hand. That is the best feeling. Your little hand wrapped around one finger, or part of my hand. That is enough to make my day.

You still love giraffes. And you’ve added rabbits and flamingos to your animal loves.

I know there is still so much more I can’t remember right now, but the most important thing, you still are and will always be my precious baby, my Sunshine, my adorable girl and my blessing.

Happy Birthday Eve my love

I love you, always and forever

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Annie and Farm Heroes Saga… A long way to Self- Control

I think as parents we operate on the premise, ‘do as I say but not as I do’, a lot of the time. Yet research has proven that from the time they’re infants, children model our behaviour. That’s how they learn to talk, socialize, express themselves… So we are teaching much more from our actions than our words.

I have a practical example, since my sister- in- law introduced me to Farm Heroes Saga (the mobile application), I have become an addict 😦 So I spend lots of my spare time playing the game, as I strive so hard to win and move up a level. And I will be up many nights struggling to complete a level I’ve been stuck on, even after convincing myself that I’ll only play for 5 more minutes. The desire to win just keeps pushing me and of course because there’s no final end, it means I could just go on and on and on. So where’s my self control and will power? The part of my brain that will say “that’s enough for today, this is just a Time- Waster, do something more productive, like sleep, for example.”

I thought of this yesterday because of Miss Sunshine. She’s never been a television child, she prefers books or music. The only videos she likes are sing- a- longs because she gets to sing and dance. So I’ve never had the problem of her being glued to the TV, and I’ve been grateful for that. However, lately there’s one exception- the musical ‘Annie.’ Both the old version and the 2014 version. She loves them because of the songs. I introduced her to Annie, because I’ve always loved it, but I didn’t think she’d take to it like she does. Most mornings, she’ll wake up and ask me, “can I watch Annie today, mama?” and most days I’ll say “no, you only watch it once a week.” She doesn’t ever watch the complete movie, she watches it in bits so she doesn’t spend over an hour on TV. Yesterday when she asked me, I found it hard to understand why she asks every day when I’ve already told her it’s just once a week. Then I remembered how she’ll also ask for just five more minutes in the shower, or one more story, or one more book or five more minutes in her favorite play area. I know that at her age, her self control isn’t developed yet, which is why I have to do it externally, but I think I was magically expecting that the more I say it and put reasonable limits, the easier it is for her to develop self control. And that’s what got me thinking of myself and Farm Heroes. I’m already an adult, with a mature brain so I should be able to exercise self control and yet I can push myself for hours playing a game which I’d promised myself to stop an hour before, so how do I expect my 2 year old with a still developing Frontal Lobe to be so self disciplined when she’s constantly watching and modelling my behaviour?

That was a huge Reality Check for me. Right now, I’m Sunshine’s biggest role model, chiefly because of the amount of time she spends with me. And that’s true for most infants/ toddlers and their parents. They come to us as open books and soak up all they see, just like sponges. So, if I tell her I’m watching my favourite series for just five minutes, which then extends to an hour, how will she learn how to be self controlled, if she hasn’t seen me do the same? How will she learn that she doesn’t have to eat a whole bar of chocolate but can save some for tomorrow, if she hasn’t seen me save some of my ‘chocolate’ for tomorrow? How will she learn to be calm when she’s angry, if she sees me shout when I’m angry? And it all starts with the small things- the Farm Heroes, in each of our lives.

It’s a compliment to have a little ‘shadow’ in our lives, mirroring all we say and do. But with the compliment comes the challenge of making sure we’re worthy of that great role, portraying a life that’s worth reflecting. Children learn what they live, so right now, it is up to me to start living the way I want Sunshine to live, instead of just saying it.

Gandhi was right when he said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ We can keep complaining about the world but if we do nothing, it remains the same. Our children are the greatest gift and we can change the world by being the best version of ourselves so that our children reflect that and are the best version of themselves.

And I start now. With Farm Heroes saga. Only to be played for limited minutes a day, and whenever I feel like carrying on to ask myself if I want to expose Sunshine to 1+ hours of Annie every day. I have to make a difference starting now.

Once again, thank you my Sunshine for helping me want to be a better me, not just for you, but for myself as well. Love you always

2

I’m still learning

The little miss is now almost 3 years old, yet the more I think I know I realize there’s so much more to learn. So much more growth, possibly more growth for me 🙂

Today, I lost my cool, I may not have shouted but internally I lost control. Sunshine lied to me and I kept asking her to just tell me the truth. I kept getting frustrated that she couldn’t say the truth and stuck to her ‘truth’. That should not be a big deal, she is still so young after all, she cannot be perfect, but for me to take it so personally! I felt like she was letting go of all the values I’m trying to inculcate in her. And that’s not true at all because whenever I look at her I’m amazed at how centered and whole she is. She is already the best she can be at her age, and I am always so proud of the girl she is. So, for me to have felt so frustrated today…that definitely wasn’t about her, it was about me. Her tiny lie was just a trigger for me and I got hurt because I was already worn out and overwhelmed, so that was just the last straw.

I’m always talking about self- care, especially for mums; because if you don’t take care of yourself, you cannot take care of another. But often it’s hard to practice what you preach. When you’re tired, overwhelmed, worn out, stressed or sleep deprived, you start operating from the emotional part of your brain as opposed to your rational part, so all your decisions and actions, will not be the best. And it’s so easy at this point to make any small mole hill a mountain.

After taking a moment today, I acknowledged that my frustration was not about Miss Sunshine or her ‘half- truth’, I was just worn out because of a series of late nights, poor sleep and a whole week without taking time to do things that nurture me. I’ve neglected nourishing me-time and that’s what brought me to this point. So, see why I’m the one who’s still learning? I have to keep reminding myself that for me to be the best me and best mum to my Sunshine, I need to take care of myself. The only way she’ll also know how to take care of herself is by modelling what I do.

Additionally, being overwhelmed made me make today about me. Why did I need her to tell the truth so badly? Probably so I could affirm that I’m bringing her up to be honest. But that’s about me, and that’s what made me keep asking her over and over again. If I was more relaxed and calm, I would have approached it in a different way and because I wouldn’t have internalized any hurt, I would have shown her what I wanted to teach her in a different way. When we’re reacting from our emotions, we forget that children are their own persons and we shouldn’t be controlling them but guiding them. and just like us, they do have flaws, and that’s perfectly okay.

And because there’s no time like the present, I’ve taken some time out today to refresh and re- energize, and that will be a priority every day. My Sunshine, once again I apologize for making a big deal out of nothing. Thanks for being part of my growth process, for teaching me something new each and every day. Remember, you make a difference in MY world.

Love you sunshine!

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My promise

You’re a little human, just come into the world
You’re now just learning everything I’ve always take for granted
You’ve learnt how to walk and talk and smile and laugh
How to just exist in this great big world
And it’s my job to lead and guide, take my time, slowly and patiently
While giving you time and space to grow and be
It won’t always be easy but it’ll be fun
And when I make mistakes I’ll apologise each time
Every day will be a day to start again
Because just like you,I’m only human
Learning something new each and every day
It’s the effort in this journey that counts
And I make a promise to learn from you
How to be a better parent every step of the way
Because the day you were born as my baby
I was also born as your mum
And so even though I cannot promise perfection
What you can always be sure of
I will always treat you with the utmost respect
Offer my understanding, compassion and empathy
Will always offer you a helping hand
And I promise to love you,always and forever

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A whole new world

This…motherhood, is a whole new world…a beautiful place…unimaginable…indescribable. I think I’m enjoying childhood more now than I did as a child. And it is fun! And all thanks to my little Sunshine. I laugh more, smile more, enjoy more, experience more; and this is from the little things. Who knew how much fun bouncing castles were, or bumper cars… Finger painting and making salt dough ornaments… Toilet roll crafts… Baking together… Even just rolling on the bed, dancing like a child… What about tickling each other, giggling and singing at the top of your voice? Do you know how interesting toddler books are? I had no idea pre- Sunshine.

The past weekend, we were at my niece’s Family Fun Day at her school and at the end of the day I said that was the highlight of my week! It was just a series of family friendly competitions, dancing, lots of cheering and a picnic. Yet you could tell that the parents were enjoying the eventful day even more than the children…we probably even cheered our teams more, I remember my sisters and I were creating cheers as we went along…all in all this con that there firmed that there is so much fulfillment we can get from the childlike things, yet we look for our joy and happiness in the big things. I remember taking part in the tug- of- war, I felt like I could fly; just a simple tug- of war. 🙂

So I know one of the lessons children are here to teach us more than anything-to enter this new world of theirs, this simple and easy yet so- fulfilling world.

So to Sunshine, my nieces and nephews, thank you for helping me experience your beautiful world.

Love you Sunshine, always and forever