The missing ingredient to parenting challenges…

If you have followed my page then you would know that when it comes to parenting challenges, I highly advocate for self-soothing, emotional intelligence, connection, and collaborative problem solving (check out How To Get Calm and Collaborative & Proactive Solutions for more information). As I have mastered these skills, which have made a tremendous difference in my relationship with my kids, and upon further reflection, I noticed that there was still something else integral to their well-being. It was something I was lacking in various situations as I was able to be calm and empathetic yet they were still extra challenging or losing it.

Fortunately, I discovered what it was: self-confidence.

If I have any shred of doubt or ambivalence in my self or my decision, my kids will attack incessantly as they are confident with what they want and can sense my weakness. Or they absolutely crumble with the overwhelmingness of making a decision they do not feel ready to make and terrified of doing something that could risk failure or disappoint me.

When I have alignment of my intentions, thoughts, feelings, and actions, then there is clarity and certainty in my responses. When I trust myself and my decisions, then my kids just get it. You can feel their calm and acceptance even if they are not happy with the decision. They trust me and feel secure. It feels like magic. Now, if only I could feel confident all the time, which fortunately is where self-compassion comes into to help 🙂

Take Wonderful Care,

Debra

Getting on the same page…

My partner and I recently celebrated 20 years of dating and as happily married we are now, I assure you it has taken great effort and positive intentions to heal past wounds, un-learn negative conditioning, rewrite narratives and resolve many, many conflicts. We have traversed serious medical issues, grieved babies, lost dreams, financial woes, and international moves.

I liken the development of our relationship to being from different sections in a library and we met in the music section. It felt exhilarating to meet someone who liked the same music as me along with some other interests. Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone anymore, like someone got me. We connected, we danced, we found our groove, then life happened, reality set in, stressors, triggers, negative events, and new experiences. Gradually, I realized that my partner likes other music that I can’t stand, and actually enjoys more of my least favorite sections in the library, on a whole other level from me. We began to disagree more, coming from totally different perspectives, not understanding each other, we gradually wandered off more and more to our desired sections of the library. I began to wonder who this person was, how did we ever get along, and what the heck am I doing here in this section alone, resentful and confused? Did I even have the energy or the will to enter my partner’s section? And why can’t he come to my section more?…

You can read my blog How couples can thrive through parenting…to learn what motivated me to go to my partner’s section more and it wasn’t till about the 14th year of being together that I felt we got in the same book. Now into our 21st year, we actually get on the same page and even same line on a regular basis, on many subjects. We still need and enjoy our favorite sections yet we now value and visit each other’s sections often as well created new sections together. We sing and dance as a family.

All my research in relationships, neuroscience, trauma, and attachment gave me faith that it was worth the discomfort and seemingly endless, intense discourse. Seeing how our children relate and reflect on our relationship and family is music to my ears and daily living proof. One comment that sticks out that my son made was, “I use to think you and Dad argued a lot, then I started to notice other families and wow, do others not get along. You two really try to understand each other and work it out.” He was moved to share this with me as his dad and I were in the middle of one our discourses, each taking space to calm down and he wanted to provide encouragement. What he noticed is my legacy that I have worked passionately to give my children and everyone I work with: Anything is possible when we feel safe and understood. Let go, fear less, love more and trust the process. Deep breaths, baby steps ❤ Debra

Click here to discover Five Steps to a Positive Reframe

You can find more information about my experience here on my Vita.

I’ve added a video counseling service called Wecounsel. Now we can meet wherever it’s most convenient for you. All you need is a computer and broadband internet access. It’s secure and accepted by major health insurance companies.

Please visit Debra Wallace MS LMFT at Wecounsel to learn more. I can only see Illinois residents via Wecounsel.

International clients can find me at https://www.ring.md/doctor_profiles/debra-wallace

If you have any questions please contact me:

Debra@positivereframe.org

847.603.4677   USA

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Disclaimer

Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

 

Promoting Resiliency and Connection Tips

We can promote resiliency & connection by ‘tuning in’ to our senses, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships. Negativity, symptoms, and conflict often come from a state of stress and/or unmet needs. 

Here are keys to empowering you to make conscious choices to get your vital needs met. Understanding and following these will harmonize your connection to your mind, body, and soul as well as your relationships.

Bright side..Resilience

 

Inconsistent or inadequate amounts/quality of the following vital needs trigger dysregulation (dependent on context and individual temperament or special needs):

  1. Nutrition/Hydration
  2. Temperature
  3. Sleep
  4. Level of stimulation (from all senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, & smell)
  5. Connection and Emotional needs of feeling Respected, Important, Secure, Accepted, Included
  6. Unprocessed stress/trauma (negative events, thoughts, emotions, chemicals)

“…kids don’t get dysregulated because we allow their emotions. They get dysregulated when they need to express an emotion but can’t. So, instead, they act (it) out.” ~Dr Laura Markham

stress-model

Be detectives as a family… spy around for what might be triggering you and your family to act out? 
When tension or negative behaviors are escalating, HALT(S) and reflect: 

Are we Hungry?

Angry/Anxious?

Lonely? Is it too Loud? Are we running Late?

Are we Tired or too hot or cold (Temperature)? 

Sick (coming down with a health expression)? Stressed out?

Get regulated together by doing the following daily:

  1. Take deep breaths
  2. Eat nutritious food & Drink water
  3. Rest/Sleep/Meditate
  4. Reduce or change stimulation (i.e. adjust temp, turn off electronics, lower noise level, get fresh air and sunlight)
  5. Increase production of happy, calming hormones by doing fun, interactive activities  such as smiling, silly faces, singing, music, hugging, playing games, tickling, dancing, exercising, attend social events, spending special one-on-one with each other
  6. Process stress & release negativity through play, drawing, exercising, writing, understanding, reflective listening, asking open-ended questions, identifying/labeling possible feelings, empathy…the list is endless and unique to individuals interests and/or preferences.

When applying these keys, please be compassionate with yourself and family. Change can be really hard, especially when our negative reactions are often unconscious. It is easy to get stuck in our comfort zones even if they are filled with unhealthy habits because they are familiar and “safe.” Anything new, even if healthy, will often be perceived at first as “threatening” so expect resistance and regression. It takes on average 21 times to practice a new skill in order to make it a secure, conscious connection in your mind/body/soul and relationships. It takes, even more times if there is any related trauma connected to the negative reactions. Deep breaths, baby steps. You can do it.

If you’d like support, international clients can find me at RingMD

Clients living in Illinois can find me at Wecounsel

Key Terms:

Resilience: the ability to cope effectively in the face of stress, adversity, and potentially traumatic experiences

Regulation: Emotional, physical, psychological state of being calm, thoughtful, responsive, connected even in times of stress; the ability to experience a feeling, know that the feeling signals a need and then know how to get that need met

Stress: any emotional, mental, physical, or chemical stimulus that is prolonged, unpredictable, and/or overwhelming

Trauma: personal experience of an event that involves actual or perceived death or serious injury and/or any stressor that continues to go on unexpressed, unprocessed, and/or misunderstood

Dysregulation: being in a state of STRESS beyond your threshold of tolerance which alters the chemistry and functioning of your mind/body/heart connections; Creates unconscious emotions of fear; Activates stress hormones and flight/flight/freeze mode of reactions; and Decreases ability to access higher brain functions (i.e. problem solving, planning, language). The longer one stays in a state of dysregulation, we increase the likelihood of causing harm, impairment, escalation of negative behaviors and production of dysfunctional survival behaviors.

View these links for more info on children’s resilience and stress:

http://www.beststart.org/resources/hlthy_chld_dev/pdf/BSRC_Resilience_English_fnl.pdf

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/resilience/

http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resourcetag/toxic-stress/

https://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/

http://lindagraham-mft.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/The-Neuroscience-of-Resiliency-Interview.pdf

http://www.child-encyclopedia.com/resilience/according-experts/resilience-development-importance-early-childhood

http://brainwave.org.nz/wp-content/uploads//Stress-Article-2010.pdf

https://postinstitute.com/?s=stress+model

https://www.heartmath.org/

This is also a synopsis of some highlights I have learned from these amazing people:

Barbara Wetzel http://www.theergonomiccouple.com/

Juli Alvarado http://alvaradoconsultinggroup.com/

Bruce Perry http://childtrauma.org/

Dan Siegel http://www.drdansiegel.com/

Heather Forbes http://www.beyondconsequences.com/

Bryan Post https://postinstitute.com/

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

New filters to live by…

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be.

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy and curiosity.

 

As human beings, we are constantly absorbing stimulation from all our senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, sounds, and intuition). In order to function efficiently, our brains filter the stimuli to prioritize and respond. Our initial filter is to determine if the stimulus is a threat. If we perceive a threat, then our stress response system kicks in and we react to protect ourselves. There are more steps that occur instantaneously in this complex process. Yet ultimately, the presence of a calm, nurturing, and safe person and/or connection to secure, positive beliefs and memories can stop the stress response from taking over. Thus promoting resiliency and more positive, secure connections within our mind, body, soul, and relationships.

After receiving counseling and training in trauma and brain development, I discovered I was a highly sensitive person who experienced complex trauma. My central nervous system was also often in a hyper-aroused state. So along with having enhanced sensory sensitivity, I was hypervigilant and intensely surveying every environment I was in. I had a tendency to perceive stimuli as threats and had exaggerated reactions. I was able to pinpoint specific traumatic events that occurred during sensitive stages of my development and in my parents’ lives that I accepted that I was essentially born, wired in fear.

When I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children, overtired and not prioritizing my needs, I was constantly feeling triggered.  I was having strong negative reactions during my own children’s sensitive stages of development. Fortunately, I was aware of what was going on in me so I reflected further on what my biggest fears were. Then I came up with specific statements that targeted those fears and provided compassionate and trusting beliefs to filter the stimuli and my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors through. My son had drawn a rainbow that I had hanging on our refrigerator. I followed my impulse to take it down and scribbled down the following statements on it:

I can handle anything.

Everything that needs to be done will get done

             …when it needs to be (and not always in my control).

Let go, fear less, and LOVE more.

Today is a present, open it with joy, and curiosity.

I put it back on my fridge and read it every time I got triggered which I knew was happening when my children were upset or acting out and I connected to my “felt sense”. I would notice my chest tighten, heart racing, my body trembling and overheating, my voice tone shifting up, and negative thoughts flooding my brain. I would also take deep breaths and step outside for fresh air.

I refuse to pass on any more trauma onto my children. There is enough suffering in the world to endure. I made a conscious choice to give them a safe space to process all their negative thoughts and feelings so that they could securely connect to their innate intelligence and shine through any negative stimuli. I loved the visual of the rainbow my son drew and reminded me how the sun shines through and creates a rainbow after a storm. Here is what this creation looks like… 

 

Over time, I periodically added new messages that my body, mind, and soul needed to believe when I got triggered. We all can get triggered and easily fall back to negative habits and reactions. The goal is to take responsibility for your triggers: Notice when you are getting triggered, what are you thinking, feeling, and doing; and what will you choose to do to get through it faster. 

Healing our triggers often takes time so be compassionate with yourself as you go through this process. The ability to even notice your triggers and negative reactions is progress even if you cannot stop them yet. Awareness is first to step so when you catch your stress signals or negative reactions, do something nurturing, breathe, and love yourself through. I like to remind myself how it takes an average of 21 times to repeat a new behavior before you make a positive, secure connection in your mind, body, soul and in the relationship itself. The deeper the issue, the more times it takes. Do your best to celebrate each step and choose love over fear. Today is a present, open it with grace, joy, and curiosity.

Take wonderful care of yourself as the world needs you ❤   

Debra Wallace MS LMFT Wecounsel Online Profile

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision-making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a licensed marriage and Family Therapist in the state Illinois, USA

 

Go with the flow…

“The simple phrase Go with the flow is actually very significant spiritually. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus declared that life is like a river – you cannot step into it in the same place twice. Existence is always new, yet we are tempted to be bring old reactions to it. When we find ourselves resisting anything – which basically means saying no – we are usually trying to impose an old belief or habit on a new situation.
The law of Least Effort bids us to recognize the newness of life by allowing it to unfold without interference. It tells us to be in the moment, to look for Nature’s help, and stop blaming anyone or anything outside ourselves. In the flow, spirit is already organizing the millions upon millions of details that uphold life – from the infinite processes needed to keep a single cell alive vast intricacies of evolving universe. By connecting the spirit, we ride this cosmic organizing power and take advantage of it.”
From The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success for Parents: Guiding Your Children to Success and Fulfilment by Deepak Chopra

I discovered this book when my second child was about 2 years old. It gives concrete and simple examples of how to talk to your children about profound spiritual lessons. The Seven Spiritual Laws (from child’s point of view) are as follows:

  1. Everything is possible.
  2. If you want something, give it.
  3. When you make a choice, you change the future.
  4. Don’t say no – go with the flow.
  5. Every time you wish or want, you plant a seed.
  6. Enjoy the journey.
  7. You are here for a reason.

These are amazing laws to live by. These principles have been unfolding in my life, especially on my parenting journey. My children are my greatest inspirations for living a life full of love and joy. Chopra’s explorations and insights are consistent with my research and experiences in human development and wellbeing.

“A parent isn’t an authority. You and your child are both souls; you are both embarked on a journey of soul-making…every family is a communion of souls.” ~Deepak Chopra

Click the link for my favorite writing on children…“On Children” by Kahlil Gibran

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA.

How couples can thrive through parenting…

I actually feel grief when I hear a couple who have young children say they are divorcing. I have to process the loss of the transformative and healing potential that too many know nothing about. I honestly wish no one would get divorced when they have kids under the age of seven. From conception to age seven is most intense and sensitive period of development. The first three years of life sets the blueprint for all future relationships. The loss of a parent through a divorce along with the intensity and frequency of potential conflict can significantly affect development and life-long well-being this, of course being more negative if there are no healthy ways to process and cope with the stress, grief, and conflict.

Now before I go further, I can imagine that those read this who have divorced with young children may likely feel some defensiveness and want to explain all the valid reasons you had to divorce.  Your reasons are completely valid, and you did the best you can with the resources you have.  You need to make decisions that are best for everyone involved based on your unique situation. I also know the reality of high-conflict marriages and domestic violence, and how even more devastating this is, especially for children. In fact, it is common for men to start to become physically abusive when their partner first becomes pregnant, so of course, divorce is sometimes the safest and healthiest option. Yet this does not excuse the reality that far too many of us have not had enough positive role models nor been taught the skills needed to process negative feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and events as well as promote emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and non-violent communication. So my intent here is to give a personal example of how these skills helped me in hopes of helping others…

Having a baby is a huge shock to any relationship. Even the healthiest of relationships will have issues. It is emotionally and physically taxing and stressful on levels no one could ever fathom. Not to mention that relationships within themselves have their own stages of development as well, so after the honeymoon stage it is like you enter an infancy stage within a committed partnership.

All negativity comes from a state of stress and unmet needs. When we feel fear (like afraid we will never get a good night of sleep), our stress response gets triggered causing us to unconsciously react with either fight/flight/freeze or with behaviors we learned in past within similar situations like with our own parents. Thus our worst thoughts, behaviors, and feelings will likely be triggered during this intensely critical stage of development and naturally wreak havoc on any relationship. A recent study found that having a baby caused significantly more dissatisfaction than divorce, unemployment, or even death of a partner.

I experienced this first hand in my marriage and we even made a conscious choice to be married for five years before having our first child. I was a child of divorce and wanted to ensure my marriage was secure and healthy before having a child. Even with a Master’s in Human Development and Family Studies, the birth of my first child triggered intense insecurity and turbulence. I suffered post-postpartum depression, and my partner and I had many ugly, combative, disconnected, stressful times that lasted months and even years on some issues. I would wonder how we ever got along and can we do this… forever!?

Fortunately, we have made it through the trenches and, we not only survived, we thrived. When I reflect on what motivated me to work through the hardships, four reasons come to mind: For one, I have a core belief that committed partnerships are good for us and more love and support children are raised in, the better for all humanity. We are biologically wired to be in relationships and committed partnerships provide consistent opportunities to meet vital needs for our wellbeing.

This second reason is, unfortunately, fear-based and not what I would hope to be a motivating force but I’m honest so here goes: Being a Marriage and Family Therapist, I would have felt absolutely ashamed to even utter the word “divorce”. If I can’t make it work, then who can. If I divorced, it would even shatter my core belief in the former. So back to my first reason, I was determined to make it work because I knew it would be worth it and everyone’s well-being will be better off in the long run.

Number three, I cannot stand hypocrisy so I practice what I preach thus upon great reflection and introspection, I used all the skills I tell my clients: I remembered what attracted me to my partner, all his amazing traits, his dreams, and the core beliefs we shared. These things were still present, they just got lost in the 24/7 demands of parenting, dirty dishes, diapers, bills, the battle for sleep, and work.  When I focused on the good and where we agreed, conflicts would end sooner with more understanding, and life just seemed to flow and become more joyful.

The final motivating force came when I was reading the book Living, Loving, Learning by Leo Buscaglia who specializes in Love. He shared this quote:

“Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” ~Erica Jong

I realized that I needed to take responsibility for getting my own needs met and it wasn’t fair to put so much on my partner. I really put myself in his shoes and I could see he was suffering too. I realized we both had many negative feelings and unmet needs but that we had very different ways of expressing them and getting our needs met. I was taking a lot of frustrations out on him and there was so much that I wasn’t doing that he’d like more of yet he would rarely complain about. I could see he was working just as hard as I was although it appeared through my stressed-out-resenting lenses that he had it easier and was doing much less.

I have been counseling couples for over 13 years and I hear the similar stories of how the demands of parenting trigger parents into adversaries instead of partners. The good news is that parenting does not have to be so disruptive and dissatisfying. It actually can be a great opportunity to connect, grow and be a source of nurturance, support, and joy. Acknowledging and validating each other’s efforts, feelings, and needs seem to soften us. It became easier to give each other the benefit of the doubt, love and trust each other through the hardships instead of blaming, criticizing and fearing the worst.  When tension arises now, I affirm that we are in this for the long haul, like another 60+ years, so if we can’t get all our needs met right now, that’s OK because we will have plenty of time to do so. The sleepless nights, the tantrums, the seeming endless cleaning up of bodily fluids and messes, the absolutely no privacy, it really does get better and you start to see the brilliance in your children, your partner and even yourself.

I often wonder what if my parents took responsibility for their own behaviors and found non-violent ways to resolve their issues, what I would have gained instead of needing to clean up from the destruction and healing the deep wounds that still disturb me from their high-conflict marriage and divorce. I have also found that if relationship pain is not healed, then similar negative patterns of interaction will likely reappear in your next relationship, after the honeymoon stage of course. And you still have to co-parent for the rest of your children’s lives no matter what. Then you’ll likely have to deal with the unprocessed pains of potential new partners on top of the added stress of being a single parent. I know the lure of having freedom and space from conflict and the negativity of your partner feels utterly dreamy, yet there truly are positive ways to get both needs met and create freedom and peace within your relationship. A 75-year long study on what men need to be happy confirmed that memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength and that marriages bring much more contentment after age 70.  A study regarding women’s wellbeing and increased marital satisfaction was highly linked to her partner’s level of caregiving during the transition of parenting. I believe your wellbeing and family are worth it.

Here are some links easing the transition to parenthood:

Click link Steps to healing conversations to the handout I developed to transform your conversations from hurting to healing.

https://www.gottman.com/about-the-bringing-baby-home-program/

https://ellytaylor.com/about-the-book/

http://www.mindful.org/save-marriage-parenthood/

Please take wonderful care of yourselves and each other,

Debra

Disclaimer: Positive Reframe shares resources with the intent of the positive progression of informed decision making related to issues associated with emotional, relational, physical and spiritual wellness. While I share personal and professional perspectives, my writings reflect my personal opinion and not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, and treatment. The online medium does not lend itself to the level of detail and rapport building required for thorough assessment and therapeutic intervention. Thus the content shared on this page is for informational purposes only. To make well-informed decisions that best meet your family’s unique needs, I highly recommend exploring and researching available options, consulting primary health care providers, engaging in respectful dialogue with friends and family as well as seek referrals from a trusted source for professional counseling. I am licensed to provide Marriage and Family Therapy in the state Illinois, USA

The Halloween Dread Reframe

Every Halloween, my son wants to make his own costume. The therapist and educator in me absolutely loves his initiative, determination, creativity, high standards and resourcefulness The mom in me gets triggered and dreads this. All I see are the barriers, the frustrations, hard work, messes, costs, and disappointment. It happened again this year where he feels my dread and it brings him down. I know it is not fair so as I practice what I preach, I chose to ask my son this morning as I was acknowledging how he was right about feeling my resistance, “How are we going to open this day with joy and curiosity?” I then reframed our day by stating, “I am very curious how we will get this all done and I look forward to the joy my son will feel when his costume is finished.”

I am happy to report that after great effort we have a 5 foot Salamence costume all ready to be painted and fully assembled in time for Halloween and my son is already filled with joy with the progress. He even volunteered using his own money for the expenses, made the shopping list, went to the store and did most of the work. Salamence and cheetah (2)Here is video of his costume:

Clink link to see video of a past creation that fortunately his father helped him with: Spinosaurus Son

Here is a link to Parenting Resources on topics of Halloween: http://www.kidsinthehouse.com/search/site/halloween

Happy Halloween!!!

P.S. My son also learned valuable lessons which he was able to express through processing and tears. He worked so hard on the costume, yet he encountered many frustrations and disappointments (many which his father and I had foreseen yet didn’t tell him). He says next year he will choose an easier costume and help his sister with something special as he was so appreciative of her support and realized all the drawbacks to huge costumes.

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