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What makes me, me.

The first task to tackle in my Dawn French ‘Me You Diary’ was to list everything that I am. I thought I’d find it quite difficult but actually, once you open your mind it’s easy to do. For example, I started with the easy things: a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher but then, having looked at Dawns very funny list I went to town: a baker, a music lover, a listener, an Idris Elba fan, a Neighbours watcher, an author…you get the idea. However, this then lead to me thinking about what makes me the person I am – partly a nature, nurture line of thinking but more intrinsically, it got me to thinking about the people who have helped me become the person I am.

Throughout our lives, from day one, we encounter people who will influence us. Some in a negative way but on the whole, no matter who we meet, they will teach us something. From a very young age I knew I wanted to teach or work with children and this was partly down to my parents but really it was down to the teachers that I had at Primary School – the ones who cared, were kind and helped me, accepted me for who I was and always encouraged me to try my best. I think throughout our school, college, university and work lives we will work with people who expand our knowledge, challenge our thought processes and teach us new ways to approach things. I really do believe you are never too old to learn something new.

When I looked at my personal life, I thought about the people who are in my life now and those who aren’t and everyone that I though of, I could name something they taught me. Something that they contributed to making me, me. Granted some of these things started with, “They taught me to never be….” but that’s just life and negative experiences often mean you become a better, stronger person anyway.

For me, I have been shaped from a huge circle of my parents friends. My mum and dad have the most amazing group of extended family! They have taught me to cherish, respect and nurture my friendships, to never take them for granted and they have done that through holding parties, dinners, writing emails and letters and visiting people whenever they can. It’s so important to maintain friendships because they are what gets us through not only the tough times but are who you want by your side to experience all the happy times too.

I am lucky that I have a strong unit of close friends too and over the years they too have taught be invaluable lessons. One main one being, that you do not have to remain friends with someone if they cause you hurt and stress. Just because you’ve had good times, like with a relationship, sometimes things can’t be fixed and that’s okay. You wouldn’t stay in a relationship with someone who makes you unhappy so why do that with a friendship? It’s a really hard lesson to learn but one that many experience and eventually, you’ll remember the good times but move forward knowing that you only have friends that truly get you, understand you and accept you for who you are, faults and all.

My friends and family have also shaped me into a person who tries to see that the glass is half full. Being positive helps in so many aspects of life and whilst I am a terrible worrier and can have a moan with the best of people, I have definitely moulded myself into someone who tries her best to see things in a positive light. And that ties in with checking myself in terms of ensuring that no matter what I am going though, to still be aware of what is going on with others – we are all going through something or other and it’s so important to talk, share and face things as a unit.

Something I have learnt within the last 5-10 years is to stand up for myself more. To speak the truth, ask for help when I need it, be brave enough to speak up when something isn’t right, say no to things that I disagree with or don’t want to do and try not to feel guilty about it. These lessons have come from a whole range of people – work colleagues, therapists, parents but mainly it’s been something that I have wanted to change about myself. Being a ‘yes’ person can have many amazing connotations but saying yes all the time can also get you into a tired, bald, stressed out, ill human being state and nobody wants that! For a long time by saying no, speaking up etc I felt guilty and selfish but I now see it as looking after myself. Self preservation would now feature in my top 3 of what I do to look after myself. Making those simple changes are hard to do and you have to be brave enough to implement them and if you’re like me it’ll be a phased introduction into your life but believe me, it’s totally worth it.

Time. This is something we all have to give. It’s free and you can always make it. I am a real advocate that if you want to make time for someone, you can. Simple as that. No arguments, no excuses. If I can manage to stay in contact with one friend in Dubai and one in Chicago, all in different time zones, we can all manage a quick – Hi, thinking of you, how you doing? – text.

The majority of people who have been in my life have the most amazing sense of humour. Laughing keeps you going – living with my mum teaches me that every day! Yes, we all have days where we don’t want to laugh or be merry but if you can find humour in a situation, a smile will make you feel lifted and again, this is something that I try my very best to do.

Take opportunities that come your way. Sometimes you have to face your fears and do it anyway. My family has always been of the thought that you should try new things, stretch yourself and have adventures. Grasp opportunities as and when you can because you never know when you’ll have that chance again. Over the years I’ve had dance lessons, swimming lessons, singing lessons, become a life guard in America, learnt the violin (badly), flown in a helicopter, lived and worked abroad, sailed around the Whitsundays, hiked the Grand Canyon, helped in an elephant orphanage, seen the pyramids in Egypt…and in turn they have shaped the person I am. They’ve given me life experiences and memories to talk about with others and made me a much more rounded individual. I’d rather have an album full of photos and diaries full of memories than a bank full of money and nothing to talk about!

I could go on forever about other things that make me, me but put simply into a list, here are my top tips for what’s helped me become the person I am today.

  1. Surround yourself with family and friends
  2. Don’t be afraid of self-preservation
  3. Give time and spend time with interesting, fun people
  4. Have adventures and experience all that life offers you
  5. Laugh often
  6. Be positive
  7. Learn from others – let bad experiences shape you as much as the good ones
  8. Don’t be in any kind of relationship that is a detriment to your own happiness
  9. Keep learning
  10. Never apologise for being you.

Point 10 is one I am beginning to take on board more. We recently went to the cinema to see ‘The Greatest Showman.’ If you haven’t seen it yet – GO! The main song has become a bit of a personal anthem! It’s called This is Me. The more I listen to the lyrics, the more chords are struck within me. I’ve hidden away so much because of how I feel about myself – “I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars, run away, they say, no-one will love you as you are.” That sums me up in so many ways. But it turns into a song that is about empowerment, taking strength from bad experiences and that we are all glorious in our own ways. So I’ll end the blog with a verse and chorus of the song that brings tears to my eyes but also gives me strength…check out the video on YouTube of Keala Settle singing the song in the audition room to get the film green lit…if that doesn’t make you cry, I don’t know what will!

“Another round of bullets hits my skin, well fire away, ‘cos today I won’t let the shame sink in. We are bursting through the barricades and reaching for the sun, we are warriors, yeah that’s what we’ve become.

I won’t let them break me down to dust, I know that there’s a place for us, for we are glorious.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down, gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be…this is me.

Look out ‘cos here I come, and I’m marching on to the beat I drum, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies….this is me.”

Happy Thursday.

#hairlesshannah

 

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My baking essentials

2018 is going to see me trying my very best to get a blog post up every week and have a mixture of topics again to get my creative juices flowing. So, we are starting today with a post about my baking essentials, things that I need when I’m baking and would recommend you have too if you’re looking for an easier baking life!

  1. A decent mixer.

I’m lucky enough to live with mum who loves to bake too and several years ago invested in a Kenwood mixer which is a-maz-ing! But you don’t need to spend hundreds of pounds, I just think, for me especially, having a mixer do the hard work for you eliminates a whole load of time and stress!

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2. A range of spatulas, spoons and pallet knives.

Regardless of what you’re baking, at some point you are going to need to scrape out that tiny morsel that’s left in the bowl or smooth on some icing onto a cake. Therefore, having a range of equipment is always handy.

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3. Weighing scales and measuring jugs and spoons.

We have electric scales which I find to be much more accurate and reliable (unless the batteries run out halfway through the weighing process!) A decent measuring jug which you can read clearly and spoons to get those table and teaspoon measurement just right are also important to have to hand. I recently got some cup measurements from Tiger because so many recipes that I find online often come with American measurements and rather than having to figure out the English measurement, its easier to have your own cup measurements. I think I only paid £1 for it, so it really didn’t break the bank.

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4. Turntable.

This changed my life! Seriously, I am not exaggerating here! Putting a crumb coat on a layer cake and then finalising the icing takes a lot of work and turning so being able to pop my cake on the turntable and spin away makes the whole process SO much easier – if  haven’t got one, this would be my top piece of equipment I’d advise you to buy!

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5. Side scrapers and icing smoothers!

I feel more like a painter decorator here and believe me, until a year or so ago, I wouldn’t have had these in my cupboards but they do make icing cakes and finishing them professionally much easier. Before getting a scraper I used a pallet knife to smooth the side of my cakes which does work well but can take a lot of practice and patience where as with your cake on a turntable you can scrape away quickly and efficiently and feel like a pro at the same time! Also, since starting to make cakes covered in fondant icing, I purchased an icing smoother to get rid of any little lumps and bumps and ensure the surface is ready for decorating. Again, I got mine from Home Bargains for around £2.

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6. Cake lifter and cake leveller.

These were two of my Christmas presents and I must admit, I haven’t used them yet but can’t wait to! I find levelling cakes quiet tricky and seeing a leveller used on Bake Off  made it seem so easy – I’ll let you know! Also, one of my issues tends to be lifting and moving my iced cakes from surface to surface so again, this should help me a great deal.

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7. Decorating stock!

I make sure I have lots of different cupcake cases, sprinkles, flags, boxes, gel colours all ready to go to suit the orders I get or what I fancy making that day. If I see a bargain in a shop, I tend to buy it and keep it for those being emergencies. They don’t take up much space but enable you to get creative when baking and of course, make it colourful and look inviting which is what you want for your bakes.

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8. Cooks blow torch!

Now, this is not an essential but it’s what my brother got me for Christmas because, quite simply, I liked the idea of having one! In the next few weeks I will be making some lemon meringue pies and will use it on them and will let you know what it’s like and if my house is still standing at the end of it!

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9. Decent baking trays and tins and pre cut baking paper.

Having a variety of tins, trays and moulds allows you to have at your fingertips what you need. I am lucky to have inherited several moulds and tins so do have a vast collection. I must admit I don’t use the silicon ones very much but mum always raves about them so I should give them ago.

Again, a little cheat here, but I do like to use the pre cut baking circles for tins as it’s quick and easy but obviously having a normal roll of baking paper is always needed for differing shapes of tins and trays. Little hint – if using a mould shape such as a pram or dinosaur – you know the ones I mean, please don’t just use your normal wipe of butter to make it non stick – it doesn’t work! You can buy a special anti stick spray, make sure you get all the nooks and crannies and it’ll work a treat!

10. Piping bags, nozzles and other decorating tools.

Since baking a lot more I have taught myself how to pipe a lot better and that works much more easily if you have piping bags and nozzles to choose from. As always, practice makes perfect but it’s a fun hobby to have! I have used a dual piping bag once to get two colours piped on to create an effect but this is something I need to rehearse more. I also have letter stencils, little plastic knives to work fondant details with, edible glue and paintbrushes which mean I can paint on details if needed.

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11. Something nice to display your bakes on or in.

Spending so much time on baking needs to be rewarded with displaying your creation beautifully. We used Lakeland vouchers we had to buy a display dome but we do also have several lovely air tight tins and plates which make all the difference when you open them to reveal your creation.

So there you have it. My top 10 baking essentials – what are yours? Have I missed any that you wouldn’t dare miss off? I’d love to know!

Happy baking all!

#hairlesshannah

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One Second a Day

So here we are, 2018…how’s it going so far?! It’s been pretty drizzly, grey and windy here which always makes these dark January days harder to cope with.

One of the things I struggled with at several points last year was keeping positive. It’s hard to maintain that sunny disposition day in day out. I have learnt that this is okay but I do still struggle to strike up a conversation with friends and family when I’m having these days, there’s always the element of not wanting to sound negative or bring their days down as well. Through CBT and medication, I feel slightly more balanced now and use my newly found skills to try and turn things on their heads to find good points and happy things. Changing the way we think about things, for me anyway, really has been enlightening. You don’t realise how much baggage a negative/worrying thought can bring until you channel that energy in a different way.

As well as implementing these new skills, I searched for activities I could do to put positivity and happiness into action. Since I was twelve I have kept a daily diary and I find that very cathartic, there’s something about writing, getting things out in a pen to paper way that really helps me. However, what with keeping a diary and writing a blog I felt like I was at my limit with writing. So, what else was there? I love photography and memory making and one day I was watching a vlog and they mentioned an app called one second everyday and that was it – I was hooked!

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I think I mentioned it as one of my favourites last year, but honestly, I love 1SE. It’s such a simple idea and so easy to do. Yes, you’ll irritate your friends and family to begin with because they won’t be used to being filmed during the happy times but even my most reluctant friends were happy to participate by the end of the year!

To start with I used it as a video diary depicting something, anything that had happened in my day. I was learning how and why I wanted to use the app and during January there are some days when I documented tough days, sleepy days and even turned the camera around to say something! I also shot all the videos with my phone in portrait. However, as the days went on, I figured out that I wanted to use the app to find the happiness or positives in every day, no matter how small they may be – the weather, a good meal, a favourite TV programme. I also found out that if I shot the videos landscape, it filled up the screen and was easier to watch back.

You don’t have to be precise in shooting a one second video, you can take videos and then within the app, edit them down to the singular second you want to keep. That part is quite fun because sometimes snapshotting the perfect second is tough. The app has recently been updated so you can include 2 seconds a day if you want to. Most days I won’t do this but it was something I’d wanted for a while because there will be some days you do something in the day and the evening that you want to capture…and now you can!

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It doesn’t have to be a video second, you can also use photos which I know some of my friends have down and it works equally as well. If you do use photos, you can insert music over the top to make it more watchable.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can have several projects going at once. For example, I have a 2018 project started for now, but if I wanted to start a project on all the bakes I make, I could create a separate file. I also recently saw someone using the app to document their weight loss and once it’s all put together you can see the progress made. The options are endless. You don’t have to use it every day either, you could just use it when you’re on holiday to document your travels!

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I love using this app because it helps me focus on the good even when my day has not been. It’s so important to turn things around and find the positives because more often than not it’s easier to think about the bad things you’ve experienced in the day and that doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

I haven’t been able to upload the video on this post but I will on my Facebook so if you want to, head over the see my 2017 one second a day Hannah Green.

If you do use the app, let me know, I’d love to see your projects when they’re done.

Happy Thursday.

#hairlesshannah

 

 

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Goodbye 2017

I’ve been sitting thinking about the past year today in all its glory; highs, lows and the many inbetweeny bits. It really has been one hell of a year!

I feel I’ve learnt a lot more about myself again this year and grown stronger in many ways. CBT has helped me greatly, I’ve learnt that it is okay to put yourself first sometimes without calling it selfish and that if you want to say no to things, that’s alright too. Self preservation is much higher on my list of priorities now, I have always been a people pleaser and a guilt feeler so this has been a hard one to master and continues to be a work in progress.

Last year I felt a totally loss of independence however, this year I have managed to get some back. A random conversation planted a small seed in my mind earlier in the year, to use my creative skills to a) give me something in which to channel the energy I have and b) to maybe earn some money from it. And that in turn became ‘Sunshine Makes and Bakes’ which has been a life saver in so many ways. I have loved making and baking and it really has given me a purpose.

However, my biggest achievement of 2017 has to be the publication on my first children’s  book. I didn’t think it would be out before the end of the year but it is and I haven’t quite come down from my little cloud of happiness yet! To see my words accompanied by my vision of illustrations and be able to hold it and put it amongst all the other books I love and cherish is just a dream come true. And on top of that, to see my book being read and going into people’s home is just mind-blowing! I’ve already received a few messages from total strangers who live with alopecia or have children who do, who have said how the book has helped them talk about the condition openly and how the book has brought them real happiness. That is my job done – hairless Hannah is happy!

Having said that, 2017 has been a horrendous year in terms of the loss of loved ones. Not only have we lost my dear Grandma and Auntie Pat, we have also said goodbye to several close family friends this year. It has struck me how lucky I have been in my 31 years to have known so many wonderful people and realise how much they have impacted my life. In terms of family, I have a relitively small one. Yet, my extended family is huge. Just days ago I was at a celebration of life of a family friend whom mum and dad met when they first started teaching. Regardless of the fact that Henry was 58 years older than me, he kept young and always engaged me in enthralling conversation, always paid a huge interest into my life, always made me feel special and loved – he, along with the others we have bid farewell to this year, will remain with me for the rest of my days as I carry with me and implement the lessons I have learnt from them into my daily life.

I am only making one resolution this year; take each day as it comes. I feel like looking forward too far and setting big goals only ends in failure and disappointment therefore, if I only take one day as it comes, celebrate all the little things and concentrate on taking steps forward, only good can happen…right?! I definitely am one to think New Year, New start…but in reality, when I wake up on January 1st, it’s just another day, no different to the day before. I put too much emphasis on time and dates and I must try to stop that. I will take with me the people, memories and things I want to from 2017 and leave behind the rest, it’s no good carrying that around with me when there’s so much more to gather up in 2018.

So, here’s to 2018, many more good days than bad and to health and happiness.

Happy New Year.

#hairlesshannah

Where’s Your Hair, Hannah?

The day is here…I am a published author and I couldn’t be happier.

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‘Where’s Your Hair, Hannah?’ has been well over a year in the making although, ironically, it only took me about an hour to write one night when insomnia struck!

The whole process has been so interesting, it’s really opened my eyes into the industry and how it all works. I am equally as proud of the illustrations as I am of the story…even though I obviously didn’t produce the artwork! That’s been the part that’s taken the longest. Getting the illustrations just right was so important to me, so fine tuning and editing became somewhat of an obsession. Portraying someone with alopeica needed to be done just right.

Alopecia has affected my life in so many negative ways and I now feel like it has finally given me a massive positive. My aim for this book is that it helps just one child with the condition, to explain to their friends and teachers just what they are experiencing and that difference is something to be celebrated.

Society can be so cruel and unaccepting. I’ve recently heard of someone who decided eventually to wear wigs to interviews because she’d lost out on so many jobs purely because of her lack of hair…how can that be acceptable in this day and age?!

The book was written with children and alopecia sufferers in mind but I’d also love for it to be used in schools to discuss difference and acceptance as part of the curriculum.

So, if you’d like to buy a copy, here are the current links it’s available from both in the UK and USA – just search by book title or author – that’s me – Hannah Catherine Green – eek!

My only ask is that if you do buy a copy, please send me a photo because the excitement I feel knowing that my book will be going into actual peoples homes and schools is too much! I’d love to see you reading it to children or in assemblies or before bedtime! And remember to use the hashtag #hairlesshannah ;

http://www.amazon.co.uk

Www.amazon.com

Www.authorhouse.co.uk

Www.authorhouse.com

This is our first year without Grandma but she is the reason this book is published so I am thrilled it’s out just before Christmas because in a funny way, it now feels like she’s a huge part of Christmas even though she’s not here.

Merry Christmas everyone.

#hairlesshannah

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Happiness is….

What does happiness mean to you? Has your definition changed over the years?

I was with a friend at the weekend and we got to reminiscing about our school days and talking about what our old class mates were up to now (obviously we only know most of this via Facebook!). We talked about who was married and had children, who had what job and achieved certain things and then my friend said something that struck a chord – when we bump into people from our past, we ask them all these questions about their jobs, families etc but one question that is never asked is – are you happy? Because, as we know, we can edit our lives into the perfect picture of happiness for social media but we never truly know the ins and outs of what the true picture is.

It’s something I have never stood back and asked myself at any point in my life I don’t think. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I had a vision of what ‘happy’ looked like, but that wasn’t for then and there, it was always linked to my future. Moving into my own home, getting married, having children, going on adventurous holidays – all big dreams, big ideals of what happy was going to look like in my life. Now, I don’t dispute for one minute that these things do bring happiness, however, I spent so much time focussing on what my ideal, happy, future looked like, I am almost certain I lost sight of the little things that were happening day-to-day that brought me happiness.

Grand plans are a good thing and of course they bring with them happiness but I do think that sometimes, in striving for them the happiness gets forgotten. All these big things take time and planning and often involve stress and rather than embracing it and reminding ourselves – I’ve just bought a house or I’m planning my wedding, we think about the cost, the time, the little irritating bits and pieces that happen along the way and we focus on them rather than the big picture. We are all prone to it, I am too but I guess I am now more tuned in to the fact that we shouldn’t take these moments for granted. Yes we should have a moan and feel overwhelmed by the big bits but then we need to step back and think, wow I’m so lucky, I’ve worked really hard to achieve XYZ and I should be enjoying this!

I guess this realisation comes as you get older. And sometimes you only get this jolt of reality when something life changing happens to you. Because now, I can’t necessarily plan day-to-day let alone plan for the big chunks of happiness and therefore I find myself taking note of the smaller things, day to day that make me happy. In January, my cousin suggested that every night before we went to sleep, we should write in our phones something from the day that made us happy, no matter how small and then at the end of each month we would swap and read each other happiness diaries. It is so interesting to look back over the past ten months and see the things that have made both of us happy – family and friends feature highly, almost every day this is what we have written about. Not material things or planning for what is coming up. The here and now. Not material things (although bath bombs and bedding features highly!), not things that we have to save up for, the things that surround us every day. Sunsets, camping, dog walking, a funny thing that happened at work, trying out a new recipe and people liking it!

And that’s the difference between my twenties and thirties – planning for future happiness and finding happiness in the here and now. It isn’t always easy because some days are dire but with some practise, I’ve taught myself that in every day there is something good and something that makes you smile – even if it is a chocolate digestive whilst watching Neighbours!

So, your task now is to think of something that has made your day happy, note it down and when you look back at the end of the week, month or year, you’ll find that all those small things add up to a not so gloomy picture.

Happy Tuesday.

#hairlesshannah

 

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Guest Post – Hayes Family

If we are talking about positives that go with alopecia, it’s meeting some of the most amazing people world wide via social media. The Hayes Family are some of those people.  Mum Ashley, Dad Zach and daughter Malia, come from America and make YouTube videos primarily to promote alopecia awareness because their beautiful daughter has alopecia. I have loved watching their videos (partly because they are also Disney super fans and that makes me happy) and admire the way they are so open and honest about how alopecia affects their family from a parents point of view and from a child’s perspective.

So, I reached out to them and asked if they’d like to guest blog about their experiences and they said yes! So here you go, a guest blog post from the amazing Hayes family. Please go follow them on their social media and subscribe to their YouTube channel:

YouTube: @hayesfamilyvlog Instagram: @hayesfamilyvlog

Our Beautiful Alopecia Princess

If we could only choose one word to describe our daughter it would be “incredible”. In November of 2016 our daughter Malia was officially diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. However, she has had it since she was a year and half old. 

It all began very slowly. At the age of 2 her hair had completely fallen out; her eyebrows were completely gone and then her eyelashes fell out. This gave us major concern as to our child’s health so as parents due, we took her to a dermatologist. They told us not to worry and that hair loss at Malia’s young age is normal but that it could be Alopecia. She suggested that we continue to watch her hair growth and that if it continued, to come back for another checkup. 

Within a year of this appointment Malia grew patches of black and white hair that would inevitably fall out. This cycle happened often. We would get stares and even be approached by strangers asking if Malia had cancer or how her chemotherapy was going. When we would tell them that she was not sick the next question was, well what’s wrong with her and sadly we did not have an answer. So right before Malia’s 4th birthday we scheduled a checkup appointment and behold she was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata. 
It’s funny how badly you want an answer to something and when you get it, it’s not what you want to hear. I’d be lying if I told you I was not sad and upset. I was and so was my husband. As her mother the first thing that went through my mind was, what did I do or not do properly while I was pregnant? I put so much blame on myself and cried for a week. We realized that being upset about it doesn’t change anything nor help the situation so we decided to face this head on and learn everything that we possibly could. And you know what? It helped! So we began to look for support groups and basically anyone else who has Alopecia that we could reach out to. 
As a family we watch a lot of YouTube. Fail videos, family vloggers, Disney vloggers, theme park vloggers and basically anything funny. So we decided to see if there was a family on YouTube who had a family member with Alopecia. The search came up with zero results. We found a lot of adults with Alopecia which is lovely but no children for Malia to relate to. So that day we decided that maybe we could help other families and children who have Alopecia by making fun family vlogs! We figured if we could inspire someone with Alopecia to live their life openly and freely then maybe we could make a difference in brining awareness and acceptance. And you know what, IT WORKED! We have been introduced to so many wonderful people with and without Alopecia who are not only kind but are wanting to help spread the awareness. 


In the end, as Malia’s parents we try our absolute best every single day to build the confidence she possesses. She is the most beautiful person inside and out, we could not be prouder.