I am a functioning photoholic. I am addicted to capturing every moment of my life in images. It started with my first camera. I was in my 20s and going to Europe (backpacked in England, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.) It was old-fashioned film in those days. I had a cheap little 110 mm camera (with the parallax error you had to be careful to point the camera a few feet over from what you actually wanted to take a picture of. My boyfriend at the time had a better camera he borrowed from his Dad.) I went through 30 rolls of film in 26 days. At the time that seemed excessive but I thought I may never be back again and wanted to record everything I saw. I didn't regret any of the photos I took. In fact I wished I had taken more. I was hooked. From then on I was determined to take pictures of EVERYTHING. I couldn't let a photo op pass me by. I almost always had my camera in my purse just in case. I kept trading up for better cameras. They never lasted more than a few years (probably because 3 years with me would be like 20 years with anyone else.) Canon. Kodak. Minolta. Pentax. Nikon. I spent a fortune at photo labs. Back then you had no choice but to print the whole roll. Blurry ones and all.
With digital cameras, the quantity went up a hundredfold. These days I could take 100 pictures in just a couple of minutes. Even just at home, never mind on vacation (if I could afford to take one). Since you don't have to print them all out, why not take a hundred shots to try to get one really good one? A professional photographer told me that once. You shoot quantity to get quality. The more you take the greater the chance that you will capture that perfect moment. You can ignore/delete the myriad shots that don't work out but once in a while you get lucky and get just what you were hoping for. Or better.
With websites like Twitter and Instagram it seems that more and more people are becoming like me. Taking pictures of just about anything and posting it online for the world to see. I just want to say that I was doing it long before it was cool!
In June I tried to take Michelle out on as many adventures as possible. I worry sometimes that she doesn't have siblings or kids her own age around. I want to do fun things with her. During the long brutal winter months I vowed to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible once Spring came. So once Summer was here, we were out just about every day. The park, the beach, forests, gardens. And naturally, I ALWAYS have my camera on hand. Michelle is used to it by now. "Cheese!" she'll say, often without being prompted. Of course the best smiles are those that come spontaneously when she forgets the camera is even there.
It's amazing how much Michelle has come out of her shell. She used to be quite shy and avoid strangers. Now she's becoming fearless. At the Creature Showcase she was right in there checking out the animals. She's obviously not afraid of snakes (see photo on the right of her reaching out to grab one!) At one point she crawled under the chain and ran out in the middle of the stage. "Really?!" I shouted and crawled under the chain to get her. "Sorry" I muttered at the staff. The audience laughed. Way to embarrass Mama in public. Oh well, at least she was happy and not having a tantrum.
Nearly all of my exes made fun of (or complained) about my photo habit. One accused me of being so busy snapping pictures that I wasn't actually "in" the moment to enjoy it. I argued that not only am I in the moment but I'm preserving it forever and can go back and look at it anytime I want. Ironically years later, after we were apart, he thanked me for having taken so many pictures. It was because of me that he had a beautiful photo of himself and his mother smiling. A picture he would treasure all the more after she passed away. His Mom was a fan of my photos too and had some of them (ones of lighthouses) enlarged and framed on her walls.
Even when we're not going anywhere or doing anything special I can't resist taking pictures just hanging out in the backyard or at the park. I love Michelle's laugh and her smile and it's a joy to capture it in photos.
I love dressing Michelle up and going somewhere girlie -- like gardens, galleries and of course, the ultimate photo op: the Butterfly Conservatory. My photo card actually ran out there and I had to painfully go through photos and delete some to make room. Strangely, every time I have ever gone to the Butterfly Conservatory (either the Niagara Falls or the Cambridge one) there is some camera emergency: the battery dies, the memory card is full. At least it kept me from staying too long which is probably a good thing because I was sweating profusely! I remembered them keeping it warm (it is supposed to be a tropical climate for the butterflies) but I didn't remember sweat dripping off my face before. Maybe I was having a hot flash. Maybe it was from chasing/carrying Michelle. I looked around and everyone else was acting normal, they didn't look like they even broke a sweat. Some were even wearing long sleeves and seemed quite comfortable. Meanwhile I was DRENCHED!
It was worth roasting in a sauna though to see Michelle's excitement as she walked around looking at the butterflies. The last time I was there with her, last year, she was walking around bare foot because she wasn't used to shoes yet. It's hard to believe my baby is already a little girl and getting bigger every day. She looks so grown up when I put her in pigtails now and she acts so much older. (With the exception of potty training which was a debacle but I'll save that for my next blog about July...)
Most people can afford to go away on vacation -- tropical destinations, cottages etc. I figure I can at least take Michelle on day trips for an adventure, a change of scenery etc. Besides, at least if she has a tantrum on a field trip, we can head home. If she had a meltdown on an airplane for several hours or in another country, that would be pretty scary. (I would still risk it if I won the lottery though! LOL)
It seemed like Michelle did want a man (or two) in her life that day as she insisted on bringing Ken and Ryan for the drive. When I looked in the rearview mirror I found her hugging them both. Of course anyone can pick up a Ken or Ryan at Walmart. The hard part is finding the life-size version and one that's a good person, kind, loving, employed! For now, I am both father and mother to Michelle. Filling both roles because I have no choice. I am glad there are a lot of men in our family though so Michelle does get to have male figures in her life -- her Grandpa and her Uncle Chris (also her godfather), Uncle Mike and Uncle Shane. As well as her cousin Dan and James. Her Uncles she sees on special occasions but her Grandpa she sees all the time when I go to work. He loves playing with her in the yard, playing ball, pulling her in the wagon, taking her for walks. He's a big help to my Mom when she's watching Michelle.
We were at the park one day and there was a man pushing his daughter on the swing. "He's a Daddy." Michelle said to me later. "Yes." She thought about it and concluded "Some kids have a Daddy and some have a Mommy. Caillou has a Mommy AND a Daddy." "Yes. Every family is different. You don't have a Daddy but you have a Mommy that loves you very much." I worry that the older she gets the harder the questions will be about her own back story. The truth is I don't know the real story. I will never know (to this day, not a peep from her father) or understand how he could leave the way he did, without a word. I'll have to tell her I don't know why but I hope it was because he loved us enough to let us go and knew we'd be better off without him (because he was more of a burden than a help with so many issues of his own, financially, emotionally and in every conceivable way.)
We celebrated Father's Day with the whole family at my sister's place. It was a lovely day and we spent most of it outside. Unfortunately Michelle decided to be difficult and cranky and insisted that I play with her inside the basement. (Auntie May has a play room for the kids in the basement, filled with toys. It's like Wonderland to Michelle. She's always asking to go for a "play day." I tried explaining to her that it's a beautiful day outside and the whole family is outside but she chose to sit in the basement and play with a Fisher Price farm instead. Auntie May even offered to bring some toys outside but Michelle wouldn't budge. The kicker was later when she bumped her head on the kitchen table and screamed so hard she made herself throw up on both of us. I finally snapped and cried myself. At least I managed to get some photos outside with her before it all went to Hell. I had packed an extra outfit for Michelle just in case but hadn't thought to bring one for myself. My sister loaned me a blue dress of hers.
Here are Michelle and I posing with Grandpa in our "post-A-puke-alyptic" outfits!
I was relieved she didn't have a concussion or anything. My dramatic girl throws a complete tantrum if she doesn't get her own way and has an absolute MELTDOWN if she hurts herself accidentally. Luckily when she slips and falls most of the time she just dusts herself off and says "I'm OK. I'm OK." but once in a while when she bangs into something (the corner of a wall, a dresser, or a glass kitchen table) she goes ballistic. I guess I'm lucky most of the time she doesn't have much of a mark and has never needed stitches. KNOCK ON WOOD!
Unfortunately we had to pack up when it started to rain but we went around to some of the little shops. A lady working in one of the shops was amazed at Michelle's vocabulary. "How old is she?!" "22 months." "OMG. She sounds like a 4 year old!"
It was a shame the weather wasn't cooperative because Michelle was an ANGEL that day. She napped on the way there, was in a good mood, excited, sweet. She hugged me and kissed me on the beach and said "I love you Mama! I'm so happy!" It would have been a perfect day.
After that I felt more confident about hitting the beach with her again, solo. I made sure this time that I picked a sunny day without a cloud in the sky. This time the weather was cooperative but Michelle, not as much. She didn't nap on the way and was a bit cranky. She threw tantrums on and off. She'd be good one minute, laughing, playing. Then she'd scream because she didn't like the water, didn't want to play in the sand. I suggested leaving since water and sand are really the only things on a beach but then she'd scream "Beach!" because she didn't want to leave. She finally started running amok deliberately darting away from me as fast as she could. I nearly had a heart attack when she'd bolt toward the lake until I realized she's actually terrified of the water. She wouldn't even let me dip her toes in it. (In fairness, the water was still quite cold in June.)
I often feel bad that Michelle doesn't have siblings or kids her own age to play with. She loves visiting her Auntie May and playing with Reggie and Shannon. The other day she said to me "Mama, you're my best friend." It made me tear up. "You're my best friend too sweetheart." I do think it's important for her to interact with other small kids. I'm pleased to see her coming out of her shell more when we're at the park. She'll talk with other little girls there, go on the slides with them, play in the sand. I take her to the park just about every day so I guess she's starting to feel at home there. Sometimes she'll even approach strangers and say "Hi."
Sometimes I wish I had half (or even one tenth!) of Michelle's energy, enthusiasm, joy for life. When she's not overtired and throwing tantrums, she is pure bliss, basking in the wonder of everything around her. She squeals with glee and shakes with excitement over the smallest things. "Look Mama! A birdie!" "Wow! Pretty flowers!" She is my reminder that it really is a beautiful world and you have to take time to appreciate it. Literally stop to smell (and take pictures of!) the flowers. Michelle is of course my favourite flower, a tough yet delicate little wildflower and it is a joy to watch her grow and blossom more each day.
In addition to taking photos, I have been taking videos of Michelle since she was born as well. I just took one of her on the swing at the park, talking about her birthday. Here it is on Youtube:
After posting the video, I went back through my Michelle playlist and watched the other videos, seeing Michelle get younger and younger before my eyes. Watching her first steps again. Seeing her count and say her ABCs. I started to cry. I can't believe how much has happened in the last couple of years. I have to remember when I'm having a rough day with her that these years are so precious. They don't last long. I have to cherish them.