Pages

8/28/2018

On losing Pastor Andrew Stoecklein

Picture of Pastor Drew and his family, taken from his wife Kayla´s instagram

It climbs from the back of your neck all the way to the top of your head.
You actually feel the claws pierce your skin as it creeps up your back and stiffens your neck when it makes its way to the top.
Out of the blue!
With no warning!
It didn't happen at your most stressful time.
It wasn't triggered by any situation, something that happened, something someone said.
You were maybe lying in bed watching your favorite house improvement series.
You were maybe cooking a meal for your lovely family you feel immensely blessed to have.
It just suddenly takes over your head as you are left crippled by the depression and anxiety that has taken over your body.
You are possessed!

The grief your heart feels makes the tip of your extremities writhe in scrutiating pain. The pain starts moving toward the center of your body all the way to the top.
You first mask it to those around you.
You excuse yourself: "I am not feeling so well. I think I'll go lay down."
You overhear as someone sometimes dismissively says "She was fine all day and NOW she feels bad!"
You try to find a secluded place to try to shake your demon out.
"Why am I feeling this way?"
"What is the matter with me?"
"Why am I considering jumping off the window when I love my family and my life so much?"
"Make it stop! Please, Lord! Make it stop!"
"What is wrong with me?"

Sometimes you have a good cry and minutes later feel fine.
You go back out and you were successful in beating depression back to the pit from which it climbed out. Sometimes, it is not that easy and it doesn't go away with simply fighting it.

One time my anxiety got out of control in a way I had never experienced before. It took over me and I started crying uncontrollably. Luckily, my husband was there with me.
"What is wrong?" he asked.
"I don't know. I can't breathe! My head hurts! Honey, help me! It hurts! It hurts a lot." I cried.
"What do I do?"
"I don't know! This has never happened before. I just feel something is going to explode inside my head. Help me! HELP ME!" I say now yelling.
I run to the kitchen and sit on the floor holding my head between my hands.
The girls run over to the kitchen. "What is wrong with mommy?"
"Sweethearts, please go to your room. Mommy is not feeling well," my husband says in the calmest voice ever. Oh, how good the Lord has been to me giving me the man I needed.
I am still sitting on the floor pressing my head with my hands with tears flowing profusely.
"Stand up!" my husband instructs me.
"What? Why?" I exclaim still crying.
"I'll hold you. Just do it!"
He wraps me with his arms and holds me tightly. He is intentionally breathing slowly and loudly so I can listen to his breathing. I am still crying and sobbing audibly, but I am trying to focus on his breathing.
It takes less than a minute for my crying to stop.
I feel a release from the pressure inside my head.
My heart stops racing and starts following Rodolfo's hearbeat as I am so close to his chest I can feel his hearbeat in my chest.
I am suddenly calmed like nothing had ever happened.
"What happened?" he asks.
"I don't know. That had never happened before," I reply, "I am just so glad you knew what to do."
"I didn't. It was the only thing I could think of," he said.
"I am sorry my anxiety took control of me like that." I say embarassed.

A few minutes later, we are walking out the door to do an errand like nothing happened. I am back to myself and the incident hasn't repeated itself or given any indications that it could happen again.

What would have happened if I had been alone?
What would have I done?
That scares me. I don't take it lightly.

Could you stop a heart attack from claiming your life?
Could you stop a stroke from leaving you brain dead?
Could you prevent an aneurysm you are unware of from being the ticking bomb it is?
No!
Why do people believe you can easily and simply stop depression, a life-threatning illness, from claiming a life?

Today Facebook is filled with stories about Pastor Andrew Stoecklein losing his life to anxiety and depression. He had publicly let his congregation know about his illness. It had been so severe he had been put on a 4 month sabbatical by members of the church. Even his wife had told him he didn't have to go back to ministry. You can listen to his last sermon here, only a few weeks prior to his suicde. It breaks my heart that the sermon was about what God could do with you and in you through your mess. And I don't think he spoke of this deceitfully. I don't think he was giving a front or facade. He speaks openly of when someone found him on a bathroom in the same state I described myself in. He spoke of his initial rejection of seeking medical help, the same way I did in this post: The Christian and Antidepressants where I open up for the first time of my personal battle with depression. He speaks of Elijah, the man I turn to in the Bible too when struggling with depression, and how Elijah was suicidal, depressed, and suffering from anxiety. How about that? The struggle had been in the Bible all along to relate to. He gives the following statistics:
1 in 5 adults have had a mental disease.
1 in 25 adults live with a severe mental illness.
1 in 5 children have or will have a mental illness.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death ages 10-24, most with a mental illness that was not being treated.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

I have already read comments criticizing him for his "selfishness" for leaving his wife and 3 young boys alone. He ended the sermon giving out resources to get help when dealing with depression like NAMI.org . Of course the question arises: "Why didn't he himself seek help this past friday?" 1) He did. He did seek help. He was under medication and treatment. 2) Sometimes, it is like a heart attack. You survive some, but others are fulminating.

I write this knowing how vulnerable I become by opening up about this.
What will you think of me?
Will you fear me?
Will you worry about  me?
Will you think less of me?
Will you talk about me behind my back?
Will I be judged?
How vulnerable am I of dying from this?
Am I at risk of a fulminating depression and anxiety attack?

Well, if the statistics are correct, 1 in 5 of you will relate and will feel less lonely by this post, and 4 in 5 will get a better picture of what it is to struggle with a mental illness.
This post is not even the bleakest post on mental illness I have posted before.
I wrote this one: "Diary of loving someone with an Unseen Disease" when I was learning how to cope with seeing a close loved one go through a mental disease I was already beginning to fear would claim her life. I even write on the post how easy it is to show compassion to a cancer patient, but none to a mental illness patient, and now I have been both.

Pastor Drew finished his sermon speaking of Elijah's story where God was not in the fire, the earthquake, the winds... He was in the whisper!  And He spoke to Elijah in his mess and showed Elijah the purpose for his mess. Elijah was not completely healed, but God spoke to him and gave him direction and God revealed Himself to him. He can meet you in your mess.

I am extremely heartbroken for the loss of Pastor Drew. He had just lost his father 3 years prior to Leukemia. His family and congregation have lost so much in such a short time. Pray for them. Pray for them deeply and intently. Be better at listening and better at understanding. Be there for those who might need you and who might not seek help for themselves because they are scared and ashamed. If you know what that is like, be vulnerable and transparent and open up to those around you who need these things spoken of.



8/06/2018

Recycling Matters

Is recycling important to you?
Unfortunately, countries like Honduras do not have a recycling initiative. There are no recycling centers (That I know of. If there are, they are a unknown, far away, and unmarked).
There is also no education from either schools or parents on recycling issues.
But there are ways you can get on the recycling wagon.

Recycling is very important to me. It's a way to give new life to things that would otherwise end in the trash causing greater pollution, and it's a way to be frugal, creative, and resourceful.
It is not news that I am a DIY enthusiast. My mom recently offered to buy some a painting to spruse up my house. I told her if she wanted to do that, I would very much love a canvas and some watercolors to do it myself. It will be far cheaper, entertaining, educational, personalized, and fun.
DIY is part of who I am. It makes me smile and destress.
Recycling has started to become an integral part of my DIY and also a way to get in more exercise.
See, the nearest recycling center is 5 blocks away. It gives the girl and I an excuse to take a walk once a week.

It takes an effort. I have to stock this separately from my regular trash which takes up space. I have to walk those blocks with trash bags on my hands which some would find embarassing. I have to scold the hubs when he forgets to separate the recycling from the regular trash, and I go as far as pulling that out when he did throw it in the trash and washing it. It is that important to me.

Every cereal box ever used in my house ends up recycled into something else. Currently, I am making the favor boxes for Emmalee's upcoming birthday (yes, the one on December. That is OCD, baby). Each box takes two cereal boxes, so I can only make one every week.
Cardboard is so valuable to me. My sister called me a hoarder because we went to the recycling center with a bag of my cutout cardboard, milk boxes, plastic, and paper, and I came back with a stranger's cardboard box. I asked for it before she threw it in the pile, FYI. It will be transformed into a lovely cake stand. You'll see.

You might be thinking recycling is not for you. Well, I am sure you have pizza boxes and soda bottles inconveniencing your trash can filling it up quickly, as are the juice boxes or bottles, milk boxes, cereal boxes, and pretty much everything that clogs your trash can pretty quickly. Conveniently, this trash does not produce odor or spillage (if they're completely empty), so letting it stock up is not that hard to do.

We all know the world is in danger, but we are expecting others to solve it for us.
Being indifferent to recycling is not very Christian. We were commanded to be good stewards of what God has given us. Recycling is a way to do more than expected. Are we teaching it to our children? How? By example? Is the TV doing a better job of making your child environmentally responsible than you are? That is not a good example or an integral education. It is something that should matter to you as well as your children.

I wanted to show you a few projects I've made in the house using reclycling materials. I've recently learn there is so much more I could be doing with cardboard and other house items that makes me excited to explore how much more I can recycle, re-use, and give items a second life.
You can check out my other DIY posts here, where you can see my birthday celebrations, the DIY cardboard play kitchen, cardboard doll houses, and my nursery and home decor projects.

The girls love putting the items in the recycling center, but don't like taking pictures. That is Kaylee's "cheese" pose. 

Start them young!


A banner in Emmalee's birthday.

This cute frames are also cereal boxes

That faux chimney? It's a bicycle box.

I loved working on this shelf for the girls' books.

It took a few days.

It is made from a TV box, two more boxes, and toilet paper rolls. I don't use paper towel which is why the pillars are a little crooked. 

I kept checking every morning in fear that it had collapsed or something. It's been used for a week now and it looks exactly the same, so it is holding up quite nicely. 

My mom got a gift from work that had tissue paper with L'OCCITANE gold lettering. Mom gave it to me and said "I'm sure you'll find something to do with this." She did not imagine I would use it for her birthday decoration as the flowers on the "mom" sign. The 50 was done using cereal boxes. 

paper roll and shoe boxes turned into a center piece for Emmalee's last birthday.


7/24/2018

On the Honduran crisis and immigration

My fellow countryman are undergoing a crisis due to all-out traffic stoppage engineered by the transport industry in protest to the endless raises of fuel prices. The prices on pretty much everything have been escalating alarmingly since the fraudulent re-election of Juan Orlando Hernandez.
People think that because I have moved to a different country, we expats don't have a say on the actual crisis.

Well, let me tell you what life as an immigrant looks like:
I had exactly $80 on my wallet. That is ALL the money we had. We don't have savings. We don't have anything on a bank account. That is it. We have to make due with that until my husband's next pay check next Monday. Our grocery bill is usually $120. Seems steep, doesn't it? If it doesn't to you, let me tell you that it is actually extremely steep. I knew we couldn't postpone it any longer; we needed to go to the grocery store today. I told my husband in the car "no luxuries today." He nodded grimly.

I am placing our purchases on the conveyor belt, feeling commiseration for how scarce it looks. I feel the urge to complain in my heart start rising, when I notice the young man in front of me. He has grains and legumes and a bag of bell peppers. His dirty clothes make me infer he has a blue collar job and that is probably what he could afford this time. Why the bell peppers? That is beyond me. But while my cart has none of our luxuries like: orange juice, microwave popcorn, and fruit, it does have some meat and poultry, even if not for everyday. Still, the bill comes out to $74. My husband has a few bucks and he is a few cents short of $10 (adding the $6 I have left over) to make due with gasoline until Monday. We might not be able to drive to church on Sunday though.

This is not our situation every month, but this is also not the first time this happens either. Panama is one of the most expensive cities to live in. We would NOT by any means be able to make it in this city if it wasn't for my mom's help. The apartment we live in is hers, but she lets us live here rent free.

"You don't have a say on the Honduran situation. You left the country."
Well, let me tell you how and why I left the country. I am a computer science engineer. My husband is a civil engineer. Both are respected careers, but here in Panama they are considered restricted careers. It means that someone with a communications degree has to simply present him or herself to immigration with his or her college degree, pay some fees, and be granted a professional visa and a work permit. Since my husband and I have a degree in a restricted field, my husband HAS to study an MBA to get his residency while remaining legally in the country with a student visa, while the girls and I are on an immigration process for illegals who have remained in the country with no visa for longer than a year, waiting for an appointment to get our residency with immigration. The ONLY way to apply to this visa IS REMAINING illegally in the country. It is the ONLY visa I can apply for (unless I too study an MBA) because I don't have $300,000 needed to apply for an investor visa. Even with work permits, the chances of my husband and I being allowed to work on our respected fields are slim. So two respectful engineers have slim chances of becoming legal, getting good employment, and making it in one of the most expensive cities in Latin America. Why immigrate?

My husband and I always said we wanted to be out of Honduras before the 2017 elections. I was working in the government and everyone there knew Juan Orlando was going to go for a re-election and was going to win. (Still have doubts there was a fraud?) The funny thing is that we were both working on our fields, I as info-technology department chief for the National Social Intervention Bureau for the Secretary of State and my husband as Supervising engineer for the Patuca III hydroelectric plant construction. We were making two engineering salaries and still couldn't afford to move out of my in-laws house. We had saved enough money to do so in the month of May. We were doing so well that we were also planning of adding another child to our family. If you read my blog, you know that ended with a miscarriage at the beginning of April and a breast cancer diagnosis at the end of April, sending our May dreams to oblivion.

Even before the cancer roller coaster started, we were searching for ways to leave Honduras. It was not a good place to raise our kids anymore. We were working long hours on hard jobs (my husband was travelling long distances only visiting us twice a month) and not making enough to be independent, have our own house, or send the girls to a good school. We knew things would only get worse after the 2017 elections.

It was very devastating to see my friends and family have a hard time during Christmas time with the protests and vandalism that happened after the fraud elections of November. What happens in Honduras still affects me directly because I see how hard my father and my father-in-law work and they are unable to make it on their own either. My father lives in my grandmother's house and my father-in-law lives in my husband's grandfather's house. Since I left, my dad has had heart surgery and a car crash. If he had gone to the public hospital, he would be dead because that is how bad public health is in Honduras due to the government's corruption. He is in deep debt because he had to save his life going to a private hospital. Since losing his car in the crash, he has struggled even more to move to his day job and oversee his cafeteria (yes, my 65 year old father works two jobs and still can't afford his own place).

If you are an American reading this still thinking that people fleeing Honduras are lying about the situation, please let me tell you that my family and my husband's family are middle class. The families that risk the borders with coyotes with their children are low class, where the violence, gang infestation, and poverty is so extreme, a life as an illegal seems like a dream come true. 

Many of my friends wish they could leave Honduras too, but they don't have a relative outside willing or capable of helping them like my mom helps us. We didn't want to move out of the country so poorly prepared and with so little to our name, but I felt really strongly that I needed to have my family close to my mom if the worst came to happen and my cancer claims my life early. If I were to die, my mom would be the closest thing to myself both in nature and in love for my daughters.

Today I wish I could be in Honduras to march and protest with them. I know many of my friends don't agree with the protests and they are being deeply affected by the stoppage as well. I am sorry you are going through this hard time, but this is a time to stick together as one nation against the corruption and impunity of the government and say "Enough is enough." I feel a heavy burden to pray for Nicaragua and their civil war, but I also feel proud of their courage, determination, and unity and wish to see that in Honduras.

Is a civil war needed to stop the government? I sincerely hope not. But I also don't see things getting better for my country. It hurts to see our beautiful country, rich in beautiful people. places, and resources be subjugated by an oppressive and corrupt government. My mom has always warned me of publicly speaking against the government in the event that this could come back and bite me in the tush. I am willing to take that risk.

I am praying for everyone having a hard time right now with the situation in Honduras. I know many are losing money, clients, and jobs with the crisis. I pray God will provide and make a way. I pray He will keep you safe and out of harms way. I pray for you, my Honduras, and grieve for you tremendously. I pray for immigrants all around, fleeing harder situations than mine and having less than the $80 I had tonight which will be enough to keeps us going. I grieve because they are being greeted by other countries with xenophobia, ILLEGALITY, inability to become legal, no refuge, no help, no understanding. I pray you are never received by others the way you have received the needy of today. 


5/21/2018

Shabby Chic Bunny Birthday for Kaylee's 4th Birthday



Boy did I enjoyed this birthday like crazy. It was the most delicate, feminine theme I've ever done. It was so, so pretty. I didn't want it to be done. I wanted to make more and more. I always loved shabby chic, but at one point I felt it was no longer... well- chic! It felt antiquated. It felt heavy, but the biggest detractor was how pricey anything shabby chic is. This theme only began as a bunny theme to take advantage of all the bunny stuff from Easter. But the more I did any project, the more shabby chic stuff I stumbled across. It didn't come easy, but I had to scourge the internet to find free prints. Once I did, the Shabby chic just kept merging with the Bunny theme and this party was born.

People have the misconception that a party like this means I have a lot of money. That could not be further away from the truth. In fact, we barely make ends meet. What I do is I plan MONTHS ahead; recycle everything from my sister's used cardboard from her teaching job, cereal boxes, old decorations from previous birthdays (I even brought a bag of scraps from Honduras); scavenge for sales and good prices (easier done here in Panama); buy one thing every week. One week we buy cocoa powder, the next some tape and glue, the next $2 worth of cardboard, the next flour, the next chocolate chips... and so forth. A $2 difference in your grocery expense will not set you off budget. But my biggest saving comes from the fact that I do EVERYTHING. No purchasing cake, cupcakes, cake pops, piñata, decorations. My mom's church is kind enough to lend us the tables and chairs. Mom chipped in for the favors and Aunt Lilly chipped in for sodas. We do everything in our two small apartments that happen to be next to each other, so one apartment is for tables and food and the other for games and activities. The parking lot served for piñata breaking and even an egg hunt.

It's been some time since I painted anything, but I really enjoyed painting that bunny. I messed up one of the cheeks and had to do some patch work. Can you notice?

View of the dessert table.

My favorite thing is the carrot garland.

When I put the backdrop on the wall, it was the bunny and the vines. My mom and sis looked at it with a funny look. "Why did you do those ugly vines?" my sister asked. She understood once she saw me put the roses up. Those roses were SOOO hard to make. 


That carrot garland is so funny!
The Kaylee banner was so much prettier in person. In pictures it looks heavy. This is, however a Shabby chic characteristic. I should have simplified the look to a more cohesive color scheme, but I loved it.

I had so much fun making roses in different materials, especially in gum paste. We have tissue paper roses, cardboard roses, painted roses, printed roses, buttercream roses, gum paste roses, royal icing roses, and even egg carton roses. 

I saw some sculpting videos on Youtube to bring up my fondant game, and I have to say it paid off. How expressive are the eyes of my bunnies. I've had sculpting tools for a while now, but never knew how to use them. Youtube, people! There is nothing you can't learn from there. (Yes, that is a double negative. XD)

The buttercream work on the cake could have been better had I had a turn table and a spatula. (That is how not rich I am, guys! I could not afford a spatula). Tia Sara came to visit us here in Panama the week after Kaylee's birthday and purchased one for me.

Those are weinstock worthy roses. (I can dream right.)


I was finally able to pipe a buttercream rose I could be proud of. Still needs work, especially the buttercream consistency, but they were pretty. 


The family was worried I would be too exhausted from doing so much, so we agreed I wouldn't do the cookies. But the morning of the birthday I was looking at those adorable fenced boxes I had made specifically for the cookies plus the only cookie cutter I had ever purchased. I couldn't resist myself.  
They were worth it. It was my hub's favorite thing in the table. 



I saw these egg carton boxes online and could not resist making them. Mom's friend Dianne sent me some chocolate eggs from Miami and they were a perfect fit.


I had purchased some chocolate eggs for the egg carton, but the eggs were too small. I had made these bunny boxes and they were perfect for more eggs. None of the kids had any complaints.

Those Cadburry chocolate eggs looked like the real deal.

I hate, hate, hate, HATE making cake pops. I hate it! I don't think I will make cake pops again, even though they were my friend Carolina's favorite. 

They were perfect fit for the theme though. 

Loved my veggie patch cupcakes!


We reused the cake stand I made for Emmalee's birthday.

These were a free printable from teacherspayteachers. A nice teacher did these for her students and gave it away for us to use. I forgot to take a picture of the adorable cotton tail these juice boxes had.

How Shabby chic are these? Adorbs!

Can you believe I could not find these brown paper bags and had to make them myself? And when I had already done them, I stumbled across some in a store. I wanted to scream. I did not make them to be frugal!

We made sure to have a different design for the boys.

I only put two tables (second table not in sight) for eating this time. In Emmalee's birthday the third table made everything feel cramped and the third table was underutilized. 

Same topiary from Emmalee's birthday with a bow, roses, and butterflies added.

I used old dresses from the girls that were not nice enough to gift to make the flags and the strips on the hot air balloon. This is how this theme had started: hot air balloon bunny theme. I had done hot air balloon for Kaylee's baby shower, but I felt the theme needed a revisit. Because the theme ended evolving to something different, I might revisit this theme again as it was still not done well.

How awesome are those sock bunnies? And the details on the balloon. My sister jumped to claim one of them for herself. 

I had fun making those roses with mom. My sister kept most of the decoration to decorate her classroom next year for Easter. Emmalee painted that ceramic chick Dianne sent her.

This bird cage seen on Pinterest ended up looking more like a Greek temple. Still kept it for the girls' room though.

I also kept one of these for the girls' room. It is soooooo cute. Those are the egg carton roses. Isn't the texture wonderful?


This is the girl's new lamp for their room. It is sooooo pretty. I tell you, I loved this theme.

This one also hangs in the girls' room. The lantern was recycled from the one on Kaylee's birthday last year. 


These took soooo long to make. I had to purchase these smaller egg cartons for the container. We were having an egg painting workshop as the main activity in the party and I wanted the kids to have a place to take their eggs with them. I was so happy they loved them. I loved them.


Boy's design for these ones too.

A turkish deligh box my mom had lying around turned into a shabby chic box for cards. Because I make all these so many months in advance, those heart jars with roses were used for Valentine's Day decorations. Re-use, people!

A friend gave me these roses out of the blue on a simple box. It was perfect for the theme and didn't require much to make it Shabby chic.

Pin the tail on the rabbit ready.

Again recycling the picture time sign form Emmalee's birthday. Bunny ears and whiskers ready for lovely pics. 

I had forgotten to take a picture of these and took them at night to show you. Easiest, fastest, and cheapest decoration!

How cute is that jumping bunny?!!

That was not the dress she was suppose to wear for her party, but she wanted to show off her bunny. The dress is too big for her, but if she is happy I am happy.

Lovely friends! How I love these kids!

All bunnied up!


Mom used resurrection eggs (you can read about them here) to tell the real story of Easter and give the gospel to the kids and the parents. The kids were so into the story. I love it.

I would have one kid come up and open the egg. He or she would then pass it around to the other kids and tell me what was inside, and I would tell them the part of the story that corresponded to the item inside.


She had waited long to get her hands on those eggs!



Kaylee did not win the tossing game.

Everyone bunnied up.

It was a parent-kid collab to win pin the tail on the rabbit.

The hubs and I harvested 60 egg shells for this activity. It was hard work and so annoying to do. I was worried all that work was for nothing and the kids would paint one or two and be bored. Nope. They painted all 60 of them and wanted more. They were so excited they had enough eggs to color and color. 



Emmalee was more into dyeing the eggs while Kaylee was more into putting stickers to them.

Easiest piñata design ever!


I love my family.




Kaylee Birthday Interview, Age 4

How old are you? She shows me four fingers.
What is your favorite TV show? Justin Time.
What is your favorite movie? My Little Pony
What is your favorite thing to do at school? Play.
What is your favorite color? Pink,
What is your favorite toy? Pinkie Pie
What do you want to be when you grow up? Bigger.
What is your favorite book? A Book for Puchku.
Who is your best friend? Sarah and Emmalee and Carlitos.
What is your favorite animal? Bunny
What is your favorite place? The pool and park.
What is your favorite thing to do with mom? Go to the park.
What is your favorite thing to do with dad? Crayons
What is your favorite thing to do with Emmalee? Go to the pool.  

Dear Kaylee,
My beautiful baby, my last baby, how much you fill my heart. I remembered begging God to at least let me get to your 4th birthday so you could MAYBE remember me. Baby, you turned 4 and mommy's last scan was clean! You and your sister are my reason to fight. Baby girl, it was such a tough fight, but you made it easy. You and your sister are the most understanding and supportive young ladies ever. I have to be honest, baby girl, I was so worried no one would show up to your birthday. You and your sister woke up singing birthday party song that you made up. Your excitement was tangible, and then it was time for your party to start and no one had shown up! Panamanian time, baby, because all your friends showed up. You have become more social. It was not as natural to you as it was for your sister, but you are so open now. I continued to be amazed my your evolution. You are selective in who you shower with attention, but whoever you chose is the luckiest person ever. You are loyal. You usually pick people who are like you: not so naturally social, but you are able to bring down their walls and make them fall for you. You also go for people who are usually alone; and, while they think they prefer to be alone, they so enjoy your company. You are always naturally maternal. When you play with friends who are younger than you, you make sure to help them up, wait for them, and hold their hand. Mommy told you to pick your birthday gift and you had no doubt what you wanted: a baby toy. You picked one with a stroller and you were the happiest little girl ever. I am sorry mommy and daddy couldn't get you the robot puppy toy you wanted. Those FurReal toys you want are pricey. Daddy asked you to choose between getting the toy puppy or getting another toy for yourself and one for your sister. You chose to get something for both of you. Daddy and I were so proud of you. She shares with you too. She has received 3 visits from the tooth fairy, and on the three occasions she bought something for her and you. I love to see that, my baby. You got new pajamas and you are willing to take turns and let your sister use your new pjs. I love your spontaneous singing. You make up more songs than mommy can recall. You sing unabashedly and at the top of your lungs. You cause us immense joy.  You have grown vastly on your anger management. Yes, my baby, you had serious anger issues. Mommy's improved health has meant she has been able to be more consistent and constant in your training. It has paid off. It has not been easy. The good thing is that you are as easily calmed as you are easily angered. You still have ways to go, my girl, but I won't give up on you. Mommy is too grateful she gets to be here and won't let that chance go to waste. You and your sister have started Bible verse memorization. Your sister is slaying it, but you are internalizing it even if you can't remember the entire verse. I love watching your love for church start growing. You finally stay with your sister in Sunday school and you are loving it. Everyone in church speak wonders of you two. You are so well behaved when you accompany mom and dad to band practice, fellowship, anywhere. You and Emmalee are my pride and joy. Mommy has been struggling with your schooling. I still can't tell if you are a lefty or a righty. You keep changing hands on me. You were a little behind in your pincer grab and strength, so mommy has been pushing you hard. I am sorry if I am a little hard on you. Mommy is strict, baby. I am so sorry. I learn from you to be soft and maternal, but I am learning. It is not natural for mom as it is to you. But that is not the last thing I will learn from you. Your kindness, sweetness, originality, creativity, and your love will continue to move and inspire me and others hopefully to see a wonderful Maker and Creator Who loves you more than anyone on this life.
I love you, my baby.
Mom