Sunday, December 29, 2013


"Problems!" Michelle exclaimed as we stood in the nursery. She was pointing up at the new shelving unit I'd put in her room. "Problems!" she said again. She had been saying several two syllable words -- pretty, princess, running, towel, backwards, etc. She shocked me one day when she said my name out of the blue. "Ann Marie." Well it was more like "A-moo-ee" but I was impressed. Kids much older than her couldn't even say my name and I'd never even taught it to her. She'd heard my Mom and Dad and sister saying it so much I guess. "Mama Ann Marie," she added. It was cute. All she'd ever called me was Mama so it caught me off guard hearing her say my name. Then I thought I'd test her. "And what's YOUR name?" "Michelle," she replied perfectly with almost a French accent (Me-shell). "And what's Grampa's name?" "TONY!" she yelled, just like my Mom does. She even speaks in sentences: "I like it!" "Me want cheese." "More milk Mama." "Help me!" etc. Still I was a little surprised at her suddenly saying the word "problems." Maybe she'd heard me say it. Lord knows I've had enough. Life lately has been crazy. Michelle and I have been sick off and on. There's been a lot going on, things going wrong, the last couple of months certainly haven't been easy. I've been stressed to the max.

"Problems," she said again, starting to get frustrated that I wasn't getting it. Then I realized she was actually pointing at the photo albums on the top shelf. Pictures of Michelle as a newborn baby. I'd shown her a couple of times. "Oh," I said, finally understanding, "you mean PHOTO ALBUMS." She grinned from ear to ear. "PROBLEMS!" she shouted, as if I was a fool for not understanding her to begin with. Of course, Mama has lots of problems! Photography has always been a problem/addiction for me. I have this obsession with capturing every moment. For a while life has been so hectic that I haven't been able to take as many photos as usual but I definitely took a few (hundred!) at Christmas. I'm not sure why Michelle pronounces photo albums like "problems" though I guess it's pretty good for her first attempt. She does try to repeat almost everything she hears these days. And she comes up with words that astound me. I was trying to keep a list of the words she knows but I can't keep up. It seems to be 10 new words a day sometimes.

Michelle is growing so fast. Time is flying by. November was gone in the blink of an eye (I didn't even get to post a blog. I had planned to do at least one for the month but it wasn't in the cards. There was too much going on.) There have been some tough times but I'm grateful to my big crazy family for getting me through it all. I couldn't ask for a more amazing group of people to call my family and friends. I don't know what I'd do without them. I was so relieved my brother put Michelle's new car seat in for me. She was getting so big the straps were too tight. I almost couldn't get her in it. I couldn't even figure out how to take the old one out much less install the new one. My brother Mike had one out and the other in within a minute (mind you he's a pro. He's done it for three kids so far.) It's taking some adjusting with the new seat (no more carrying it and clicking it into the stroller when Michelle falls asleep in the car -- mind you it was getting awfully heavy to keep doing that. The first shopping trip with the new seat was disastrous. Michelle was cranky and wanted to run amok. Luckily the second trip went better. She fell asleep in the car and miraculously stayed asleep while I lifted her out and strapped her sitting up in the stroller and then put her back in the car! I guess kids adapt. I remember my sister lifting Reggie out of the car and carrying him into the house to lay him on the couch for his afternoon nap. The drive is often the only way that kids have a nap so you sure don't want to give that up.)

With all the chaos of Christmas (preparing for it and celebrating it) now December has disappeared in a flash too. Blink and it's another new year. My last post was in October. At that point I was dealing with weaning Michelle. She went from the breast to the bottle and shortly thereafter the bottle was gone too.

They say milk "does a body good" but I guess you can get too much of a good thing. Michelle was a milkaholic. She was drinking WAY too much. When I took her for her checkup and the doctor heard how much Michelle was actually consuming, she raised an eyebrow. My Mom was concerned Michelle might be diabetic. I didn't think babies could be diabetic. I asked the doctor about it. She said it's rare but she wanted to have Michelle checked out because she was drinking so much milk. She was drinking several bottles a day, including through the night and wetting through even the 12 hour overnight diapers. I was going through a 2 L carton of 3.25% milk every couple of days or so!

The doctor sent Michelle for a blood glucose test just to be sure. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was never a fan of needles but Michelle had a full scale MELTDOWN when they tried to give her one. She'd had her shots before (and they were no picnic either) but at least with them it's quick and they can stick the needle in her leg. Nothing like drawing blood from her arm. The first lab we went to, we waited an hour just to go in and have the nurse say that she refused to give Michelle a needle when she wouldn't sit still. She was screaming and squirming and you could not hold her arm steady. The nurse suggested another lab that was "really good with kids." I phoned ahead to tell the lab what I'd been through already so I wouldn't wait another hour. We still waited about 20-30 minutes before getting in. Even they were unable to get little Michelle's arm still enough to administer the needle. Two nurses and I couldn't hold her down. She screamed bloody murder and wriggled to get away. "Wow!" one of them said "She's really strong!" You'd think we were wrestling a small bear. They finally had to draw blood from her finger which is apparently a much more painful and lengthy process but it wasn't safe to use her arm. She screamed the entire time. It was breaking my heart. I was shaking and my eyes were welling up with tears. When we finally came out to the waiting room everyone was staring. "That just took at least two years off my life," I said. My Mom had been waiting for us and she said when they heard the screaming one person had remarked "Who would give a baby a needle?!" I was so afraid there would be something wrong with Michelle. God forbid if she had diabetes she'd have to get needles all the time! Thank Heaven when I called the doctor's office a few days later they said her blood was normal. There was nothing wrong with her. She just really liked milk. I think part of it was a comfort thing. She had given up nursing (which was her own choice) and I guess the bottle had become her comfort through the night. I tried watering down the milk to not give her as much and then I decided to make the transition to a sippy cup. One day in the car she threw her bottle (as she had a tendency to do.) I had been telling her to stop throwing it or she wouldn't get it back. Now I seized the opportunity to get rid of the bottle for good. She couldn't drink from it if it just wasn't there. "Your bottle is gone," I told her, "you threw it away. No more bottle." That night I expected a sleepless night with her begging for the bottle. She was a bit resistant to the sippy cup at first but by the next day she had adjusted to it and she didn't drink nearly as much. Not even a quarter as much milk as she used to from the bottle. Now she asked for her cup instead when she wanted milk. She didn't soak through her diapers anymore and I got a sippy cup that doesn't leak so I didn't have pillows soaked with milk anymore either. Great! At least one problem solved.

The transition to the cup went much more smoothly than I would have expected but there is still one transition I haven't been able to make and to be honest may never make unless absolutely necessary -- Michelle and I are still co-sleeping. Almost everyone has been on my case about sleep training and putting her in her crib and blah blah blah. I just can't bring myself to do it. Michelle and I have been through a lot, especially in the last while. She has lived through enough change and turmoil. I don't want to do that to her. Besides, I'm all she has and she's all I have. She's big enough now that she can climb in and out of bed so there's no danger of her falling. (I also removed the bed frame so it's right on the floor. It just made more sense.) Any time I have broken down and tried to put her in the crib she has screamed and I take her back out after a couple of minutes. People can lecture me all they want about her being too dependent etc but I think it's cruel to let a child scream all night. "Oh she wouldn't scream all night!" some of them try to say but they don't know Michelle. My Mom says she's just like me and I screamed all night in the crib.

I may not be a perfect parent but honestly I don't think anyone is. So how can anyone tell me what I'm doing is wrong? Every parent just does the best they can with what works for them. And considering that Michelle is happy, healthy and extremely bright, I think I must be doing OK at least. The doctor and everyone who's met her has said Michelle is very smart, far advanced for her age. She's 16 months about to turn 17 months. She says more than 500 words including speaking in sentences. She recites nursery rhymes and sings songs. She says the whole alphabet, counts from 1-20 and backwards from 10-1. She climbs the entire flight of stairs in seconds and knows enough not to try to go back down (well I put the gate up and don't let her.) She runs, dances and even walks on "tippytoe" and can say "tippytoe." She chatters away with gestures and everything. One man who saw/heard her asked how old she was and remarked "That's amazing. My grandson is 2 years old and can only say a couple of words." She's very sensitive and understands emotions -- happy, sad, mad, proud. She points to characters in books and says "happy" or "mad" depending on their expression. She still loves when I read to her and now she wants me to read longer books. She loves Dr. Seuss books -- "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Cat in the Hat" (ones that she didn't have the patience to sit through before.) Sometimes she has me read a story over and over. I think she's trying to memorize it. A lot of the nursery rhymes she says right along with me. She used to rip the pages of paper books but now she can turn the pages nicely on her own. I think she likes to feel like she's reading herself. She's very independent and loves to do things for herself. She has started going on the potty (only pee so far and she keeps saying potty then sitting there and doing nothing half the time) and when she peed for the first time I said "Good girl! You make Mama so proud." She looked quite happy with herself and said "Proud!" Now she keeps asking me if I'm proud when she does something. "Proud Mama?" I am proud. When people try to put in their two cents and tell me what I'm doing wrong I just nod and smile. "Yeah, whatever." I think every parent has to do what feels right for them. Maybe if I had a partner there would have been more incentive to move her to a crib but as it stands now, she is my life. I've given up everything for her. It's my choice. I have to do what I feel is right for her. The first years of your life are crucial. I want Michelle to feel completely safe and loved. I never want her to feel like her needs aren't being met and I'm just ignoring her. The sleep training advocates claim it helps kids become more independent. I think if it toughens them up it just makes them cold and frankly there are enough cold, cruel people in the world with their hearts shut off. I want Michelle to stay the sweet, affectionate girl that she is.

Of course the dark side of having a sensitive, intelligent child is that she's also EXTREMELY demanding. (Now I admit it's partly my own fault for meeting her demands. She knows how to manipulate me.) She can also be VERY MOODY (Gee, I don't know where she gets it from! Her father and I were both such calm, easygoing folk!)You don't want to be around her when she doesn't get her way. Life with her isn't easy, but it's an adventure and I wouldn't trade it for the world. At her best she's a sheer joy -- bright, funny, sweet, loving, an absolute angel. At her worst, she's a monster -- a scary, screaming banshee. She's even started throwing herself on the floor. Full blown tantrums. The terrible twos already. I suppose it stands to reason that if she has the vocabulary of a two year old, she'd have the temperament too. She screams if I'm out of sight for a minute (and yes all those people who have been telling me to stick her in a crib would say "I told you so! You created a dependent child!" Yeah, whatever. Bite me.) She screams if she tries to do something and can't do it perfectly instantly (like trying to dress herself. She was trying to put a pair of pants on herself but having trouble since she was trying to put them on upside down -- ankles first -- and over another pair of pants). Screams if she sees a man with a beard. Speaking of which...

Yes, as I feared, our visit to Santa went over like a lead balloon. The first time we tried to see Santa, he took a half hour break right as I was heading with her to see him. I was livid. She had just awakened from a nap and I was racing to his post to grab a photo before she got cranky. He was supposed to be there from 2-5 pm. It was 4:15 and he was M.I.A. He works three hours and gets a half hour break right when I try to see him?! Figures. Michelle was already getting antsy so I just left. We came back on another day and we only had to wait a few minutes. Everything seemed perfect. Michelle was rested and in a good mood. She was smiling at other kids dressed in little green and red dresses and sweaters and mini Santa suits lining up to get their photos. I told her that just like the other kids she'd have her turn to sit on Santa's knee and get a picture. But when her time came, she was not having it. She wouldn't even let me put her on his lap. She screamed and clung to me for dear life. She was horrified. I was going to just leave but the photographer said "You can be in the photo with her." I wasn't fixed up. I would have tried to look presentable if I'd known I was getting in the picture but oh well I figured it was the only way I'd get a souvenir picture of her with Santa. As you can see I had to settle for a shot of a frightened Michelle and a smirking me crouching beside an exasperated Santa. I was determined to get a better Santa photo so I decided to try again at a different mall, with a different Santa. So one day when we were visiting my Mom we headed to her mall to see if we'd have better luck with the Santa there. As we got close to Santa we noticed an inordinate number of dogs in the mall. There were a whole fleet of service dogs. I thought it was sweet at first. Then I realized there were even people walking through the mall carrying little dogs. I didn't think animals were allowed in the mall. I was pretty sure the Chihuahua and the Shih Tzu weren't service dogs. I found it a bit odd but didn't think too much of it. Then we tried to line up to see Santa and were told "No. Sorry. It's dog day." Nice. Santa has gone to the dogs. Apparently it was in the paper or something but my Mom never noticed. I wouldn't have guessed in my wildest nightmares that the day I picked to take Michelle to Santa was the one day he was seeing canines instead. I guess they didn't want children sitting on Santa's lap on the same day as dogs for sanitary reasons (though there is probably as much danger from kids not being housebroken as dogs!) I couldn't believe it. I was so mad I was cursing Santa (aka Satan, maybe that's why he dresses in red...) that day. I finally had to give up. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. My dream of a perfect photo of Michelle smiling on Santa's knee just wasn't going to happen. Not in 2013 anyway. I was lucky to get one in 2012. We'll try again in 2014. Maybe. Or maybe I'll dress up and try to look presentable next time in case I end up having to get in the photo again. My Mom asked me "Why didn't you ask Santa if YOU could sit on his knee with Michelle?" Somehow that didn't seem appropriate. I guess I can't blame Michelle. I was afraid of Santa as a child too.

Michelle enjoyed Christmas celebrations with the whole family and with just her and I. She was saying "Christmas" "Christmas presents" "Christmas tree" and even said "Jesus" and "Baby Jesus." She let me read her "The Christmas Story," a miniature golden book of Jesus' birth in the manger. She kept asking me to read it over and over. After the Santa debacle my Mom said maybe it's just as well. The true meaning of Christmas isn't Santa Claus anyway, it's the birth of Jesus. It's about peace and love and light. About hope and giving.

Michelle was spoiled, of course. I lost count of how many monkeys, dolls, books, stuffies and toys she got. She's so easy (and fun!) to buy for that you really can't help picking things up when you see them. Before having Michelle I was somewhat disenchanted with the whole Christmas thing. Having a little girl to buy presents for brings back my childhood excitement and joy at Christmas. She hugged her stuffies and had fun playing with her new toys. One of her favourite gifts was only a dollar -- a little pink felt tiara. She put it on her head and went to check herself out in the mirror. My little girl is a princess for sure!

When we were at my sister's place before Christmas, Shannon asked what my favourite thing about Christmas is. I said that I love getting presents for Michelle and couldn't wait to see her open them. Shannon was glad that I got her a couple of toys as well. Even though she's older now, she's still a kid. Heck, I still like toys at my age! Shannon said that her favourite part of Christmas is being with family. I like that too of course. I am so happy to have a loving family and so grateful for the times we spend together. Michelle likes it too. She loves visiting Auntie May, Shannon and Reggie. She asks about them all the time. Family will always be the greatest gift we have.

When I was showing Michelle her baby albums she was pointing at everyone and saying their names. She didn't point to herself though so I asked, "And who is that?" "Baby," she said at first as though it were someone else, just a baby. "What's her name?" "Michelle."

It's hard to believe she was that small not too long ago. Now she's becoming more a little girl and less a baby every day. I have a lot of catching up to do with her photo albums. I haven't had photos printed since she was very small. I want to have albums spanning her life, the way my Mom did for us. Of course now with digital photos you can look at them on the computer without printing them but there's something special about having them in a book that you can cherish and flip through.

I kept waiting for life to get "easier." The truth is, life is full of problems. That's just how it is. Winston Churchill said the definition of history is "One damned thing after another." And that's life. You get one thing sorted out and there's something else to worry about. If you're a worrier that is. I guess if you're one of those laidback people who just doesn't care, it's a little easier. Things happen, you shrug and move on. Unfortunately too often I let things get to me. Stress takes its toll, physically, mentally, spiritually. The key is to look for the beauty and the joy in each day, even when things go wrong. There is always something that can make you smile. When you look back on your life, you will remember fondly all the good times, those happy moments smiling in photos with your loved ones. And that matters more than the stumbling blocks, the struggles along the way. In the end it's all worth it. Life is filled with memories, the good and the bad. It is your story and you have to cherish it. Photo albums, to me, are among the most precious of possessions. They are your history, a collection of your memories. Problems and all.

I'm not sure when I'll post another blog. Maybe when Michelle turns 18 months. I know that she's technically not a "baby" anymore but I don't want to give this baby blog up. I will try to write every now and then. I want to thank readers again for stopping by and following Michelle and I in our journey for the past couple of years. It hasn't been an easy journey but it's been a joyful one and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

This just in: I've been trying for almost a MONTH to catch Michelle on video saying the alphabet and counting and she has eluded me (she does things when she feels like, not on command, go figure)...until now! I finally got her saying her ABCs, almost entirely and counting backwards from 10-1. Happy New Year! :) Here are the videos on Youtube:


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


They're heeeeeeere! Well at least for one post. It's been a while! Life has been pretty chaotic. They say that change is the only constant in life. Michelle and I have certainly had a lot of changes in our lives lately. Change isn't easy, especially for a Taurus and an admitted control freak like me. At some point you just have to surrender to the fact that you can't control everything. Especially not a little redhaired fireball about to turn 15 months old.

Michelle was difficult since she was born but lately she's been IMPOSSIBLE. Though her vocabulary is up to about 250-300 words now (including phrases like "All done"), her favourite word, by far, is NO. She says no to everything. Even the things she wants. It's like she's testing me (and I'm failing. Beyond running out of patience at this point!) Her latest game is crying for her milk then saying no when I try to give it to her and hitting the bottle or throwing it. So you take it away and then she screams for it again. Maybe she doesn't know what she wants. Or maybe she just wants to give Mama a nervous breakdown. The worst is when I'm driving and she hurls it on the seat next to her then screams for it and I can't reach it to give it back to her. Sometimes I swear she's trying to drive me crazy. And it won't be much of a drive. I'm halfway there already!

Michelle only has milk from a bottle now. It was her own choice. Though I was planning to continue breastfeeding her indefinitely (at least once a day when I could) Michelle started weaning herself in early October until finally she refused to nurse at all and I had to give up. You would think that I would have been relieved. Since I've been back to work it has been increasingly difficult to breastfeed. I'm not always there. My milk supply seemed to adjust to the varied schedule. It produced as much or as little milk as was required on any given day, depending whether I was with Michelle or not. Maybe Michelle adapted to me not always being there by relying more on the bottle. Then when I tried to nurse her on the nights I was there, she was reluctant or frustrated. It got to the point where she just wasn't interested. She loves cold milk from her bottle. Increasingly independent, I think she likes the fact that she can control the bottle, hold it in her hands (or throw it away) and drink as much as she wants. She guzzles the milk (I can't even believe how much she can drink!) until the bottle is empty. Maybe she became frustrated because my milk production had probably gone down and it was likely more of a challenge to drink from the breast than from the bottle. I had been trying to wean her gradually but not entirely. I thought I'd get her down to just one feeding a day. I didn't want to upset her or make her feel rejected. Instead she rejected me. She literally pushed me away and reached for the bottle instead.

There are advantages of course. No more worrying about what I eat or drink. (I can load up on junk food, sugar and caffeine -- woo hoo! -- knowing that it's not going through to her anyway.) No more waking through the night to nurse her (although she still wakes me up asking for milk, in the bottle. Even more often than she used to nurse.)

Instead of being relieved, I was a little sad. For me, nursing was a bonding experience. It was also a relaxing ritual at the end of the day. I would nurse her and we would both go to sleep. It was heartbreaking for me somehow to give that up. It almost felt like I was losing my baby. She's a toddler. She's becoming more independent. She wants to do things on her own. She doesn't need me quite as much. I know that when you stop breastfeeding it also wreaks havoc on your hormones so that probably has a lot to do with how hard it's been on me. There is also a lot going on these days. It has been a struggle. I've been stressed and maybe it has affected Michelle too. She rarely settles down before midnight anymore (though at least she sleeps in a bit later). She gets cranky every day even when she has a good nap in the afternoon. She fusses more through the night. To make matters worse she's been sick with a cold for the past week. With a runny nose and cough, she's been crankier than ever. She hates when I try to wipe her nose. Even with those grape-scented "Boogie Wipes." She fights me when I try to change her. Fights me when I try to get her to eat. It's a constant battle. Just when I'm at my wit's end and can't take anymore though she'll suddenly do something so sweet like take my face gently in her hands or run up and hug me really tight. I'm glad that she's such an affectionate, sensitive girl. I'm glad that she's so bright (everyone says she's advanced for her age. She says just about everything. Except "yes!" Though she could say the word months ago she refuses to say it now.) I'm glad that she's an expressive child -- when she's happy or excited it's beautiful to watch. The dark side of it is that when she's frustrated or tired or just feels like being defiant, she's a monster and it's exhausting to deal with.

I suppose it stands to reason that if she has the vocabulary of a two year old she might have the attitude of one as well. I've certainly heard about the "terrible twos." She has such a fierce temper already. She wants her way INSTANTLY or there is hell to pay. I know I'm at least partially to blame for indulging her. No one in their right mind would have given in to her whims to the extent that I have. The expression "spoiled rotten" comes to mind. Then again others have said that you can't spoil a child with love. She is healthy overall and intelligent. I tried to do all the best things for her. I wanted her to be happy. Maybe I created a monster. Now she's testing boundaries. Seeing just how much she can get away with. It is taking a toll on me. There was one night that I just cracked. Between sleep deprivation and stress and everything else I couldn't take anymore. She was crying and refusing to settle down and then I started to cry. All of a sudden she looked at me differently. She stopped crying. It was like a light went on and she realized "Uh oh. I finally broke Mama!" She reached her little hand out and started patting my arm as if to say "There, there Mama." It was so sweet. And then I sang "Two little birds" and we both finally got some sleep.

But enough about weaning and crying! On to happier news! Of course it's Halloween in a couple of days. It will be Michelle's first Halloween (last year she was far too little to take out Trick or Treating.) By the time I get home from work it will be pretty late so we'll just go to a few houses. I wouldn't let her eat the candy anyway (well maybe just a taste.) Of course I'll end up eating it (which is the last thing I need now since I'm probably gaining weight when I don't even have nursing to burn off extra calories. Although with the stress I've been under maybe I'm losing.) Michelle is going to be a Teddy Bear. She got dressed up with cousin Reggie and Shannon for some pre-Halloween photos (Shannon was on the way to a Halloween party anyway and I thought it would be cute to dress the kids up together.)

We also had a fun day at Springridge Farm posing with pumpkins, going through the Boo Barn and hay maze. Even though she was a little under the weather Michelle was thrilled to see the animals and experience the farm. I couldn't resist taking a hundred photos of course. I wasn't the only one. The place was a zoo with parents snapping pictures of their kids with pumpkins and hay bales and those funny boards with the heads cut out. It's photo op heaven. Luckily the rain held out until we were leaving and Michelle started to fuss but fell asleep and had a nice nap on the way back home.

I have missed blogging because it was something I did for me and these days there doesn't seem to be any "me" time anymore. By the time Michelle settles down I'm exhausted and fall asleep myself. The past month, as difficult as it has been with all that was going on, has flown by. Time definitely seems to speed up the older I get. Blink and it's Halloween. Then it will be Christmas and another new year. It seems like Michelle was just born. Now she's growing into a little girl. A headstrong little girl at that. God help me when she does turn 2. Fourteen months has been a challenge. Imagine 14 years with the teenage hormones? Anyway, I'm not sure if/when I'll blog again. Maybe one in November? Maybe one for Christmas? This was supposed to be a "baby blog" anyway and I suppose by definition she's not a baby anymore.

I saw a newborn baby in line at a store the other day. Well I heard her long before I saw her. The unmistakeable newborn cry could be heard a mile away. When I got closer and saw the baby, my heart melted. "How old is she?" I asked, smiling. "6 weeks," the Mom answered, wearily. I remember thinking how difficult things were at that stage. Now I look back and think that the sound of a newborn cry is so cute, so innocent I don't even mind it. It's crazy. Each stage you go through that you think is so hard, you look back and think it wasn't that bad. OK well maybe sometimes it was. But you still feel a twinge in your heart that those days are gone. A sentimental fool, I've always had a hard time letting go. I should remind myself, on the worst of days, when Michelle is driving me nuts, that someday I will look back fondly at this and think that her saying no constantly and throwing things and refusing to eat and sleep and anything else I try to get her to do was cute. Maybe.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Say Uncle!

One day while I was at work and my Mom was watching Michelle, my brother Chris was going to my Mom's house for dinner. Michelle hadn't seen Uncle Chris, her godfather, in a while -- the last time would have been at cousin Evie's birthday party when we all went to Wasaga and then back to Uncle Mike's house for dinner. She was a little shy around him at first that day but then warmed up to him and was smiling while he held her. I got pictures of them smiling together.
Before Chris arrived, my Mom was showing Michelle pictures of my brother. "Remember Uncle Chris? He's coming to Grandma's house for dinner tonight." Michelle didn't show any recognition but was just mildly curious about the pictures. Then Chris came to the door. I guess he looked a little different than the last time she saw him and from his photographs. He hadn't been shaving and had a bit of a scruffy beard. Maybe he'd had a long day at work and looked tired. Whatever it was, Michelle apparently went BALLISTIC. She screamed in horror when she saw him and didn't stop screaming the whole time he was there. My Mom finally had to just put her in the playpen in the family room while they tried to eat their dinner, Michelle shrieking all the while. Chris said he would never come over again when my Mom was watching Michelle. I felt terrible about it.
I couldn't understand what would make her so upset. She'd seen Chris before and even if he was a stranger she doesn't react that way around strange men when we're out places. She was smiling and friendly to men when we were at the zoo, the beach, the park. She smiles at men when we're shopping. I didn't know what had gotten into her but then I thought the only explanation must be that I wasn't there when Chris came over. Any other time that there has been a man around, I've been with her. I am Michelle's safe place. Without me there I guess she was feeling vulnerable. My Mom had to get the dinner and probably wasn't comforting Michelle the way she would have liked. She was scared and there was no one to hold her and reassure her that it was OK.
After that incident I was worried how she would be around Uncle Chris and Uncle Mike at Mike's birthday party. My Mom warned Chris he better shave this time. He said he would just steer clear of Michelle. It made me sad considering that he's her godfather and he always makes such a fuss of his nieces and nephews. I didn't want him to avoid her from now on. Luckily she was fine. She didn't seem to mind Uncle Chris or Mike or even Mike's friends who were strangers. Of course she had me there, her safe place and she did cling to me most of the time.  

It was a dreary rainy day so we were all stuck inside most of the time and it was pretty crowded and chaotic with the whole gang there. When the weather cleared up a bit we headed out to the yard for the obligatory "group photo." One of Mike's friends, Ryan, commented on all the noise when the kids were screaming. "I don't know how you do it!" he said candidly, "I couldn't stand it!" I told him that I used to think that too when I'd hear kids screaming. I didn't think I could handle having kids. "It's different when you have your own," I explained to him, "You love them so much. More than you ever thought you could love a person. Even when it's difficult. They're worth it." He didn't seem convinced. I could understand because I used to be one of those people who didn't think they wanted children. I obviously didn't know myself. I couldn't have imagined that a baby would be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Not having a father around I want Michelle to at least have positive male role models in her life. She's very fond of her Grandpa. Of course she's used to him because she sees him so often when I'm at work. He watches her in the wee hours of the morning when I'm heading out (because my Mom has a hard time getting up that early.) He takes her for walks and plays ball with her in the backyard. She calls him "Pop!" She loves running around outside with him and going for walks in the stroller. My Dad scared her one day though when he came up with shaving cream on his face. She screamed. Maybe she just doesn't like beards. I have a feeling that a trip to see Santa Claus at Christmastime is going to go over like a lead balloon! My Mom said I was scared of Santa as a child too.

I'm so grateful to have my Mom and Dad to watch Michelle for me. There's no way I could imagine leaving her with a stranger. It's hard enough leaving her with family. I'm relieved that things have gone as well as they have. Sometimes Michelle gives them a hard time but for the most part she's pretty good. Once in a while she says "Mama" and cries but she seems content most of the day. In some ways she behaves better for them than she does for me which doesn't seem fair! My Mom said that sometimes when Michelle is acting up and my Dad enters the room, she stops crying. She's on her best behavior for him. I wish she'd show me the same courtesy! Lately she does this thing where she twists around on the change table and screams when I try to change her. She's so strong it's hard to keep her on the table. I have to wrestle with her. It's very frustrating. Then all of a sudden she's happy and laughing. Her mood turns on a dime. You just never know what she'll do.

There was one day that my Mom said Michelle was a perfect angel. She played nicely on her own, didn't fuss at all, had a nice long nap, ate her meals well, gave hugs. If only she could be like that every day! She is a model child when she's well-rested. Unfortunately that doesn't always happen!

I love when I come home from work and my Mom or Dad are out front with Michelle pointing at my car as I pull up. "Mama's home!" Michelle gets so excited she clenches her fists and shakes and points. I run over to her and hug her and she hugs me so tight. My Mom said she always seems to know when I'm about to get home and goes to the door saying "Mama vroom vroom!" It's my favourite part of the day. I don't feel so guilty about leaving her anymore. I think it's good for her to have different experiences and to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa without me there. It also makes us appreciate each other more when we have a break from each other.

Sure she drives me crazy sometimes but even at her worst, I adore my little high maintenance girl and I wouldn't have her any other way. She's saying more words every day and is even trying to speak in sentences now. She can count "1-2-3," say "A-B-C-D" and can say most of the colours -- red, blue "bwoo", green, purple "purp." She amazes me with something new every day. Out of the blue she'll say a new word. Something I don't even remember mentioning to her. We were at the park the other day and a man had his dog off the leash. She says dog and makes a panting noise like a dog. When the man went to put the dog back on the leash Michelle said "Chain." The leash was a silver chain. I'd never even taught her the word. She must have picked it up somewhere. It's strange because her father used to wear a chain all the time (hanging off his pocket, attached to his wallet.) It only makes sense because she can say train, plane and rain. She even says "the rain." But I never even mentioned a chain to her and somehow she knew. She's saying more than 100 words now. And more every day. I was trying to keep a list but can hardly keep up. My Mom said she can't even keep track of all the new words Michelle says when she watches her. "You have to watch what you say," the man with the dog told me at the park "She'll pick up everything. Their minds are like a sponge."

This may be the last one for a while...

As much as I've loved keeping this blog, my life is becoming so busy that it's close to impossible. I've decided I can't continue it at least not right now. I may write a post once in a while (maybe one for Christmas) but for the most part I think it's time to give it a rest. This started as a baby blog anyway and I guess she's technically not a baby anymore, though she'll always be my baby.

I want to thank readers for following my blog and especially thanks to those who offered support and encouragement. When I started this in March 2012 I needed an outlet. Pregnant and alone I didn't know how I would get through. Writing was therapeutic and hearing from compassionate people really helped. I've enjoyed sharing my journey through pregnancy and during Michelle's first year. Being a Mom is an adventure, one I never would have imagined for myself. I feel very blessed. It isn't always easy but I've never experienced so much love or so much joy.

September is nearly over. Soon it will be October. In October two years ago I went for a date with someone who would change the entire course of my life. You just never know where life is going to lead you but I believe the path you take is the one you are meant to travel, the one that will lead you to your destiny. I wouldn't change a thing. To undo mistakes, to take away the heartbreaks would undo some of the most beautiful miracles that ever happened to me. I'm glad it all happened this way. I love Michelle more than anything.

I look forward to the next stage in our journey. I'll be going "off the grid" for a while -- taking a break from the computer. I had become addicted to sites like Twitter and this blog as a kind of online diary. I think it's time to live offline for a while. Life has gotten so hectic that it's hard to find time for this anyway.

Thank you again for reading!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Life is but a dream

I can't believe we're more than halfway through September already! I must sound like a broken record by now but time is going by MUCH too fast! It's so hard to find time for anything anymore. There is a lot going on in my life now that I can't (or won't) really get into here... I may be going "off the grid" soon. No more internet. Or maybe I'll just take a break. I will have to see. There are a lot of changes on the horizon. I'm trying to simplify my life in a number of ways. Staying off the computer more is one of them.

Life with Michelle is always an adventure. Recently we went to the Princess Margaret Lottery Dream Home in Oakville. It was stunningly decorated (they always are.) There was quite a crowd so it was tricky navigating our way through the house, especially with Michelle running around, but she had a great time. She made herself at home, running amok as per usual. I couldn't believe the size of the closet. It was like a room itself. Michelle ran through it. Sometimes when it was really crowded it was hard to let her walk at all. She looked funny, this tiny person wandering through the crowd. Everyone made a fuss of her (saying how cute she is, how bright she is etc) except one woman who was holding her ears when Michelle ran in screaming with glee (I think the woman had a migraine or something.) Michelle loves to hear herself scream, whether she's happy or sad. It's a good thing I don't get migraines!


It was hard to hold onto Michelle. She was too excited and wriggling to get down. Sometimes she is shy around strangers but on that day she didn't seem phased at all by the throngs of people. She was eager to explore room after room in the 7500 square foot, $3.7 million palace.

The rooms were beautifully decorated, though not very practical for a baby. My Mom noticed that they didn't even have a children's room this time. Perhaps the designer decided to cater to adults instead.

The bathroom was luxurious and even had a library by the bath! I remembered the days when I used to be able to lie leisurely in the bath and read a book. Of course those days are gone now. I only get to take baths with Michelle and they are anything but relaxing! Michelle likes to dance around and jump and splash in the tub and I just try to keep her from slipping and falling. These days I don't get to read much, period. There isn't a lot of time for most of the hobbies I used to have (writing, playing guitar, painting, gardening etc). When I sing it's mostly lullabies. It's almost impossible to find time to myself. Michelle will play independently for a few minutes here and there but she still expects my undivided attention. If I try to walk away for just a moment to do the dishes or grab the laundry, she goes ballistic. The only time to myself is in the evening when she falls asleep and then I have to try to get things done so there isn't really time for hobbies or leisure ever. I really can't complain though. After all I had a lot of time to myself before Michelle came along. I was still single at 42 years old. I had plenty of time to enjoy my hobbies before. Now Michelle is my life. And she's worth the sacrifices. It was about time I settle down anyway. I always had a problem with commitment. I didn't know if I'd ever find "the one," ever have a lasting relationship. Now I have a relationship that will last the rest of my life. Michelle is my greatest love and biggest commitment ever. I never could have imagined that what I feared the most would bring me the most joy.

I thought about how wonderful it would be to win the dream home. Not only because it's a big, beautiful house but it would be so close to my Mom and my sister (winning a lottery is the only way I'd be able to afford living in Oakville!) My Mom is hoping she wins it. Of course everyone who walks through it hopes that they'll win. At least the money goes to a good cause -- the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, committed to conquering cancer. It's a nice dream anyway.

I suppose it would be hard to take care of a house that big. I have a hard enough time as it is now!

 Even after being in a mansion it's still nice to come back to our little house. It's filled with our things. Michelle loves her toys and her books. She's even started speaking in phrases: "Mama read baby story." She wants me to read to her all the time, often the same books over and over. My Mom says she's so much like me it's like having her baby Ann Marie back again. Michelle tries to sing the way I did as a baby, though she chose a different song. I used to sing Twinkle Little Star. She sings "Row, row, row your boat." (Though all she has so far is "Row row row" which she sings over and over through the song. "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream." I sing it when we're in the bath. It helps me to relax a little. I used to sing it to Michelle when I was pregnant too. It's a simple song but a philosophy of life as well -- to relax, not to worry, or take anything too seriously, to just enjoy the journey because life is just a dream anyway.

Wherever we may end up in the future, home is where Michelle is. She's my little princess. She still surprises me every day with new words, new expressions. I can't believe how fast she's growing up. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Beached Wail

Heading to Port Dover has been a summer tradition for me for the past several years. Usually I go a few times a year. Of all the local beaches I've been to (Burlington, Rockwood, Crystal Beach, Grand Bend, Wasaga, Sauble, etc) Port Dover is my favourite.  I love the palm trees, the shallow water, the neat little shops, the whole atmosphere. In 2011 I went to Dover several times in the summer and even went back in the fall. Michelle's father and I went there in October 2011. The weather was beautiful. Not warm enough for swimming but perfect for a stroll on the beach and around the little shops. I got photos of us on the beach. I wrote our names in the sand. I couldn't have imagined that a year and a half later I'd be there with our baby. Mike was a lot like summer. Unpredictable. Hot and cold. And disappears suddenly after 4 months. Like his name in the sand, he was washed away by the tide. Though our love was not to be, he did lead me to my true love, my destiny: My little girl. It was kind of eerie posing in the same spot with her that I had stood with him.

This year I think one trip to Port Dover was enough. It was a fun day, but exhausting and stressful. I don't think I could survive it again!

I always worry how Michelle will be during a long car ride. I got lucky when we went to Wasaga. She napped on the way there and on the way home. I didn't get so lucky when we headed to Dover.

My sister had been having some car trouble and didn't want to risk a long trip so I offered to take her, Shannon and Reggie in my car. It was great having them along for the ride. Michelle was fascinated having Shannon and Reggie in the backseat with her. She didn't sleep at all during the ride to the beach (and she hadn't even had her morning nap on the way to my sister's place). Michelle was happy for most of the ride and when she started to fuss the kids and I sang silly songs to keep her entertained. "Found a peanut,
found a peanut, found a peeeeeeeeeanut last night..."

When we got to the beach she was so excited Michelle didn't seem remotely tired. She was wriggling to get out of my arms so she could run around. The only thing harder than carrying a 20 lb baby is carrying one that is twisting, turning, leaning and trying to dive out of your arms. The hardest part was I was also loaded down with bags -- snacks, the cooler, the bag of diapers, towels and clothes, beach toys etc. Normally I would have the stroller to pack everything on but to fit all of us in the car we had to go without strollers and just carry what we could in our arms. Back in the day I could have gotten by with a towel and some sunscreen. There's no such thing as travelling light with a baby. My arms were breaking but luckily we got a parking spot that wasn't too far away.

We set up our tents, I dressed Michelle in her bathing suit, covered her in sunscreen and then let her loose. She was so excited running around the beach and playing in the sand. I couldn't believe how much energy she had on no sleep.

Usually she has two naps a day or at least one. This time she hadn't slept at all. Still there was no stopping her. I could barely keep up. I only got to sit down for a few seconds before I'd have to chase after her again and keep her out of trouble.

Michelle still isn't a fan of the water. It wasn't too cold and I tried to go in with her a little bit but she started to fuss so I gave up after a while. She loved the sand though. She was playing with pails and shovels and running around all over the place. I had to keep her from falling into holes, tripping over branches, getting into stranger's things (she would see a ball or a pail or towel and go to grab it. The world is hers for the taking she figures. She doesn't yet understand that not everything is hers. It figures that one of the words she's able to say now is "Mine!" She even says beach too. She's still saying a new word every day.)

Everything was going great until all of a sudden, exhaustion set in and Michelle crashed. She started to scream. When Michelle is not happy she wants to make sure that everyone within a 300 mile radius can hear her. She screams like I'm torturing or killing her. What I was doing was trying to comfort her, changing her diaper (full of sand. Not fun to change even when your baby isn't shrieking like something unholy), getting her dressed, getting out her milk, offering her a snack, her soother, anything. It was embarrassing. I don't like Michelle crying which is partly why I never sleep trained her because I don't have the heart to let her scream indefinitely, it's bad enough for a minute or two. When we're at home it's bad enough. When we're out in public it's brutal. My sister and her kids were way out in the water having a good time. I thought she'd hear Michelle but it seems she didn't. I finally had to rock Michelle in my arms until she would fall asleep. My sister came back to shore when Michelle was resting in my arms.
"She's been pretty good today!" my sister said. I think I started to twitch. My left arm had gone numb, my ears were still ringing, I was sweating profusely.
"Actually, she just had a complete meltdown screaming her head off. It was a nightmare. You missed it." My sister joked that I must just be making it up/exaggerating.
I tried putting Michelle down on a towel in the sand because I couldn't feel my arm anymore. The instant I put her down she woke up and cried so I had to pick her up again and rock her. It was hard enough carrying her when she was a newborn. Now she's so heavy it feels like my arm is going to fall off.

As if to torment me a woman came to the beach with her newborn and set up right beside where I was standing in the shade, rocking Michelle in my arms. The woman's baby was as quiet as a little doll, sound asleep in her carseat. The woman was able to sit there leisurely and enjoy the weather without doing a thing. I looked around at other people, the childless ones sunbathing luxuriously, not a care in the world; the ones with older kids who were playing nicely in the sand or the water; the ones with babies who were perfectly behaved either sleeping like statues or sitting. It seemed like life was so easy for everyone else. Of course it probably just seems that way. Everyone has their own struggles. But Michelle was the only one wailing on the beach that day.

She is high maintenance but I adore her and I do whatever it takes to make her happy. Some (many actually) have said that I'm spoiling her and it's my own fault because I indulge her every whim and don't let her cry more than a minute (never sleep trained her etc.) Though at her worst it's a lot to take, at her best she's an angel and I wouldn't have her any other way. Her happiness means more to me than my own life. She is my number one priority. My health, sleep, sanity, etc are secondary. (I used to see the logic in "You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else." until I became a Mom and logic is out the window. Now it's just primal. She comes first. End of story.)

When we were packing up to leave, Michelle had another meltdown. AGAIN my sister missed it! She had just taken the kids off to the bathroom and Michelle started screaming. "I think you're making it up!" my sister joked with me again. Why would I make that up?! But my sister did get to see one of Michelle's temper tantrums when we got back to her place. She was running around and a ball of energy at first but then ran out of steam again and was so exhausted she was staggering like a drunk man. She was overtired, overstimulated and was fighting sleep though she was ready to pass out from exhaustion. That's my girl!

I wanted to go to a beach again at least once before the summer was over. A long drive was out of the question after the Dover experience but I thought it couldn't hurt to try somewhere local. We went to Burlington Beach and had an amazing day.

Michelle had a good morning nap and even fell asleep in the afternoon just as we reached the beach so I actually got to go SWIMMING for a minute! I told my Mom to signal me if Michelle woke up and I ran into the water. Usually I have a hard time with cold water and have to work my way in gradually but I knew I may only have a few seconds so I ran straight in and swam a few laps immediately. It's kind of a metaphor for life -- just dive in because you don't know how long you'll have and you might as well enjoy it. The water was so refreshing. I even floated on my back for a bit. It was awesome! I felt so free. I could just barely make out Michelle sleeping in her carseat on the shore next to my Mom. Then my Mom started putting her hands up to her eyes as though she was rubbing her eyes. I thought Michelle must be crying so I hurried back to the shore only to find her still asleep. My Mom was trying to say Michelle was still sleeping. I wish she'd just given me a thumbs up. I was just so grateful to have a couple of minutes to myself. Michelle woke up shortly after but was in good spirits and had a ball playing on the sand and didn't even mind me bringing her into the water.

Michelle was quite a hit on the beach. A group of kids were making a fuss of her. "She's so cute! What's her name? How old is she? Wow she's really smart! Can I pick her up? Can I hold her hand? " It was almost overwhelming. They all wanted to pick her up like she was a little doll. They followed us everywhere around the beach and into the water. Michelle started to get upset and I had to ask them not to try grabbing her. "Why is she crying?" one of them asked. "She's a bit nervous of strangers," I explained. "We're not strangers," the girl said. "But she doesn't know you," I told her (which is of course the definition of a stranger but I guess at that age the girl didn't understand. Or maybe she thought strangers were just adults you didn't know and that other kids were safe.) I couldn't resist getting a couple of photos. It felt like Michelle was a rock star with fans following her around everywhere. I could imagine her as a young starlet ducking to escape the overzealous paparazzi. Of course there is no escape from the MAMARAZZI! I was snapping photos like a fiend.

What's wrong with this picture?!
As I chased Michelle around the beach I happened to glance toward the rocks and noticed a baby ALL BY HIMSELF in the water. He had a life jacket on but was ALONE! He looked awfully small to be unattended in the water. I was in shock. My sister noticed it too. We looked at the baby and then at each other and were like "What the?! Is that really happening?!" The baby's mother finally came over when he was almost at the rocks and picked him up by the lifejacket (like he was an object, a picnic basket or something.) The whole time he seemed content, wasn't crying or anything. It seemed insane to me but maybe I'm the crazy one for being too overprotective. Maybe that baby's parents were looking at me thinking I was too smothering. (Well I doubt they were looking at me. They weren't even watching their own kid.) I guess we represent the opposite ends of the spectrum. I don't let Michelle out of my sight or more than a few inches away from me (unless my Mom or sister are watching her) when there are parents who obviously don't worry at all and leave a baby to fend for itself out in the water without supervision. It's a tough balance to give kids enough freedom to explore without letting them get into trouble, to give them enough structure and safety without stifling them and preventing them from growing. To give them too much freedom is negligence but not enough freedom and they're in a prison where they can never grow. One guy I dated said that his parents put him on a train by himself when he was 4 years old. To me, that's completely insane but it made him more independent. I just couldn't do it. Not in a million years. I worry too much. My Mom was so overprotective with us. I don't want to "bubble wrap" Michelle (like that show) but at the same time I don't want to see her get hurt. So I run after her every second to make sure she's OK. I still let her run and explore (giving me a heart attack about 10 times a day when she comes close to getting hurt) but I'm right there to catch her, stop her before she trots into trouble.

At the end of the day as we were heading to our cars I ran into an old flame by the snack bar. It was like a tiny dagger in my heart seeing him with the new girl in his life. It's selfish and silly of me to expect my former loves to remain suspended in animation, to never move on with their lives but pine for me in perpetuity! Of course they do move on to other relationships, marriages, etc. I moved on too. Life changes.

He admired Michelle. "She has beautiful eyes!" he said. "How old is she?" "A year," I replied, though in retrospect it would have been more accurate to say 13 months minus a day or so. (13 months just sounds strange. I never hear anyone say their baby is 13 months. Maybe it's bad luck.)

It was strange seeing him. It was like meeting the ghost of summers past, reminding me of my former life -- romance, adventure, carefree days lying in the sun, wild nights dancing under the moonlight. But it's OK. I have a new girl in my life too and I love her far more than I've ever loved any man. I used to be afraid of commitment but I'm completely committed to her (I have to be! I'll be her Mom forever!) My life has changed in ways I never imagined but it's a good change. Even on the worst of days. Even when she screams like a siren on the beach. Because the good days with Michelle are the best I've ever had and nothing in my life up to now compares to the joy of having this little girl.