Tuesday, June 10, 2014


It seems like a lifetime since I've posted but it's only been since April. I meant to write something in May but May was a hectic month and gone in a blur. Now I don't even know where to begin. It was a rough month. Between working and special occasions there was so much going on it seemed like I never had a chance to catch my breath. I'm fortunate to have a job where I'm home more days than I work. The down side is that when I do work the shifts are very long (14-15 hours with the commute) and include weekends and stat holidays. This May unfortunately I had to work on Mother's Day, my birthday and my sister's birthday. I still had a little time with the family before work (on nightshift) but it was difficult.

I don't know why I feel this need to "catch up" in the blogs but I do and it's tough because I never have much time and now it feels like I'm so far behind. I would like to do one post a month. That was the plan but somehow two months slipped between my fingers. Now I can't even remember what happened in April! Seems like a year ago...I'll have to look back at the photos. They're like a diary in images. Photos are my way of holding on and recalling things

because I have a hard time even remembering what happened yesterday (I make notes in my calendar as well to keep track of things. My short term memory is SHOT. If you've seen Finding Nemo think of the Dory character. I'm not quite that far gone but well on my way.) I looked back at my April uploads and found these shots I almost forgot about. It was a fairy costume I got before Michelle was born and almost didn't fit her so I figured I better do a photo shoot before she outgrows it. She's already wearing size 3 clothes (and has the vocabulary of a 3-4 year old.) I constantly have people tell me how bright she is and I'm very proud of her but at the same time, she is the most difficult child you can possibly imagine. And she's moodier than ever. She went through a stage (and I hope it's over now!) where she would haul off and hit me <WHACK> out of the blue, for no reason (well because she was tired/cranky or there's a bit of her father-monster in her). So I'd say "That's not nice! You don't hit Mama. You don't hit ANYONE. EVER." Then she'd throw herself on the floor and scream and cry. "Why are YOU crying? I should be crying!" I'd say. Then later she'll be sweet as pie, hugging me and saying "I love you Mommy." Yeah I think there is a bit of her father in her. Runs hot and cold. I adore her but she drives me bat-sh%$ crazy sometimes!

I love dressing her up. She's like a living doll. If I'm being honest that was one of the reasons I really wanted a girl. Michelle was a bunny for Easter, of course. Though I had a hard time keeping the ears on her. Princess will gladly wear a tiara but she wasn't too keen on the ears. The bunny outfit suited her with her two teeth at the front. She's actually getting a lot more teeth now. When she laughs I really see them coming in. She has more front teeth and molars at the back. I don't know whether teething has anything to do with how difficult she's been. The screaming fits, the lack of sleep. It's hard to say. Could just be that she's a redhead and a spoiled Princess redhead at that. And yes, coddling attachment parent that I am, I know I am at least partly to blame.

Michelle's tantrums have reached EPIC proportions. "Terrible twos" (and she's not even two yet, God help me) doesn't begin to describe the fury that this kid can unleash. When she is angry because she didn't get her way INSTANTLY, is overtired (which is her own fault because she won't sleep), falls and gets hurt or anything else goes wrong in the little Princess' perfect world, there is HELL to pay. She will scream like she's being murdered. Throws herself down, red in the face, shrieking like something unholy and over NOTHING AT ALL. It's infuriating. It's terrifying. There are days I just bawl my eyes out because I don't know how to deal with her. It feels like I do so much for her, sacrifice so much for her, bend over backwards to make her happy and it's never enough. My sister, very sympathetically got me a book "Reasons My Kid is Crying" by Greg Pembroke and it features photos of kids having tantrums for the most random reasons. It made me laugh, even through tears. At least I know I'm not alone. It can be extremely frustrating though. It's part of the reason I have no social life. I'm limited in what I can do. I avoid situations out of fear she'll make a scene. I'm afraid to make plans, afraid of what she'll do.
The one party/BBQ I attempted to attend was a fiasco. She seemed OK at first, playing with other kids, but then mid-afternoon she had a full-blown tantrum over nothing and I left so we wouldn't ruin it for everyone else. She was screaming "Nap! Nap!" (this is what my kid does -- instead of going to sleep like a normal human would when she's tired, she screams "Nap!" and doesn't sleep.) Then we get home and sure enough she doesn't even go to sleep. She starts running around and wanting to play. "I left the party because of you and now you don't even want a nap anyway?!" Family events are different. I figure my family loves us no matter what but around anyone else I feel embarrassed when Michelle goes ballistic. It feels like people will be looking at me and shaking their heads in judgment "Gheesh. Can't you control your kid?" Because before I had kids sometimes I thought that way. And the truth is, no I can't control a force of nature! She's like a volcano or a tornado sometimes. I mostly just try to keep the peace and avoid situations that will set her off. Yes I'm OWNED by a 22 month old. I sacrifice my own life and sleep and happiness and just about everything for her sake.

My nephew James' First Communion was one of the most stressful days I can remember. I was afraid it wasn't going to go well. My fears were well-founded. Being in church involves two things that Michelle is utterly incapable of: being quiet and being still. The service hadn't even started yet and she was wriggling to get out of my arms, trying to run out of the pew. She wanted to run around the church. She could see no reason to stay in one spot when there was a whole new place to explore. When we go into a store she runs amok (she even mocks me saying "Mama! I'm running amok!") It drives me crazy. I've seen People of Walmart photos where the Mom has her kid on a leash and trust me, it's tempting! (My Mom used harnesses on us. I don't actually think I could do it.) Michelle won't stay in the stroller. She wants to walk around. She'll hold my hand and walk nicely for a bit but then she'll take off like a shot all of a sudden and I can barely catch her (I've got to remember to wear running shoes instead of sandals.) My warnings about possible abductions (though I pity the fool who would try to grab her) go unheeded. She laughs and sprints off as fast and as far as she can get from me. So I have to race like a lunatic to chase and catch her. And I feel the disapproving looks. Strangers shaking their heads and thinking "Tsk. Can't you control your kid?!" So naturally Michelle wanted to run around the church. If she'd had her way she'd have run screaming up to the altar with her arms flung open. She kept straining to look around. She saw that there was a balcony and yelled out "Mama! I want to go up!" so I took her upstairs hoping that would keep her quiet. Then she was yelling "Mama! I want to go down!" so I complied. I would whisper in her ear "Please Michelle. Be a good girl for Mama. Be quiet." She'd yell back "NO! No way!" and people in the pew behind laughed. I could see my brother and his girlfriend giggling. Yeah, laugh it up. It's hilarious when it's not your kid.

I spent the entire service stressed, sweating, wrestling with a wriggling, struggling, kicking monster, trying to keep her from shouting out, screaming, crying or otherwise causing a scene. Everyone around me smiling in amusement. No one the slightest bit concerned that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. It would be funny if it weren't happening to me. I finally took her outside when I couldn't take it anymore and watched the rest of the mass from the vestibule trying to keep Michelle from catapulting out the open door and down the cement steps. Then another little girl came and Michelle was trying to take the beads off her shoes.

I was hoping Michelle would have gone over to see Shannon and Reggie at the end of the pew since she is always going on about them and loves when we visit Auntie May but no she spent the whole time torturing me instead. It was excruciating and felt a lot longer than an hour. It didn't help that the priest went blathering on a long-winded homily (usually they try to keep things short and sweet when kids are involved so they don't lose patience but this guy had no clue. Sorry Father Whoever You Are. I love Jesus too but can you wrap this puppy up, I'm trying to get out of here alive!) Ironically, once the service was over, Michelle sat in the seat, good as gold, reading the hymn books. "Why couldn't you do that DURING the mass?!" I sighed. She just laughed at me. "Mama, I read books?"

I told Michelle about Mother's Day and even taught her to say Happy Mother's Day which she said perfectly several times until the day actually came and then she refused to say it. My Mom made me a little card as though it was from Michelle. It was hard only having a little time with the family before I had to go to work. It always breaks my heart to leave Michelle and that day was especially hard leaving the whole family as well. At least she was so distracted and excited having the whole gang there and playing in the backyard that she hardly noticed when I left at first. I always have to sneak out so she doesn't scream and cling to my leg. My Mom said she usually does fuss a little after she realizes I'm gone but then calms down eventually. I have enough guilt over leaving her without hearing her scream when I go. I have to earn a living. Everyone tells me she's probably better off having some time away from me anyway. I spend more time with her than probably anyone spends with their children. Most people work Monday-Friday and even if they don't work they have commitments, hobbies, social outings, time for themselves away from the kids. Most people get a sitter so that they can do things. The only time I have my Mom watch Michelle is when I go to work. That's the closest I come to a break/vacation and I even feel bad about that! I don't know why I beat myself up over it. I grew up in a household where Mom was at home and maybe that's in the back of my mind but being a Single Mom it's just not an option. I have to work.

Mother's Day is the day that Moms are usually supposed to get a break, a thank you, some gesture of appreciation for all she does. It's tough when you're a single Mom, especially with a young child. Of course Michelle couldn't make me breakfast in bed or bring flowers or a gift. I did wind up getting a bit of a break ironically by going to work.

I felt bad that my Mom had to watch Michelle on Mother's Day. My Mom loves Michelle so much. She says it's like having me back again as a little girl (mind you, that can be a bad thing too! I wasn't always a picnic either!) Before I went to work we had three heart-shaped pizzas, for the three Moms -- Mom, May and I. It was a cute idea. Nothing says "I love you Mom" like a heart-shaped pizza! At least Michelle did say "I love you Mommy" which she says often and which is the sweetest sound in the world and could make me forgive her anything.

Michelle knows how to say and even sing "Happy Birthday" but of course she wouldn't do it on my birthday. She can do so many things but she has to feel like it. It's basically impossible to MAKE her do anything she doesn't want to do. She'll shake her head "No!" She'll even scrunch up her nose and frown and go "No WAY!" "She's so contrary!" my Mom said. Contradicts you just to be difficult. Says "No!" even when it's something she wants.

It was tough having to work but I knew we'd be celebrating with the family on the weekend anyway. My sister and I had a combined birthday party this year. It just made more sense in a month of birthdays (and when I had to work so much). Also, we're at the age now where we don't really WANT to remember or have our ages singled out! I actually can't believe how old we are. I think I'm just going to be 39 from now on! Age is just a number anyway. I recently heard about Ernestine Shepherd who won the Guinness World Record for oldest female body builder at 77 years old. Look for her on Youtube. She looks amazing! Girl is RIPPED! No excuses. Never say you "can't."

Since 99% of my energy goes to taking care of Michelle, I haven't really been taking care of myself. I decided to become healthier and to get back in shape. I started working out in April. It's very hard to find the time and energy but I'm committed. I finished Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred. I had done it years ago and lost 17 lbs then but now I was having a much harder time. I only lost 5 lbs this time around (different being older and having had a baby) but must have gained muscle because I could see and feel the difference and felt a lot stronger. I've been counting calories as well (calculated my BMI to see how many calories I burn then creating a calorie deficit for weight loss.) It's been a challenge and frustrating to say the least. I'm at the age where your metabolism slows and you lose muscle mass so if you don't really work at it you're certain to gain weight. I'm determined to get my pre-baby belly back, or at least a reasonable approximation so after the 30 Day Shred I started Jillian's "Six Week Six Pack" and have lost another 5 pounds and have more muscle definition. It's an uphill battle but I'm not giving up. As much as I hate working out, I do like the feeling that it gives me afterward. I feel stronger and healthier and it feels good to be doing something for myself for a change. I was hoping to have a six pack in time for bikini season but I don't have much longer to go now. While I do see a difference, I'm still not quite where I want to be. I'm not giving up. I already have my next workout, Jillian's "Yoga Inferno," picked out. I am a work in progress.

I am so happy to have my big crazy family. They are what keeps me going. Michelle loves them too. She loves Grandma and Grandpa whom she sees the most obviously since my Mom is my child care. We visit Auntie May quite often too and Michelle is ALWAYS asking to see Auntie May, Shannon and Reggie. Now she's getting quite attached to her godfather Uncle Chris too. Everyone noticed how Michelle isn't so shy around them anymore. She comes out of her shell much more quickly and talks and laughs with them.

After the combined celebration for May and I we got together for Shannon and Reggie's birthdays (which will always be combined because they were born on the same day, which still blows my mind! What are the odds? 1/365 at least!)

It's nice having Shane's family there too so our big crazy family is even bigger and with more kids running around. Michelle had a blast. It was a beautiful day so we were able to enjoy some of it outside. Michelle came out of her shell with Shane's family. She even went outside with Shane's sister Jenn and was holding her hand and leading her around. It's a relief to me that she is comfortable with other people and doesn't have to cling to me every second. It used to be she would cower in my arms most of the time. Now she seems to feel safe much sooner at family events. I guess because there have been so many she's gotten used to them.

Everyone was amazed at the things Michelle could say and do. She can basically say anything and everything. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs. She speaks in full sentences. Some of the funny things she's come off with lately are: "If you're good you make Mama happy and proud. If you're bad you make Mama sad and mad." (Which is pretty accurate and a brilliant deduction. Now if only she'd bear this in mind before having a tantrum!) Whenever she asks to have something of mine (like makeup or chewing gum or drinking Coke -- Coke Zero now that I'm dieting!) I tell her not until she's older so now she's started saying "If you get older and older, have to use makeup (chew gum, drink Coke)." I explained to her that you don't "have to" but it becomes an option. She plays with dolls, especially Cinderella and Prince Charming and she loves her Ken dolls (missing that male figure in her life I guess) and has them walk around and talk, making voices for them. It's adorable watching her play. She's so imaginative the other day at my Mom's she picked up a lawn ornament squirrel and told us he was sick and had to go to the hospital (pronounced hops-pedal.) "Did you teach her that?" my Mom asked. "No," I said, "she must have picked it up from TV or a movie or something." She is like a sponge. She takes in everything. So I'm very careful NOT to use expletives around her. Now she'll say things like "Oh dear!" and "Good Heavens!" from hearing me say it and it's hilarious. She will basically parrot everything you say to her. My Mom thought she was just saying words without understanding them but then one night in the bath we somehow got on the topic of opposites and she knew them all! "What's the opposite of UP?" "DOWN!" she says proudly. She knew black/white, girl/boy, cold/hot, near/far, hello/goodbye, awake/asleep, happy/sad. She knew all of them. Even ones I never expected her to recognize. Even ones I tried to trick her with. She does have a couple of books on opposites but I was using ones that weren't even in the book. She isn't just saying words. She understands them. One day when I said to her "You don't understand." she said "I understand, Mama. I understand." And I think she does. People say that kids shouldn't watch TV but I don't think it's hurt her at all. If anything it's taught her a lot. I only ever have it on Treehouse (aside from when I watch The Bachelorette!) She responds back to shows like Dora and the Bubble Guppies when they'll ask a question. It's educational. And I know she learned a lot of her vocabulary from watching Disney movies and "Shrek." Princess now even goes around singing "Someday my Prince will come" from Snow White and the lantern song in "Tangled" (Rapunzel.) One day she was singing something about coming back and shadows. "What are you singing baby?" Then I realized it was part of "Danny Boy" -- from my Mom singing it to her in the car on the way to the store. "But come ye back when Summer's in the meadow" -- she didn't have all the words exactly but it was pretty close. "How old is she?!" someone asked me in a store the other day after they heard her talking. "Just turned 22 months." "She's a GENIUS!" they said. Perhaps. Unfortunately there's a fine line between genius and insanity. And she crosses that line, let me tell you.

I was reading to Michelle before she was even born. My Mom said she read to me in utero and I really thought there was something to it. I know that's one of the most important things I did for her. Michelle loves books. I got her a big book of fairy tales and now she loves pretending to read The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood and has me read them to her OVER and OVER again. I'll watch her sitting with the book, turning the pages carefully, reciting the story in so much detail she could be reading it. I think that's why she has me read them so much. She's trying to memorize them. I wish I could catch her on camera but as soon as she sees the camera she stops. When I teach her a new word (which is rare now because she knows just about everything) Michelle is excited, as though I've given her a gift. Once in a while there's a random word (like hospital) that I realize has just never come up in conversation. She was saying "panino" for piano until I corrected her and then she said it right. One word she chooses to say her own way and my Mom and I have not been able to cure her of: she says "MIND!" instead of "MINE!" and you can't convince her otherwise. Everything is hers by the way. The house we live in, the car I drive, my makeup, everything is Michelle's. "Mind!" she'll exclaim and grab at whatever it is. "You mean MINE without the D but you're mistaken anyway. It's not yours." She screws up her nose and says "MIND!" all the more defiantly. "Whatever."

One big change since my last post is that Michelle LOVES going to the playground now and loves the swings and the slide. We go every day that it's nice out. When Spring started she was timid at the park -- wouldn't go on the swings at all, wanted my help to go up the slides. When another child came near her she'd run and hide behind my leg and even say "I'm shy." Now she loves the swings and the slides and goes up and down herself. She's more outgoing with other kids as well. There are a couple of friendly girls at the park that she plays with and she even says "hi" to kids she doesn't know now. She went up to a group of boys under the slide one day and said "Hi!" (I will have to warn her not to be too friendly with boys as she gets older!)

I am still in awe that we're into June already. April and May just flew by. Time goes so quickly. Between occasions and working and working out and trying to keep up with a speedy twenty-two month old, life has been sheer mayhem! Somehow writing this brings peace to the chaos. It is my way of putting our lives in order. These are the Coles Notes of our life stories. I'm going to try to do a post a month so I'll leave June for the next one. Hopefully I get it done before August!

When I look at Michelle now, she's looking more and more like a little girl and less like a baby. Her personality (very headstrong, dramatic, larger than life) shines through. She can be a monster. And it's not easy to deal with, especially on my own. Sometimes I feel stressed and overwhelmed. It is a strain on me never getting a break. No vacation. No time to myself. So many women have said they need that time for their own sanity (a break in the afternoon to meet a friend for lunch or get their nails done etc.) My workouts have become my "me time" though I'm often having to do them with her underfoot, worrying am I going to accidentally clock her in the head. (I tried to wait til she was in bed at night except that she often doesn't settle down til the wee hours of the morning and then I'm too exhausted.)

Life with Michelle may be more challenging than anything I've ever experienced but it is also more joyful. I am incredibly grateful to have this little girl in my life. At her worst, she is very trying and sometimes almost pushes me over the edge but at her best she is an angel, the most extraordinary person I've ever known and I feel so blessed to have her.

When she says "I love you Mommy" and hugs me tight, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. And it's worth all that I've given up and all that I do. It's worth months and years of mayhem and struggle and sacrifice. It's worth anything. She is my life now. I'm owned by a 22 month old. And that's OK.