To the Ends of the Earth…

Isa and Aunt Shelly

Isabella and her Aunt Shelly during the 2014 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

**Thank you to Isabella’s Aunt Shelly for being our special guest blogger this week! We hope you enjoy her post below.

Over the weekend we kept the trio on Saturday night so Greg and Kristina could enjoy a night out to themselves. I swear that the cousins can never get enough of each other and would really prefer to just move in together.

Within about 2 hours of us getting back to our house and having dinner Isa’s blood sugar was high….220 to be exact. She ate dinner and it was just hitting her. I texted Greg to ask him a question about her insulin on board (IOB) and to verify that I should not adjust her insulin at this time and to give her insulin time to work. He verified that was the right thing to do. See?  I’m getting pretty good at handling this stuff by now.

The rest of the night was uneventful. The kids ran around for a little bit until we settled them down for a movie and put them to bed. They were all pretty tired and went right to sleep. We’re pretty good at that as well….7 kids in the house and all go right to sleep…no problem.

Within 30 minutes of bedtime Isa’s continuous glucose monitor (CGM) started beeping telling me she was low. I checked her and she was definitely low….56 to be exact. That’s pretty low if you’re wondering. I gave her some juice and her number came up to 80 within about an hour.

Unfortunately she hovered around that 80 all night which meant a constant beeping CGM and more juice throughout the night. Trying to get a 4-year-old to drink juice in the middle of the night when she really doesn’t want it isn’t an easy task for sure. By 4am I put my husband on that duty and he finally got her to drink the rest of what was left of what we were trying to give her.

What I remember distinctly from that night is that I sat in my bed and do what I do best: I prayed. I prayed for Greg and Kristina first. I prayed for their guidance and for their support through this as I know this cannot be easy day in and day out on a parent. Mostly, I know it cannot be easy watching their little girl knowing she’s not going to wake up better the next day. Then I prayed for Isa…like I do so often. I prayed for her strength. I prayed for there to be a cure one day. I prayed for the doctors taking care of her. I prayed that as she gets older she is able to take care of this on her own and doesn’t rebel. I prayed that she be ok in the morning…..this was my biggest prayer in that moment, and I’m sure one that Greg and Kristina worry every night when they go to bed.

The next day Greg told me how to temporarily turn off Isa’s basal insulin on her pump so she stops getting it…which is probably what needed to occur the night we had her so her numbers could come back up. That’s the thing with this disease: there is no simple answer. A lot of it is trial and error and seeing what works best for you or what works best in the moment. Type 1 Diabetes is manageable, but the scary part is that you just never know. One wrong move and the person dealing with this disease could be in a coma or not wake up.

I am always in awe of Greg and Kristina’s willingness to let us keep their little girl without a second thought. I never, not one time, have felt like they worry about Isa when she’s with us. I second guess myself sometimes about what I could have done differently and I would go to the ends of the Earth for my niece. I love her like I love my own children. Kristina and Greg are educating so many through their guidance, their love and their patience with this disease. They are giving Isa the tools to one day, when she’s older, be able to go out on her own and conquer the world. Hopefully when that happens they will not worry about her quite as much because she’s been trained so well. I am in awe, as always.

~Shelly

Shaping Friendships

Just before Thanksgiving the stars aligned and just like eHarmony for the T1D world (dHarmony?) we met a sassy blogger online named Libby. A twenty-something who also happens to be pancreatically-challenged, Libby asked us if she could interview us for her blog and we were pumped (pun totally intended).

I told Isabella that a new friend with T1D wanted to interview her…which set off a string of questions about who this mystery girl was, what kind of ice cream she likes and whether or not she’d seen Frozen. She was excited and I was, too.

After our interview with Libby (which was chocked full of so much awesome that I’ll let you read it yourself) we decided we wanted to send her a thank you card and one of our fab Inspired by Isabella t-shirts. Of course, being 4 years old and looking for any excuse to get marker on my nice, Amish-made table channel her inner Warhol, Isabella said SHE wanted to make the card. The “card” turned into half a dozen drawings and notes, dictated letter by letter by me, to our new friend Libby.

“Does ‘Libby’ begin with an ‘L’, mom?”

“Are there one or two ‘o’s in ‘love’?”

“How do you spell ‘best friend’?”

And that right there made my eyes start to leak.

Isabella brought me her stack of notes and drawings and as I thumbed through them I stopped at one. It was a drawing she had made of her and her new BFF, surrounded by flowers and a rainbow, their names scribbled to indicate who was who.

libby

It was hard not to notice the numerous shapes Isabella had drawn up and down the two figures, seemingly random.

“I love this drawing, Isa. Can you tell me what these shapes are on you two?”

“Those are our sites…for our pumps and cgms.”

And I could feel my heart sink.

But then I noticed something else. Smiles. Both the stick figure image of Isabella on the paper and the pigtailed toddler standing in front of me had smiles spread across their faces.

And I knew. I knew that Isabella had found someone else she could draw who also had shapes running up and down them like a highway of reminders of this disease. She was smiling because she had found someone to look up to and to show her that she shouldn’t be ashamed of these shapes. And while her shapes will never define her, they are a part of her story.

Thank you, Libby, for helping Isabella embrace her shapes…and for sharing her journey.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Here we go again…

I have always loved Halloween. I love dressing up and I love the excitement leading up to it. It’s probably no secret to those that know me well that I start planning costumes months in advance…and we don’t disappoint!For most kids, though, Halloween is about much more than choosing costumes.

It’s about the candy. C-A-N-D-Y.

Most people would expect that, as parents of a kid with type 1 diabetes, Halloween would be the holiday we dread the most.

And they would be right…but not for the reasons you would assume.

THIS is why I dread Halloween:

Halloween Diabetes
And this:
halloween diabetes 2
A year ago before Halloween I wrote a post in response to someone else’s blog entitled 10 Halloween Candy Alternatives That Won’t Give Your Kids Diabeetus. I realized then that there will always be people who choose to perpetuate stereotypes about this disease, simply because they don’t KNOW what it is. I also realized that there are people who back up jokes like these with the claim of “I was actually referring to TYPE 2 diabetes!”…as if that makes it ok. How about making a joke about cancer and saying “Oh! I didn’t mean breast cancer, I meant prostate cancer, silly!” Nope. Not ok. Another person’s illness or disease is not a joke…no matter what it’s called.This year I’ve decided that instead of being mad about these things, I’m going to channel my inner spirit fingers and let them help recharge my motivation (“Gimme a C-U-R-E!”). I know that our efforts to raise awareness and educate people about type 1 diabetes are helping someone…or many someones. I just know it.

I also know (ok, I just looked it up) that the word “ignorance” comes from the Latin ignorantia meaning “want of knowledge”. So you know what? We’re going to help the folks who continue to perpetuate the stereotypes about “diabeetus” (which, by the way, was only funny when it was said by Wilford Brimley) and keep supplying them with LOTS of knowledge.

You want it? You got it.
bees

Happy Halloween!

Bring it On…and Let’s Change the World~
Kristina

 

Defining a ‘Cure’

Isabella and Brynlee, T1D BFFs

Isabella and Brynlee – T1D BFFs

 

According to Webster’s, there are three definitions of the word “cure”:

1) Something (such as a drug or medical treatment) that stops a disease and makes someone healthy again

2) Something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation

3) The act of making someone healthy again after an illness

The definition that isn’t provided by Webster’s is the one you tell your four-year-old who is battling said disease/bad situation/illness.

But today I tried to define it.

Isabella has been overwhelmed with all of the hoopla over the past two months as we held fundraisers, ordered t-shirts with her likeness, and held special events in her honor. And it was great. No…it was amazing. To the tune of almost $15k in funds raised amazing.

For a cure.

A cure she didn’t know could exist.

Until today.

While brushing her hair this morning Isabella asked me the question I had been subconsciously dreading for the past two years: “What’s does ‘cure’ mean, mom?”

Bravery x 2

Bravery x 2 – Isabella and Addison

Isabella can read a facial expression like no other toddler I’ve met. I was grateful that she’d asked for double side ponies this morning instead of her usual side-swept style. I was behind her and she couldn’t see my face. She couldn’t see the wrinkle appear between my eyebrows, as is common when I’m caught off guard with a question I don’t know how to answer.

But she could tell by the delay in my response.

“Is a ‘cure’ for me, mom?”

I put the brush down and I moved in front of her so she could see me…so she could know that what I was going to say was the truth.

“Yes, it’s for you. A ‘cure’ would mean you wouldn’t have diabetes anymore.”

After a second or two she looked at me with the face of someone who’s just come to an amazing realization about something.

“And Addison and Brynlee? And Maeve and Lucas? Oh, and Miss Knox? And…”

As I listened to Isabella continue to name off, one-by-one, all of these young people living with type 1 whom she’s met since she began this journey just over two years ago, I realized that Webster’s got it wrong with their second definition of ‘cure’:

2) Something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation

 

Yes, a cure would end our journey with type 1 diabetes. And, yes, that is what we hope and pray for every day.

Isabella and Miss Knox!

Isabella and Miss Knox!

Where Webster’s gets it wrong is this: our lives have been made BETTER because of type 1 diabetes. Yes, BETTER. All of those people Isabella rattled off? They have made our lives BETTER. All of the challenges we’ve had making sure Isabella is safe at home and school each day has made us BETTER parents.

Does this mean we don’t need a cure for this disease? Of course not. What it does mean is that I wouldn’t change the path we have been on because, as a result, we have had the chance to make a difference. To educate people about this disease and the signs and symptoms to look out for as the numbers of kids diagnosed grows each year. To spread awareness about differences and help people understand that kids with challenges are regular kids.

As I slid the last Hello Kitty rubber band into Isabella’s hair I turned to look her in the eyes.

“Yes, Isa…the ‘cure’ will be for all of you. And the ‘cure’ will be BECAUSE of all of you.”

And it will.

Cheers to Changing the World~

Kristina

 

Grandma Gets It: Diabetes and Disney

*Our family had the opportunity to attend this year’s Children With Diabetes ‘Friends for Life’ Conference held each summer in Orlando.  This was our second year attending the conference and we decided to invite one of Isabella’s grandmothers, Darlene, to join us. While we will be sharing our own thoughts on the conference (look for 2 additional posts from us with our mom & dad reflections), we also asked “Grandma Dar Dar” to write a guest blog about her experience.  We hope it will encourage other grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family to consider learning more about caring for a child with type 1 diabetes…the more people a family has on their diabetes care team, the better!

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A great night at the Friends for Life banquet!

I spent an incredible week with my son Greg, daughter-in-law Kristina and triplet grandchildren, Isabella, Mia and Max in Orlando for the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference. When they invited me to go with them, I had no idea what all was involved.

The conference didn’t start until Wednesday so we spent the first 2 1/2 days at the Disney parks and it was such fun. I think we stood in line to see every Disney princess possible…as well as Mickey and Minnie. The kids were so excited.

We went on rides, too, and while waiting in line for one ride, Isabella pointed to a little girl in front of us and said that she had a green bracelet on. Her dad asked her what it meant and she said that the girl had diabetes. We hadn’t signed in for the conference yet but, when you sign in, you get a green paper bracelet if you have T1D and an orange bracelet for those who do not have T1D. Isa remembered this from the previous year and it amazed me that she remembered this. Then Isa showed the little girl her OmniPod insulin pod.

When you go somewhere with children you have to take extra clothes, snacks, diapers or Pull-Ups, if needed. When your child has T1D you also need to bring glucose tablets, juice boxes, insulin, a glucometer and glucagon (an injection in case the blood sugar drops too low). Greg and Kristina checked Isabella’s glucose level frequently throughout the day. While we were waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the hotel, the kids were running around and all of a sudden, Isa was just standing there and said she was tired. Greg immediately checked her glucose level and it was in the low 50s so they gave her a juice box to bring it back up. This made me realize that she needs to be checked frequently…and it is a big responsibility.

At the conference I attended a number of sessions for grandparents and learned a lot. Even though I am a retired nurse, I didn’t know a lot about T1D and how to handle the highs and lows since so much has changed with the use of pumps and continuous glucose monitors(CGM). You really need to be on top of things and recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar.

I have also been very concerned about the complications of diabetes and worried for my beautiful granddaughter but ,after attending one session, I was relieved to learn that long-term complications usually only occur if the blood sugar has been high(250-300 or more) for an extended period of time. In fact, one presenter has had diabetes for 55 years and is doing fine.

An interesting statistic is that 15,000 children per year are diagnosed with T1D. A doctor at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) in Miami, Dr. Chris Fraker, has found a correlation between certain viruses and T1D and hopes that one day if they can find a way to stop the viruses from destroying the islet cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, then diabetes will be cured.

Many who attended the conference have been coming for years and have developed friendships. It was so great to see the older kids interact with Isa and when Isa saw someone with a green bracelet, she wanted to meet them and show them her insulin pump or the Dexcom CGM she just stared using. 

We heard from athletes with T 1D who have done amazing things like competed in NASCAR and Indy car races (Ryan Reed and Charlie Kimball), doing triathlons (Jay Hewitt), and one young man who is running four marathons per week for nine months across Canada (Sebastian Sasseville) and they are an inspiration to the young people with T1D and show them that they can do anything they set their sights on.

It was a wonderful week and one that I will always remember. 

-Darlene

Suiting Up

isasmile

“Celebrities with Type 1”

“Type 1 Famous People”

“Professional Athletes with Diabetes”

After Isabella’s diagnosis I searched. I searched…and I hoped.  I searched and I found what I had been so sure existed.  And I was relieved. Relieved to know that our daughter had “them” on her side.  She would have “them” to provide the name we needed to trigger some recognition…to trigger some action. I knew that as long as we could count on these people, there was no way Isabella would be living with Type 1 Diabetes ten years from now.

It’s their responsibility, after all…isn’t it?

This morning R&B star Usher announced on the TODAY Show that one of his young sons was diagnosed with T1D this past year .

“This year has been really one of my hardest years – I lost my grandmother, my son was diagnosed as being a type one diabetic. It has definitely been a difficult one for me, man,” he said. 

And with that admission, we scored big. Suit up, Mr. Raymond, and take your place alongside Ray Allen, Nick Jonas, Bret Michaels, Jay Cutler and the handful of others whose families have been turned upside down by a T1D diagnosis. Suit up and get ready for one of the most important gigs of your life.  Suit up and be prepared to be an advocate for…

Your son.

Yes, it’s a bonus for us to have someone like you on our team. Yes, the exposure your son’s diagnosis will give to this disease affecting so many of our families will help us to raise awareness and educate others. Yes, we hope your celebrity status will help us raise funds to aid in our search for a cure.

But that’s not your job right now.

Right now you’re a dad to a son who needs you…more than he’s ever needed you before. And that, my fellow substitute pancreas, is your job.

And when you’re ready, your team is here waiting for you…and we’re all warmed up.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

 

 

 

Captured by Kelly Photography – Mini Sessions to Benefit JDRF!

Very excited to announce that the super-talented Captured by Kelly Photography will be hosting special mini sessions for TWO days, April 5th & 6th, and donating a portion of each session to JDRF in Isabella’s name! We have had Kelly take our family photos multiple times and they are always amazing.

If you are in NE Ohio & would like pics for Easter, or just new family photos, this is a wonderful opportunity AND you’ll be supporting a great cause. Please see the flyer below for more info about how to schedule your time slot. Thank you for supporting our journey to a cure for type 1 diabetes!Captured by Kelly

What I Signed Up For

Trio

“I’m so sorry…I know you were just here.”

“It’s fine. It’s what I signed up for.”

I jump in my car, still warm from my return trip picking up a sick son just 30 minutes earlier, and head to the preschool to tend to an insulin pump that is screaming its head off…the 6th insulin pod in a box of 10 to bite the dust before the 3-day window closed.

But, this is what I signed up for.

Last month I made a quick stop at Macy’s and, as has become customary since our trio arrived, I spent the entire time flipping through the clearance rack in the kid’s department.

I stepped up to the checkout counter, my arms filled with Dora jammies and Hello Kitty flair, proud of my deal-seeking skills.

 

“Wow! Do the girls you are buying for know that they’re getting some cute new things?”

“Actually, these are for my daughters.”

“Oh, you have twin girls?”

“Well, I have triplets…two girls and a boy.”

“Holy cow! What did you do when you found out you were having TRIPLETS?!? I would have hung myself.”

And…scene.

The sad truth is that this isn’t the first time someone has said something like this to me. In fact most people I meet who learn that we not only have triplets, but that one of them also has type 1 diabetes, express their sympathy to me in varying forms.

But, this is what I signed up for.

When I was young I used to say that I didn’t know if I wanted to have children…I knew I had a selfish side. I wanted to be successful professionally. I wanted to travel. I wanted to have the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

And then things changed. I wanted to be a mom.

But it wasn’t that easy. Not easy at all. Like, 5 years not easy.

It’s not until you realize that there’s a possibility… a real possibility…that you can’t have kids that you realize whether or not you are meant to be a parent. I realized I had been wrong.

I wanted someone to call me “Mommy”. I wanted someone to ask me to tuck them in at night and assure them that there were no monsters in the closet. I wanted someone to ask me why the moon goes to sleep during the day and why Donald Duck doesn’t wear pants.

That is what I signed up for.

When people ask me “How do you do it?” the answer is actually pretty simple…how could I not? I don’t know any different.

When you become a parent you are making a commitment to one thing: to love your children…no matter what. We don’t get to choose what challenges come with parenthood. We don’t get to decide what we can handle and what we can’t…that’s done for us. What we do get to play a role in is HOW we parent and HOW we show our children that we love them.  Did I sign up for diabetes? Of course not.  But I did sign up for being a mom…diabetes or not.

I am constantly amazed by the number of friends we have whose children are facing challenges including type 1 diabetes, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Apraxia, severe food allergies, and many more. Did any of us know or envision our children’s lives being consumed by these challenges? No way. Did any of us know we would soon become advocates, fundraisers, and educators about these diseases/disorders? Not a clue.

But, we have…because that’s what we signed up for.

Cheers to Changing the World~

Kristina

 

Why We All Need A Patty

Isa and Addison

Most people would look at this photo and see two little girls, happy and smiling…without a care in the world. What you’re really looking at are two AMAZING 3-year-olds fighting the challenges thrown at them by type 1 diabetes.

We had an awesome day with little Addison and her family today where we enjoyed pizza,  pump site changes (one planned and one not!), high (400) & low (48) blood sugars, and the beginning of an adorable friendship between two toddlers who’ve found a friend that “has didabeeeteees too!”

Watching Addison ask Isa if she wanted stickers to decorate her new insulin pod and holding her hand during her site change…and seeing Addison timidly show Isa her continuous glucose monitor adorning her little belly…it made me realize just how much it matters to have someone by your side who’s fighting the same battle as you. And I’m not just talking about the girls.

When Isabella was diagnosed we were in the hospital for less than 24 hours when we had a knock on our hospital room door.  In walked a woman that, though I didn’t realize it at the time, would set the scene for how I would be as a mother of a child with T1D.

Over the next hour this woman, Patty, told us about her life as a mom and wife to children AND a husband with Type 1.  She gave us a book of information about diabetes care she had photocopied from when one of her children was first diagnosed. She told us about diabetes camps and the difference they had made in her children’s lives.  She smiled. She laughed.  And her hair and makeup looked great.

She was normal.  

I wanted to be like Patty.

Before Christmas this past year a classmate of Isa’s was diagnosed with Type 1.  Up until that moment Isa had been the only child in her school with diabetes.  I didn’t know the family of this newly diagnosed child and had heard they would be moving and leaving the school over the holidays.  The day before the holiday break I went to the school to pick up the kids and, almost as if it was meant to be, the little boy’s father was there picking him up.  I am a firm believer in fate, and this was it.  It was my turn to be Patty.

I passed our contact info on to the dad and encouraged him to reach out to Greg or I if he or his wife needed anything. I told him about our experience with the OmniPod pump and about the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference we attended in Orlando. I told him we were just a year post diagnosis so we were still learning, too, but that we could certainly provide advice based on our short experience. I was sure I’d return home that day to an email from this family with a list of questions I could answer. 

I was wrong. I was obviously no Patty.

Today while chatting with Addison’s mommy and daddy I was reminded of how important it is for parents of T1D kids to connect. To share stories of what’s worked and what hasn’t.  To commiserate about those unexplained lows and to curse the technology that, in reality, is helping us keep our children alive. To beam with pride when our kids exhibit bravery we could never muster.

We all need a Patty to remind us that our lives as our kid’s substitute pancreas won’t be easy, but to keep in mind that our kids will take their cues from us. It’s up to us to assure them that their diabetes, though a part of who they are, doesn’t define them. It’s up to us to let them know that there is an Addison somewhere out there to hold their hand.

So, for those of you who are newly diagnosed, or those who have just gotten the courage to seek out some support, we are here. I may not be a Patty but I can assure you that my hair and makeup look great, too.

Cheers to Changing the World,
Kristina

 

Reflections From A Substitute, Substitute Pancreas (AKA: Aunt Shelly)

As we sat in the airport club waiting to board our flight to Las Vegas…our first trip away from our children and since Isabella’s diagnosis…I sent a quick text to Isa’s Aunt Shelly: “Would you be interested in writing a guest blog about your experience managing Isa’s diabetes this weekend?” Her response: “That would be awesome.”  So, here you have it:)
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Isabella and her Aunt Shelly

Isabella and her Aunt Shelly

Last summer my brother asked me if I would watch the trio so he and Kristina could have a long weekend away.  “Absolutely,” was my response.  In December, Greg decided to surprise Kristina for Christmas and take her on a 4 day trip to Las Vegas right after New Year’s and asked if I was sure we were ok with watching the kids.  Again – “absolutely,” I said. I realized that I would be charged with not only adding three 3 year olds to our family of 4 kids, but I would be managing Isa’s T1D. The fact that I was entrusted to take care of Isa was an honor that I didn’t take lightly. I knew I was up for the challenge and off they went…..

Greg and Kristina dropped the kids off on a Wednesday night and thus started Isa’s monitoring.  I was given some base numbers to decide if I should check her in the middle of the night or not, but had already decided that I would feel better just getting up and checking her to be sure all was ok. This meant that I would be checking her around 11:00pm before I went to bed, and then setting my alarm to check her at 3:00am.

Over the next few days I realized that having T1D is very much like having a newborn again. Her glucose must be checked every 2-3 hours and she eats something after each check while inputting her carb counts into her OmniPod insulin pump.  I’ve never had to worry about what food or snacks to give my own children. I just feed them whatever we are having and if they want a few cookies after dinner then so be it.  With Isa, that is so different. I wanted to ensure that each meal and snack had what she needed to keep her levels in check. Overall, I think it went pretty well. She had a day of some higher numbers that really couldn’t be explained unless it was from the one small cookie that she had the day before. She also had some lower numbers in the middle of the night that I offset with some glucose gel to ensure she didn’t drop too low before she awoke. I now know that sometimes, no matter how accurate your carb inputs are or how much you do right, you just can’t explain some of the high and low numbers.

Throughout the 4 days everyone in the house was checking Isa’s glucose for her and at one point she said “Aunt Shelly, none of my cousins are checking me today.” She loves her cousins and definitely feeds off of the attention they give her.

On Saturday morning I was cleaning up from breakfast and all the kids were in the basement playing. I went down to see what they were doing and they were all lined up in front of Isa. I was told that she was “checking” everyone’s levels. It was so cute that they were all pretending to have their fingers pricked, but also sad when I thought about the reality of this for Isa.

Isa had to have an insulin pod change while she was with us as they expire after 3 days. We started the process and she was very positive. She told me it would hurt when the needle went in. I asked her to squeeze my hand to help her. She didn’t even flinch and had not one tear.  That was a proud moment for me.

The day came for Mom and Dad to pick up the kids and I must say I was a bit sad.  As busy as we were taking care of all of them and especially taking care of Isa, I felt a bit empty at their leaving.  I feel honored that I would be trusted to take care of Isa’s life because that’s basically what I was in charge of. Isa’s levels must be monitored constantly and the insulin she receives keeps her alive. I have a whole new respect for this little girl. While she has T1D, the reality is that she’s just a little girl that doesn’t really have a clue of the enormity of the card she has been given in life. I am confident that her independent attitude will take her wherever she wants to be. She lights up the room with her laughter and smile. I will be right there with her along this journey and am thrilled that I get to be her aunt.