Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hot to Cold

Ironically after my Mom going on and on about the measles (there was apparently an outbreak in Burlington or something. Mom I haven't even been to Burlington lately! Anyway...) Michelle suddenly had a big red dot in the middle of her forehead. It looked a little like a pimple. It had a white head with a red circle around it. I didn't even know what measles looked like. She only had the one dot. I didn't think you could get "measle" singular. In any event I wasn't taking any chances and made an appointment to take her to my family doctor immediately (no more walk-in clinics for us after meeting Dr. Disagreeable last time.) Of course by the time we made it to the doctor a few hours later, the red dot had vanished as if by magic. I felt a bit silly and hypochondriacal (is that even a word?!) but I thought it can't hurt to have her checked out anyway. It had been a while.

The doctor was quite impressed that when she called Michelle, Michelle walked into the office by herself! "She's walking early?!" Doc exclaimed. The secretary got up from her desk to check it out. "She's walking really well!" She has been getting a lot of practice and her steps are getting much steadier.

The doctor checked Michelle out and she was healthy overall. Her temperature was normal. It didn't look like there were any teeth breaking through her gums. The doctor said she might just have a little case of the sniffles and it would go away on its own. The dot was probably just a heat rash or something. Michelle's skin is so sensitive. I was relieved that Michelle seemed to be doing better, whatever it was. Teething or common cold. Aside from her fever going down there was a break from the heat weatherwise too which was a huge relief for both of us.

Then we went for a visit with friends (Cathy, Rosie and Gwen) and as we sat outside Michelle's nose started to run. We thought maybe it was allergies because her nose hadn't been running at all before that. That night it turned into a full blown cough and cold. She was up all night screaming, coughing, her nose running like a tap. Brutal. Then of course I was sneezing too. Runny nose. Cough. It was awful. Michelle was uber-cranky and would barely sleep at night or nap in the day for the next couple of days. Though I had been trying to wean her prior to all this, since she's been sick I've been nursing her through the day again. It's a comfort thing and I also know from the doctor that breast milk is full of antibodies to help her fight off the cold. Since I'm sick as well my body would be producing even more antibodies. It figures when I only have another week off with her before I return to work that we are spending it sick. I hope it goes away soon.

At least we did have a nice visit with the girls. It had been months since they'd seen Michelle and I. They were surprised she was walking so well already.

Sitting on a blanket on the grass keeps Michelle from wandering off because she's still afraid of walking on the grass. I tried to tell her that it feels nice on your bare feet but she just shook her head and screamed when I tried to place her little feet on the grass so I didn't push. At least it's one way to keep her in one place now that she's running amok and getting into everything most of the time. I want her to get used to grass though. Sand will be another hurdle. I have to get her used to it before our first trip to a real beach so she doesn't freak out there (though I guess I could just carry her to the water.)

Michelle is becoming very headstrong. She wants things her way instantly and gets quite angry if things don't go right (I don't know WHERE she gets that from! OK I do. My Mom says my sister and I were the same.) She will pick things up -- like a container with a lid -- and she wants to be able to screw the lid on and off herself and if she can't she throws a tantrum. My Mom says it's because she's so bright. She's driven to learn. She wants to figure things out. She wants to be able to do everything right now. Walking has given her a sense of independence. As long as I stay in one spot she'll leave the room knowing she can come back to me when she's ready. She doesn't like it if I try to leave though. I've taken her to see my Mom a few times so she'll be used to seeing her a lot. She does feel more comfortable with Mom which is a relief since she's my child care when I go back to work soon.

I'm amazed at how much Michelle knows and understands. Sometimes I test her just for fun. I'll ask her "Where's the pink ball?" and I'm not even sure she knows the colour pink or what a ball is because I haven't asked her before but she'll walk past all the toys on the floor and get the pink ball. She even started trying to put shapes in the shape sorter. She even had the right shape (the star) to go in the right star-shaped hole but she couldn't quite turn it around right to get it in so she got mad and threw it. Even when I'm not speaking to her she listens to conversations and if there's a word she knows, she responds to it. Anytime anyone says "head" even on TV she touches her head. She waves "Hi" and "Bye" to everyone (even characters on TV) with a cute little italian backwards hand wave that I love. I'm constantly praising her "Clever girl!" and she claps her hands and looks quite proud of herself. My Mom says it's like having a baby me all over again. Curious. Affectionate. Moody. Demanding.

Rosie asked me if Michelle was a snuggler. "Yes she's very affectionate. She snuggles with me and with her toys, especially her favourite monkey." Gwen apparently isn't snuggly at all. Every baby is different. I don't know if it's nature or nurture -- most likely a combination of the two. I have always showered Michelle in attention and affection so that has probably taught her to be a hugger. One thing she definitely didn't get from me (perhaps a little of her father's evil. He never hit me but he had a scary temper and we had some terrible fights) is a violent streak. Sometimes she'll hit me. I'll look shocked and she'll laugh and do it again. I'll say "That's not nice! Don't hit Mama! Poor Mama!" She probably senses I'm not really mad. It's usually hard to stifle a laugh actually though once in a while it does hurt. As soon as I show disapproval she'll lean her head on me and go "Awww." So manipulative. (Her Dad to a tee! Do something to hurt you then do something sweet so you forgive him.) "That doesn't make up for it!" I tell her. But it actually does. When she hugs me and nuzzles against me I could forgive her anything. Yeah, I'm a sucker.

After our visit I asked Michelle "Remember the black cat at Cathy's house?" and she reached for her black cat book (it looks like a stuffed cat but it opens up to a little board book which is mildly disturbing now that I think of it. Hopefully she doesn't think all cats open up with a story inside.) She understands so much more than I expect that my Mom said "You better be careful what you say now." Sometimes Mama loses her patience (with drivers on the road etc) and I step out of Disney Rated G mode for a moment. She still chatters away in her own little language which often sounds like French. The only really intelligible word that stands out is "Mama." She says it differently now. Plaintively. It tugs at my heartstrings. Even when she's being difficult. I will never tire of hearing it.

As we approach July I'm realizing that this 8 post a month quota I had set for myself (I'm not sure why. I just wrote 8 posts in the beginning and then felt like I should be consistent. I wanted to keep a record of Michelle's first year as a baby and there was usually something new to write about every few days.) is going to be close to impossible. I will definitely want to write a post about Michelle's first birthday in late July. I may write one or two posts a month but with my return to work and other things going on in my life I'm not sure I'll be able to blog as much. And part of me thinks maybe we'll just "go off the grid" so to speak. I reveal so much about our lives here and maybe I shouldn't. It's a window into our lives and makes it too easy for someone to watch Michelle growing up from a distance if he chose to. Frankly I don't think he has the right to know anything about her. I'm not sure he does read this. I try to think if it were me, I'd be too curious not to (then again if it were me I would NEVER be able to abandon my own child in the first place). Or maybe it would be too painful. Perhaps he wants to just forget. Or maybe he really doesn't care.

There was one day I was driving with Michelle and I looked at her in the rearview mirror. She looked back at me. She wasn't playing, wasn't fussing, was just sitting quite still for a moment and she looked older and wiser than a baby somehow. Suddenly I got a chill. It was Mike. She looked so much like him it was as though he were staring at me himself. Those beautiful blue eyes that cast a spell on me back in the Fall of 2011. Then she smiled and grabbed her toes and she was my little girl again. For all his flaws, I really can't completely hate her father, he has given me the greatest gift of my life. I can't believe she's turning 11 months in a day and 12 months next month. The past year has flown by in the blink of an eye. I am grateful to have photos, videos and this blog to remember so many happy moments.

She may run hot and cold. She may exhaust me physically, emotionally and in every conceivable way. She may drive me crazy 50% of the time but she is without a doubt the most wonderful, most beautiful, most incredible thing that ever happened to me. She is my love. She is my life.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

100 degrees

It figures. I had just finished saying "The weather has been perfect. I wish it would stay like this" when it changed for the worse. It's been hotter than hell.

"Summer's finally here!" a cheerful stranger piped as I stood pumping gas in the 35 degree (40 celsius with the humidex -- that's 104 fahrenheit) heat. "Yeah. It sure is."
The last few days were hot. Stinking, scorching hot. When you don't have air conditioning you really feel it. At least it cooled down at night sometimes so I opened all the windows to get the cool air in and then closed everything up in the morning to lock it in. I didn't think the house was too bad considering. Mind you because heat rises the bedrooms were suffocating. Fans help a little. Cool bubble baths are refreshing.

Then one day Michelle was out of sorts. More so than usual. She barely touched her cereal. She had slept a fair amount but was still tired and cranky. She wouldn't let me put her down. She felt hot but I figured it was because it was hot and when she fusses it raises her temperature even more. It wasn't until we headed to my Mom's that I realized something was wrong.

My Mom's place is air conditioned (and she likes to keep it cold. Like a meat locker.) and yet Michelle still felt warm. My Mom said "I think she has a fever." I tried giving her a tiny piece of toast and she threw up instantly. I was worried she'd get dehydrated and kept trying to give her water but she wouldn't drink it. She was crankier than ever. I have a thermometer at home but didn't have it with me and my Mom didn't have one (with all the things that she has I'd have thought she'd have one somewhere. She probably does and just doesn't remember). We took her to the walk-in clinic to get checked out.

I looked around the waiting room. My Mom had called ahead to say we were bringing in a baby with a fever. I told her to ask them if they were busy. I didn't want to subject Michelle to a long wait when she was already so miserable. Their answer was apparently "We're still taking patients" which really doesn't answer the question. I did a head count and there were about 20 people waiting there. I wondered if Michelle screaming would bump her up on the priority list. Thankfully it did and before I knew it they were calling "Michelle."

The nurse was a sweetheart. She was very kind and reassuring. She suggested I nurse Michelle to calm her down. Even though I have been trying to wean her and never feeding her during the day these were special circumstances. She hadn't eaten and wouldn't drink water so she could get dehydrated. She also could use the comfort of breastfeeding. So I nursed her. It worked like a charm. She calmed down immediately and even started to fall to sleep. I started to calm down as well. My Mom was talking a mile a minute "I'm worried she has measles. It's going around..." blah blah blah. The nurse shushed her and told us something we could do to handle stress -- a technique called tapping. She said even her young daughter was doing it. It looked simple enough. Of course when I'm carrying Michelle around in one arm and trying to do a million things it's not even an option. They say not to sweat the small stuff but it's hard not to when there's a lot of small stuff. And when you're perspiring and panting in 100 degree heat carrying an 18 lb sick screaming baby...

The doctor was not so nice. First of all I could barely understand a word he said. Between his thick accent and Michelle screaming I didn't have a clue what he was on about. At one point he was grabbing my arms (a little too roughly I might add) and trying to get me to restrain Michelle while he took her temperature in her ear. She was going ballistic. She went from being peaceful and happy in Mama's arms to being terrified and angry at the hands of an unfriendly doctor. He didn't even bother to tell me what her temperature was. He took a swab of her throat (which was a nightmarish endeavour as well with him sticking a popsicle stick and a q-tip down her throat while she screamed.) My Mom even tried mentioning the measles to him. He shook his head and started spouting off something about measles and added that she'd likely already been immunized against them (I knew she'd had a few sets of needles but I couldn't remember what they were all for.) He said he'd be back in five minutes. I nursed Michelle back to her happy place again. I started to wonder how on earth I could possibly leave her when I go back to work. I certainly couldn't leave her if she was sick. When the doctor came back he said it doesn't appear that she has strep throat. He suggested it was probably just a viral thing and that if she didn't improve in a couple of days to take her to the doctor. He gave me a requisition for a chest x-ray just in case. I thought there's no way I'm putting her through that. He really wasn't a lot of help. He said to just give her "whatever I had" at home (Luckily I did have some baby Tylenol for fever) and take her to a doctor if she wasn't better in a couple of days.

Michelle wasn't herself. She was sluggish, drowsy and wound up having a second afternoon nap. I nursed her again on my Mom's couch. She was just about falling asleep when she suddenly sat up, wide awake and in good spirits. She was laughing and cooing and chattering away in her own little language and reaching for toys. "She's back!" I thought with relief. She was her happy self again. It didn't last though. Soon she was back to fussing. I tried explaining to her that the more she cries the hotter she's going to feel.  I tried putting something cold on her head, she wouldn't have it. My Mom had some little Nemo things with gel in them that you put in the freezer. Michelle chewed on them. I thought that would cool her down a little at least. I didn't know how she'd survive back at my place in the heat when she was still hot even at my Mom's ice palace (I had to put a sweater on because I was shivering).

I gave her a jar of pears for dinner and she seemed OK with that. I tried to give her her nightly oatmeal hoping to get some iron into her since she'd barely eaten anything and had no meat. She was eating voraciously, spoonful after spoonful, as though she was starving. Then all of a sudden she gagged and it all came back up.

Michelle slept on the way home and then was wide awake at home. I took her temperature and it was 100.3. I didn't even know what a normal temperature was supposed to be. I thought I remembered hearing that 96 degrees fahrenheit or so was normal. I remembered a cheesy song from the 80s "I'm hotblooded! Check it and see! I've got a fever of a hundred and three." So 103 would be a fever but maybe 100.3 wasn't too bad? I checked the internet. She was basically on the borderline. If it was any higher it may be a cause for concern. Apparently fevers aren't normally dangerous unless the baby is under 6 months old.

It's Murphy's Law I suppose and just one of life's cruel jokes that things will happen at the worst possible time. Michelle happens to get a fever on the hottest day we've had so far. If I hadn't gone to my Mom's place I would have just thought my house was too hot.

The next day I tried to keep Michelle cool by putting a cool cloth on her head, heading to an air conditioned store to get some groceries, having a cool bath and watching an Elmo DVD in the basement. She still seemed warm but not quite as bad. Her temperature was still 100. I had the ceiling fan and a tower fan on us to sleep. Not that Michelle slept much anyway. She wouldn't settle down until after midnight and kept waking all night.

When I called my sister she said it sounds like Michelle is teething. For some reason it seems to come with a fever, crankiness and lack of sleep. I did some digging online and read that for whatever reason teeth coming through the gums elevates a baby's temperature to about 100 degrees. As long as it doesn't go above that it's no cause for concern.

The following day Michelle was still warm but seemed in a little bit better spirits. She still wasn't sleeping much. Again she didn't fall asleep until after midnight, kept waking up all night and then barely napped all day. We went to my sister's place and Michelle was wide awake and running amok. She had fun playing with toys, chasing her cousin Reggie, walking around and exploring Shannon's room, May's room etc. I couldn't believe how long she'd gone without much sleep. I thought for sure she'd wear herself out. She did finally fall asleep on the drive home.

Parenting really has to be the hardest job you could have (and the best job you could love in spite of the challenges). Just when you have one thing sorted out there's something new to worry about. It never ends. You can never completely relax (not if you're a worrywart like me!) When I checked Michelle's temperature again it was 99. So at least it's an improvement. My sister pointed out "You don't even know what her temperature was normally." Which is true. She has always been a hotblooded little thing. She's so active she doesn't keep still so it's like she's working out all the time. And when she cries she screams until her face turns red. My little firecracker. I'm just relieved that she seems to be OK.

I don't see any teeth yet but there are little lines in her gums as if they're about to break through. I know babies get teeth at different times. Apparently babies can get teeth anywhere from 3 months (ouch! Thank God Michelle didn't or my nipples would have really been hacked to bits! She was intense enough without teeth!) to 12 months or later but most fall somewhere between 6 and 9 months. I'm assuming at this point that she was teething (I'm surprised the doctor didn't even mention that as a possibility. Then again maybe that was one of the unintelligible things he was saying with a thick accent while Michelle was shrieking like a banshee and I wanted to yell "I can't hear or understand a word you're saying!" actually I may have yelled that at one point but I don't think he heard me. He did seem to think it was a "viral thing" though.) The temperature, crankiness, not eating or sleeping all seem to be symptoms of teething. Then again she has coughed a few times. It's impossible to know. She can't tell you what's going on. All you can do is guess. Even doctors, with all their expertise, can only really hazard a guess what the problem is, aside from running tests.

Michelle is sleeping as I finish typing this and hopefully will get a good sleep tonight to catch up on all that she's missed. She really enjoyed visiting her cousins and Auntie May. I was glad to see her happy and active again. Tonight when we got back home I was relieved the weather had cooled down and there was a nice breeze coming through the windows. I thought hot summer days were rough last year when I was pregnant. With a baby it's even more difficult. Of course one of these hot days we will have to head to the beach. I really don't know how that will go. I guess we'll see soon enough.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Well it's official now. Summer is here. If the weather would stay the way it has been for the past few days (sunny and warm without being hot and humid and then cool in the evenings) it would be perfect. Not having air conditioning we really feel the heat. (Michelle gets hot easily because she's so active. Even when the weather isn't warm sometimes her forehead is wet.)

Auntie May and cousin Reggie came for a visit the other day. May helped me tackle the garden (aka the JUNGLE! Gardening was one of my hobbies back when I didn't plan to have children. I used to have several hours to devote to it. These days there is little to no time at all and the weeds were really taking over.) and the kids played on a towel on the sand on my mini-beach. Michelle loves her cousin Reggie. She was chasing him around the house inside and she sat and played nicely with him for a surprisingly long time outside. We made sure that they were in the shade, protected from the sun (I got some sunscreen for Michelle but I'm saving it for when we go to a real beach to go swimming. I just try to keep her out of the sun most of the time. She's a redhead like her Mama so I know she has very sensitive skin.)

One of the reasons Michelle stayed playing on the towel rather than venturing elsewhere was because she's afraid of the sand. I've tried standing her on it before and she freaks out. She's not a fan of grass either. She cries when I try to put her on it. Hopefully she gets used to it eventually. She's OK with walking on indoor surfaces -- hardwood, ceramic tile, carpet -- but outside she's not too impressed. I'm not sure if it's the temperature, texture or unevenness of the ground (or all three) that bothers her.

I'm hoping we can all make a trip to a real beach and go swimming sometime soon. I'm not sure how Michelle will react to the water. She loves baths but they're always warm. I'm not sure how a cold lake is going to go over. You just never know with her. I know that the sand isn't her favourite. I have a little beach tent we can hang out in to stay in the shade and off the sand anyway. I hope she'll be OK.

Before having Michelle I was at the beach every chance I got starting in early May (Port Dover was always my favourite. I also went to Grand Bend, Wasaga, Sauble Beach, Burlington Beach etc. I even went to Daytona Beach in Florida once. The road trip of my dreams. Sigh. Just two years but it seems a lifetime ago now. Anyway, I'm getting off topic!) Now we're almost through June and the only beach we've been to is the one in my yard (and sadly there's no water here!) I've been reluctant to go on a long trip with Michelle. We've also had some strange weather (cold spells and a lot of rain through May and early June). Now the weather has been so beautiful it has me thinking it's about time to go for it. I won't be wearing my bikinis this year though. Even though I've lost weight -- I'm just 10 lbs over what I was before I was pregnant unfortunately most of it is in my tummy. Not sure how I'll lose the mommy pooch. I haven't really been exercising aside from carrying Michelle around while I try to do everything. I think I'll go with tankinis to hide the tummy and the stretch marks for that matter.

Sometimes I look back wistfully at the tummy that used to be. My doctor said I would likely never get it back. Looking at my tummy now a year later I'm inclined to agree. Mind you it's not like I've been doing 100 situps a day (or ANY for that matter.) And hey if I want to make myself feel better I can just look back at the pregnancy photos from last summer and realize how far I have come. I've lost 55 lbs of the 65 I had gained. That's not bad at all.


Michelle was worth every sacrifice (physically, financially and otherwise) I've had to make. My life now bears no resemblance to what it was but that's OK. She is my life now. The things I used to think were so important can't hold a candle to her. She is everything to me. Although I did have some wonderful summers in the past, I will always remember this summer as my favourite -- the most exciting and rewarding -- because I got to share it with my little girl, watching her take her first steps. I wouldn't trade that for all the beaches and all the bikinis in the world.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Grampa Day!

I'm actually not even sure if it's supposed to be spelled "Grampa" or "Grandpa" -- to be honest neither really looks right to me. I've decided that Grampa is closer to how it sounds (though in the English language you can't always go by that. I mean look at the word laugh!) Anyway I suppose it's informal either way and doesn't matter. When I was in school if you spelled a word wrong you had to write it out 30 times until it was tattooed on your brain. Now the internet generation has "creative spelling" and "phonetic spelling," abbreviations (what a long word that is, ironically!) and slang no one seems to care about spelling anymore. I always prided myself on spelling but Grampa isn't a word I ever really needed to write until recently. My grandparents all passed away when I was younger and I didn't have children (or expect to!) until Michelle. Anyway, enough about that! I'm going with Grampa!

We had a nice Father's Day celebration with my Dad at Auntie May's. My Mom at one point had called it "Grampa Day" when she was talking to Michelle. I suppose in the future I will have to call it Grampa Day for her sake since she doesn't have a father. I wondered fleetingly if he (Mike, Michelle's deadbeat dad who skipped out when I was 4 months prego) thought of us at all. He may not have even realized it was Father's Day or paid any attention. Since he never knew his own father it probably wasn't a day he ever celebrated. (He did have adoptive parents eventually but apparently didn't bond with them. He only referred to them as "the adoptive parents" when he spoke of them and didn't even call them to wish them Merry Christmas.) I don't think of him often anymore but once in a while he does cross my mind and I wonder how he lives with himself knowing he left us without a word, explanation, apology or anything even to this day. It's unfathomable to me. I guess I'll never understand and never know the truth.

Michelle had a great time walking around at May's house. She circled around and around the hallway, living room and kitchen. My sister put a gate up to block the stairs. That's one thing I don't have to worry about at my place. I can just shut the basement door and she can roam around the hallway, family room and kitchen. I got a little bit of video of her in the hall just before we had dinner. Here it is on Youtube:

My Mom said that seeing Michelle walking around was like having her little Ann Marie back again. I definitely do see the resemblance when I look at old baby photos of me. The same hair (or lack thereof!), same eyes, same smile. Same feistiness too according to Mom. Michelle has been impossible lately. Moody, cranky, refusing to nap. At least she wore herself out at my sister's place running around all day. By the end of the day she was so exhausted she could barely move. She still insisted on trying to walk and was staggering more than usual, would fall, cry and then drag herself back up again. I picked her up and told her she didn't have to keep moving. The second we loaded her carseat into the car, she was out like a light. She slept most of the way home then woke up screaming. I sang a little to settle her down. When we got home I nursed her and she wound up sleeping through the night until 5 in the morning! She had never slept that long without getting up. She must have really been exhausted.

My dad is a little hurt when Michelle won't go to him but she's making strange with just about everyone now. She even screamed when my Mom tried to take her. It seems like now that she's walking even though she's becoming more independent and can move around on her own, she's become more dependent on me. She panics if I'm not there even for a second to go to the bathroom. I don't know how on Earth we're going to get through my return to work. My sister said Shannon was the same way. She would scream whenever my sister left. Even at two years old. It got to the point where she had to just sneak out so there wouldn't be a big scene. I try to sneak away when Michelle is playing but the second she turns around and doesn't see me, she screams. If she decides to walk away on her own that's fine. As long as I stay put she knows she can come back to me as she pleases. But if I try to walk away, she's not having it. It seemed like she was warming up to Uncle Chris when he talked to her and tickled her but when I asked if she'd go to him and he held out his arms she turned away from him and nuzzled in to me as if to say "Hell, no!"

I understand why she is so dependent on Mama. I have been her whole world pretty much for the past 10 months. Though she is eager to explore the world and is starting to get into everything now that she's walking around, she likes to know that Mama is right there. I am her safe place. Though she does see Gramma (that looks even more weird than Grampa but Grandma doesn't seem right either...) quite often she doesn't see anyone 24-7 the way she does me. It is going to be heartbreaking to leave her when I return to work. I just hope we (Michelle, my Mom and me) survive it.

She does enjoy seeing family and will smile and laugh at them provided I'm right there but as soon as I try to leave the room she goes ballistic.

I remember when I was younger and had an idea of what true love would be. I imagined that some day I would be completely loved and needed by someone. At the time I expected it to be a man, of course as my sister always told me no love compares to that of a child. None of the men I loved ever quite lived up to my vision of love. Now Michelle is my world and I am hers. It is rewarding but exhausting too. I wished for a powerful, all-consuming love and I sure got it. Careful what you wish for!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Walking alone!

At nine months Michelle was pulling up, cruising and could take a couple of wobbly steps but she wasn't quite walking on her own. I was leaning over breaking my back, holding her hands to help her walk down the hallway. (Actually that started at 7 months but I used to have to hold her chest and over time I could loosen my grip and hold her arms or her hands instead.) Now at 10 months she can walk down the hall and from one room to the next all by herself! The first time she came waddling toward me from way across the room was exciting, for Michelle and for me. Now there's no stopping her.

It's a big relief on my back not to have to bend over to guide her along anymore. It was killing me. It's great that she can entertain herself and I don't have to worry (as much) about her getting hurt. Each day she gets better at walking and can go further without stumbling.

I did some decluttering to give her more room to move. She seems to walk better on the main floor where I have ceramic tile and hardwood than she does upstairs on the carpet. She has a habit of curling her toes under. The hard floor underneath her gives her more stability. The only problem is that it's not very forgiving when she falls. Fortunately 99% of the time she falls on her butt. She did have one slip up where she hit her head on the closet door. She had a bump at first but I put some frozen peas on it and by the next day you couldn't see anything.

Of course I had to record this milestone on video so I got some footage of her walking, carrying her monkey, falling and getting back up etc. Here is the video on Youtube:


I read that babies can start walking any time after 9 months but most don't really master it until a year or so. Of course there are the daredevils who start to walk at 7 months (apparently I did but back then I had the help of a walker to hone my skills. They're against the law now.) Some don't walk at all until 15-18 months. It depends on the child, their confidence level and opportunity. In some ways I think I was holding Michelle back. She might have walked even sooner. I was a little overprotective and used to surround her with pillows and try to keep her safe in a very small area. As I became more relaxed about letting her move more (well, relaxed isn't the right word. I don't think I've ever quite been relaxed in the past 2 years! I just gave up trying to control everything because it seemed impossible and allowed her a bit more freedom) she became more adventurous. Of course the more practice a child gets the faster they learn.

Now Michelle loves walking around. She has even started waving her hands around and gesturing (must be the italian in her!) as she chatters away in her own little language while she walks. Most of it sounds like gibberish but occasionally they sound like real words, a sort of blend of English, Italian and French (maybe she picked up a little from me here and there.) Her new favourite sound is "Buh." She has a whole series of nonsense words that start with "B" -- Bway, bnew, booey, booyay etc. She has started doing a cute backward hand wave that I think may be an Italian thing too. She is certainly very expressive -- physically and vocally.

She loves picking things up and carrying them as she walks around. Unfortunately she usually picks things (like laundry or her pet monkey) that drag the floor and then she winds up tripping on them. She is still doing her "Awww" thing and snuggling with her stuffies and with me. I'm glad she's such an affectionate little girl. Her pink monkey is her favourite stuffy though she also loves her giraffe and her clown fish puppet.

Although I'm thrilled that she's walking now and it's so much fun watching her, obviously there is stress that comes with it as well. I will have to start locking up the cupboards so that she can't get into everything. Already she pulled a package of cookies off the table and spilled them all onto the floor. I didn't think she could reach the top of the kitchen table. (I had a craving for Arrowroot cookies dipped in tea. I only got to have a couple before she pulled them all onto the floor. It's a good job I didn't have the tea close to the edge. Strangely enough her father wouldn't let me eat the cookies either. He ate almost a whole package himself and then when I tried to eat one he even ate it right out of my hand!)

Also now that she's mobile it seems like she can't settle down. She stopped having her afternoon naps (she would rub her eyes but then refuse to go to sleep and just be super-cranky by dinnertime) and still wouldn't sleep at night. She didn't settle down until midnight and still woke up at the crack of dawn. As another Mom told me once they start walking it occupies their minds to such an extent that it interferes with sleep. It's tough when  Michelle doesn't sleep not only because it means I don't get time to myself to get things done but also it makes her cranky and impossible to deal with when she's overtired.

It's so surreal to me when I watch her becoming an independent little person. Sometimes she looks over at me and smiles like she's quite proud of herself. I'm proud of her too. "Clever girl!" I encourage her. Watching her waddle along is quite entertaining. I've decided that from the back she looks like a cross between a little drunk man leaving the pub and the old man from Sanford and Son (if you weren't a child of the 70s this will mean nothing to you!) Michelle has even started dancing a little bit when a song comes on that she likes or sometimes when I sing. My Mom told me I loved to dance as a baby too.

I heard that at a year old a child is considered a "toddler" and no longer a baby. As I watch Michelle toddling around there's a part of me that is sad she'll only officially be a baby for a couple more months. Of course she'll always be my baby girl, no matter how old she is. It's hard to believe that just 10 months ago she was a helpless little newborn who couldn't hold her head up and now she's strutting around like she owns the place. Other parents warned me and it certainly is true --They grow up soooo fast. Time is flying. Photos and videos (and this blog) are my pause buttons, my way of holding on. I will always cherish these days with Michelle.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Touched by God

I had planned all along to have Michelle baptized for many reasons: I was raised in a Catholic family. I wanted to get my Mom off my case ("WHEN are you getting her baptized?! It's going to be too late and the dress I got her won't fit much longer!" I had to listen to just about every time I talked to her for the past several months. I finally phoned the church and made the arrangements mostly to get Mom off my back! Though ideally a child would be baptized a few weeks after birth, technically you can still have a baptism even when they're 6 years old. So I could have REALLY procrastinated if I wanted to.) I wanted Michelle to be touched by God and to have Jesus in her life (I feel like He has been there for us from the beginning watching over us). And finally there's a slight possibility that her father actually was Satan (or at the very least the Prince of Darkness. He wasn't sure who his father was. I have my suspicions) and I wanted to be sure to claim her for the good side!

Though it is supposed to be a sacred day, it was also a rather stressful one. I had no idea how Michelle was going to be in church. She can be very moody and very vocal. I had visions of her screaming like a demon throughout the ceremony. You just never know with her. When babies act up in church parents usually take them out until they calm down (they even have a section at the back in most churches called a "crying room" so your baby doesn't disrupt the mass for everyone else), but if your baby is the centre of attention and it's a ceremony especially for her then there's really no escape if she acts up. I also knew that I would be the only single Mom there (there was a baptism prep class ahead of time and as expected they were all couples except for me.) There were three other babies being baptised on the same day. Each child had their own section of the church with parents in the front row, godparents in the row behind (my sister May and brother Chris) and other family behind that. I would be the only one in the front row by myself with Michelle, so I'd feel all the more conspicuous if she was wailing and I wouldn't even have my Mom beside me to help or hand her off to. I was hoping for the best.

A lot of the day's stress actually came from footwear, surprisingly. At the last minute I realized that all of the shoes I normally wear are worn, holey (not holy!) tattered or unsightly. I was wearing a black dress I got for my birthday and needed to wear somewhat dressy shoes with it. The problem was that all my reasonably dressy flats were a wreck. The only shoes I had that looked presentable (because they had barely been worn) were high heels. It has been several years since I've worn heels. I got out of the habit of wearing them during the four years that I dated someone who was just barely my height and would have been shorter if I wasn't in flats. After getting used to wearing comfortable shoes, I never went back. Comfort trumped style. I decided that heels, though sexy, weren't worth the torture. When I was pregnant especially I wouldn't have worn heels (my feet were so bloated I could barely wear shoes at all). Now with a baby I usually wouldn't dream of wearing heels but I knew for this occasion I'd have to walk up with Michelle and even step up on a podium so if anyone glanced at my feet I thought I'd better wear something presentable. I wasn't sure how I was going to balance on stilts while carrying a 20 lb baby. Walking up cement steps and leaning over a stone fountain. It was also a warm day and I was sweating buckets. I hoped I wouldn't trip, fall and drop Michelle.

Michelle's shoes were another source of stress. I had gotten these adorable little white satin slipper/shoes to go with her dress. The dress was several layers of satin, lace, sequins and beads so I figured the less time Michelle spent in it the better. The outfit was at my Mom's so I didn't dress her until just before we were going to head out. Once I had her all dressed on the couch she was standing up and trying to play. All of a sudden it was time to leave and I realized one of her shoes was missing. She hadn't left the couch. Where could it have gone? It made no sense. "She's lost her slipper!" I yelled thinking "What is she, Cinderella?" I didn't see how her slipper could just vanish. I didn't want to bring her barefoot to the church. My Mom said to bring her with one shoe on and then at least people would know she had shoes and lost one. I thought that logic was absurd. I kept frantically checking around the couch, on the floor. It was driving me crazy. I looked at the clock. It was time for us to be there. My Mom then came into the room and said to check between the cushions. Sure enough there it was. Michelle's foot must have slipped between the cushions for a second and the couch swallowed her shoe. Now I had to race to get her into the carseat and go.

Michelle was actually quite well behaved, considering. Everyone was telling me how good she was afterward. Of course they probably couldn't tell what I was going through in the front row alone with her. Michelle doesn't like to be still. Now that she can stand and walk a few steps on her own, she wants to get down. She was wiggling and wriggling to get out of my arms. I was sweating and she was so slippery in her satin layers that I had a hard time holding on to her. I almost thought I was going to drop her at one point. Sometimes she'd stiffen herself out and kick a little. She almost started to fuss but I was able to placate her with her soother, a stuffed white bear and her sippy cup of water. My brother Chris, her godfather made faces to entertain her as well.
It all fell apart at the font though. All the other babies (some of them almost newborn, others older like Michelle) were silent when it was their turn to have water poured over their heads. Michelle was not impressed and she wasn't shy about expressing her displeasure. She has been making strange with people as it is so when a strange man in a dress poured a shell full of water over her head three times -- "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" -- naturally she screamed. Luckily the priest was very down to earth and had a sense of humour about it. And happily she stopped crying after I dried off her head.

They didn't allow photography during the ceremony but you could snap to your heart's content after it was all over. We wound up being the last family to leave because we were taking so many pictures. It was hard for me because I'm used to being the one behind the camera. My brother Mike took some pictures with my camera for me. May took several with hers. My niece Shannon got some as well. There was sunlight coming from the ceiling and I asked my sister if she'd get a picture of Michelle and I. Those wound up being my favourites. Seeing Michelle bathed in light seemed appropriate for the occasion. When he saw her in her white dress my Dad said Michelle looked like an angel.

After the ceremony we headed back to my Mom and Dad's place for a celebration. My Mom seemed quite happy and relieved that Michelle had been baptized. My Mom was worried initially that the church might give me a hard time because of my situation. I told her the church isn't going to turn someone away. That wouldn't be very Christian would it? In this day and age not everyone has a typical traditional family with two parents. Besides, I know that God was there for us when Mike left and I didn't know how I was going to make ends meet. Miracles started to happen and we were OK. God is the man in our lives. I trust Him to look after us even though I don't always know how at the time.

It was such a beautiful day so we headed outside. Thankfully Michelle had a bit of a nap and was in pretty good spirits for the afternoon. She enjoyed playing on a blanket with the girls. Her cousins fussed over her like she was a little living doll. I changed her so that her baptismal gown wouldn't be ruined. The blanket acted like a fence for her since Michelle is afraid of going on the grass. (She's not used to it. So far every time I try to put her on the grass she gets creeped out by the texture.) Someone commented that the boys and girls were at opposite ends of the yard. The men were in the far corner trying to chop wood (bizarrely a large branch the size of a small tree had blown into my parents' yard one night during a quasi-tornado and my brother was going to cut it down to use as wood for his firepit) and the girls were all in dresses and hanging out on the blanket.

Michelle seemed happy there so we decided to open the gifts there as well. The girls helped. Though Michelle is too young to appreciate it, I was grateful for the lovely gifts she got from the family. My sister May is not only the best sister and friend I could hope to have, she's the best, most kind and generous Auntie and godmother Michelle could ask for too.

Though it had been a lovely day overall I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the end of it. I have been feeling more sentimental lately and tearing up easily. (I think it's partly hormonal, partly sleep deprivation and partly that I'm just a sentimental fool in general.) Michelle fell asleep on the drive home and I took the time to reflect on the day. I thought about Michelle in her white dress and I realized that a girl wears a white dress for each sacrament -- Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and eventually Marriage. I kind of skipped that last one of course. Though I wouldn't rule it out 100% (just 99.9%!) I really don't expect wedding bells in my near future. Even without a ceremony however I have vowed to love, honour and cherish someone for the rest of my days -- my little Michelle is my partner for life. I used to be afraid of commitment but now I give my heart and my life to her completely. I am so grateful for my little angel.


May gave me a CD of baptism pictures from her camera and I wanted to add a few of my favourites here...

I love this one of Michelle and the priest looking at each other! I just wish I'd remembered to take out her soother. I hate when she has a soother in her mouth for photos.

I like this one with my Mom. She looks so happy and proud.

I love Michelle's sweet expression here. I think this is my favourite photo of all.

Thank you again Godmother and Auntie May for all that you do!


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Knock it off!

Michelle's favourite pasttime is clearing the shelves. Whether it's books or bears she will pull them off one by one and throw them on the floor. Not to play with them or look at them, just for the sheer joy of making a mess. It started when she was 9 months old. Now she's 10 months old but she doesn't seem to be tiring of it any time soon. If anything she seems to enjoy it all the more as time goes on. She will even stare at me and smile as she throws things on the floor one by one. I say no and she does it anyway. I'm not sure how long this defiant stage will last (maybe the rest of her life?!) I decided it was kind of cute anyway and made a video of her pulling the bears down. Here it is on Youtube:

I tried to explain to her (as I have before) that just because you CAN do something doesn't mean you SHOULD. After tidying the nursery for the third time I would turn around and the floor would be covered in teddy bears. I tried to make light of it and sing the Teddy Bear Picnic but it was getting old. We had a hot couple of days (I don't have air conditioning) and my patience with everything was wearing thin. "Just leave it until she goes to bed" my Mom told me, explaining that all kids go through the phase where they want to throw everything on the floor. That's the other problem. She doesn't always go to bed. Sometimes she doesn't settle down until 11 pm and by then I'm exhausted and go to sleep myself. Even then she continues to wake up the rest of the night. Then she's cranky and impossible the next day and frankly I'm pretty cranky myself.

Michelle has been more difficult lately than ever and her timing couldn't be worse because I'm already stressed and stretched to my limit. Lately it seems she fights me on everything. Mealtimes are a battle. It's awful because she needs to eat solid food now more than ever since I'm weaning her off breastmilk but sometimes she just won't eat. It's so frustrating. I don't know what to do. I always had toys on the tray of her high chair to entertain her. Now she knocks them all off. She screams that she has nothing to play with so I pick them all up again only to have her knock them off. One. by. one. She likes to play with spoons and bowls so I give her a few of them. It entertains her for about two seconds and then bang, boom, they're on the floor. "If you're going to keep knocking them off I'm not going to pick them back up!" I threaten but then I cave in, like a dope and pick them up yet again. Lately she'll scream and stiffen herself out half the time refusing to eat even the things that used to be her favourites. Some days she'll eat really well and I'll be relieved. Other days she'll barely take two spoonfuls and then shakes her head and cries. "Ma!" she yells when she doesn't want anymore and shakes her head. I heard that you're not supposed to force a child to eat but what do you do if they just won't eat?

She also fights sleep. Even when she's so tired she's rubbing her eyes sometimes she still won't go for a nap or go to sleep at night. Then she's crankier than ever and complains about everything. Maybe this is her reaction to my cutting down on breastfeeding through the day. Her acting up on top of all the other stress in my life (which I don't even get into in this blog because it would take a whole other blog in itself and I barely have time for this one) is just about putting me over the edge. My Mom thinks that Michelle feeds off my stress and that it's a vicious cycle between the two of us. She stresses me out then I stress her out ad infinitum. I try to relax but it's difficult with a demanding, impossible baby and everything else I have to do without help.

It's hard when you get no break. The closest thing I had to a vacation was a trip to the dentist recently. I used to hate going to the dentist but now it's a peaceful refuge from the chaos at home. Ironically you'd think I'd be looking forward to going back to work to have a break from Michelle but instead it makes me sick to think of leaving her. I also worry about my Mom watching her. Even my Mom is concerned she may not be able to handle it. She's only ever babysat Michelle for a couple of hours at the most. I don't know what Michelle is going to think either. She's used to me being there 24-7. She may think I've abandoned her. She won't understand where Mama has gone. It breaks my heart.

Some days it seems like everything is weighing on me so much I just may crack. I try to keep my sense of humour but when you're stressed about everything (finances, life, work, home, not to mention raising a baby on your own) and on no sleep, it's not easy. Weaning may be taking a toll on me as well. Emotionally and physically I'm going through a big change. I was warned that hormone levels can drop dramatically when you start to wean. My monthly visitor is back (some people were surprised my periods didn't come back sooner but perhaps it was because I used to nurse so often). At least I don't get cramps anymore (I used to get unbearable ones before having Michelle but I guess after labour anything else is a cakewalk!) I do still get PMS moodiness and for whatever reason PMS makes my IBS that much worse. Sorry this is WAY TMI (too much info).

As tough as things have been, I try to look at the bright side. Some of the hardest moments of my life became cherished memories over time. I may look back on these struggles at some point and laugh. Right now it's tough. Some days I don't know how I'll cope with everything. Picking up teddy bears is the easiest thing to do these days. It's everything else that's not so simple to sort out. I have faith that somehow it's all going to be OK. It's just scary when I don't know how.

Even on her worst days Michelle always has at least a few moments that melt my heart and make me smile. She's getting better at walking every day. Now she can even make it across the room. When she takes her little excited wobbly steps toward me and falls into my arms, I could almost forgive her for anything. Despite the difficulties I have to remember how precious these days are and how lucky I am to have this sweet, feisty, impossible little girl.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy Birthday times two!

My niece Shannon and nephew Reggie were born on the same day, eight years apart. It still blows my mind and is proof that the Universe works in mysterious ways. I would think with 365 days in a year the odds of having two of your children born on the exact same day (even if you tried) would be astronomical, unless of course they were twins!

We celebrated their birthday(s) recently and it was a chaotic event with the whole gang there (both my brother in law's family and my sister's). I was relieved and happy that Michelle was so good for the event. You just never know. It could have gone either way. She didn't have much of a nap so I expected her to be cranky but I think she was fascinated by all that was going on and having little kids running around.

Reggie was trying out his "Angry Birds" face for the picture. Most of his gifts had an Angry Birds theme. I don't quite get it myself. From what I understand it's a video game/cartoon and series of toys and other merchandise based on birds being angry with pigs for trying to take their eggs. Someone is making millions of dollars from a simple idea.
Michelle always loves being at my sister's place. She enjoys seeing her cousins and she likes having so much room to move. My sister joked that maybe Michelle would start walking at May's house because it's the place she first crawled perfectly. When it was time for dinner I asked my Mom to keep an eye on Michelle while I quickly grab a plate. Michelle was playing on the floor in the living room. Next thing I knew my Mom was in the kitchen too. "Where's Michelle?" I asked her. I looked over and saw her standing in the middle of the floor by herself. My dad was still in the room to watch her. She seemed to be doing fine on her own. She can stand for quite a long time now and when you approach her with open arms she will take several stumbling steps toward you. "It's only a matter of time. She'll be walking on her own any day now!" someone said.

She kept getting caught up in her dress as she tried to walk and crawl. It was a little big on her. The straps didn't adjust. We ended up tying them at the back with a ribbon. It's so hard finding things to fit her now. She can wear anything from size 9 months to 12 months depending on the brand. She's tall for her age but quite slim so pants are often falling off of her. Dresses really aren't practical, especially when she's crawling and learning to walk but I love putting dresses on her. She's got several pretty little dresses and I want to make sure she wears all of them before she outgrows them. With her hair still so short you really wouldn't know she was a girl if I didn't dress her in dresses and girlie colours. Even dressed in pink sometimes when we're out people will ask "How old is he?" or "Is it a boy or a girl?" I can't wait until her hair is long enough to put it in little pig tails. Sometimes the ends curl up a little and my Mom thought maybe she'd get curly hair like her cousin Reggie.

Some days she's difficult and cranky and other days she's my perfect little angel. It all depends on how much sleep she gets but her sleeping is impossible to control or predict. Sometimes she'll settle down for naps and go to sleep at night no problem. Other times she refuses to nap and complains that she's tired all day but still doesn't sleep at night. She's my moody, unpredictable little redhead.

Shane's Aunt was at the party and telling me that she had a redhaired child who was so hyper and intense that they would "vibrate." My Mom piped in how Michelle clenches her fists and shakes with excitement. I am glad that Michelle is so intense. I love watching her excitement. I also love that she is so affectionate. She loves to snuggle and say "Awww" with me, my Mom, her favourite stuffed monkey etc. As difficult and demanding as she can be sometimes it's worth it to have my complex, fascinating, unique little ginger girl. I wouldn't have her any other way.