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.