Monday, November 30, 2015

Who's the Scariest One of All?

Michelle loves monsters. She comes by it honestly. Her father was a monster. (I'm sort of kidding.) At the very least he was a scary dude who insisted on watching particularly gory horror movies. I also loved horror fiction & film and dressed as a goth in my 20s. Of course Michelle's monsters are pretty tame: The nice ones from Hotel Transylvania or Monsters Inc. Or the pretty ones at Monster High. (Frankie Stein, Draculaura etc.) I've never let Michelle watch anything disturbing. She also loves her zombie babies (ours are just the cute, slightly demonic ones as opposed to the ones gnawing on human flesh.)

Michelle was psyched for Halloween and OF COURSE she was going to be a monster. Last year we were zombies (her choice). This year she wanted to be vampires but, as she pointed out to me (and even shared with random strangers at the park, in the store, to anyone who would listen!) she was going to be a "A NICE Vampire. One that doesn't have sharp teeth and doesn't BITE people." She also didn't want to talk with a Romanian accent. She preferred if I wouldn't either.

It was only September and there was a small chance Michelle might change her mind before October 31st but we made a trip to Spirit Halloween anyway, just to see what was there. Michelle picked out a beautiful red and black vampire gown for herself and one for me. "Do you want to try them on?" the lady asked. This was a mistake because once I saw Michelle in it I absolutely HAD to have it. And it was more than I wanted to spend. It was also EXTREMELY impractical. A long flowing Victorian vampire gown that would be dragging the grass and pavement. Possibly even in the rain. I also couldn't resist getting the matching vampire outfit for me. I love Halloween too and my former goth self misses dressing like this on Friday nights. If I was going to be taking her trick or treating I figured I might as well dress up too.

Every Fall/Winter I go into a bit of a slump. The cold. The long dark days without sunlight start to wear me down. This year I'm contemplating investing in a sunlight lamp for my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Looking forward to Halloween and Christmas at least makes Fall/Winter somewhat bearable.

Though Autumn isn't my thing, I try to make the best of it for Michelle's sake. We got psyched for Halloween by visiting Spirit Halloween, decorating the house, watching monster movies, making spageletons (spaghetti skeletons... Spookghetti, Boosili, Macaboney noodles etc!) I got the idea from a doctor's office where they had a kid's school project on the wall with skeletons made out of noodles. I'm still a kid at heart so I had fun with it too. And I cooked the leftover noodles for dinner the next day.

Also in the spirit of Halloween we went to see Hotel Transylvania II. The first one was one of her favourite movies & I liked it too so I was hopeful for the second. I was a little nervous after the whole "Cinderella" incident & "Minions" didn't go over too well either but to my very pleasant surprise, Michelle LOVED Hotel Transylvania and was quiet through the whole thing! For one thing she was completely mesmerized because it was in 3D. She'd never seen a 3D movie before. I mean, even I find it amazing and I've seen 3D before. Michelle just kept looking at the screen in awe & saying "Wow!" The movie was great as well as far as sequels go. It was really cute. I loved it almost as much as the first one.

Although I'm not a fan of Fall and Winter, even I have to admit that each season has its own beauty. The Fall leaves all gold and brown and red are lovely. Snow is pretty when it's crisp and white on the trees and the ground (and when you don't have to drive in or shovel it!) When you live in a country with four seasons I guess you have to develop an appreciation for each one. I just find the cold and the lack of sunlight hard to bear. I made sure Michelle and I got out for a bit of sun whenever we could (when it wasn't too terribly cold and wasn't raining.) Michelle loves every season. She is so full of energy and joy. She sees the magic in everything. I could learn a lot from her. Unfortunately I'm often tired and stressed and just trying to get through the day. Sometimes though I'm able to relax and have fun too.

One day I took Michelle to a Fall Fair. It was a spur of the moment thing. I hadn't really thought it through. For one thing I never have cash on me. I wasn't thinking that an outdoor event at a farm may not take credit cards. When Michelle saw that there was a train she begged me to ride it so I spent my last $6 on the train ride. It was fun. Unfortunately as we rode around Michelle saw that they had PONY RIDES. OMG. "MAMA! I want to ride a PONY!" "Ahh sweetie maybe we can come back another day. Mama doesn't have any money left. I spent it all on the train ride!" I never have cash. I use my credit card EVERYWHERE. Even at Tim Horton's for my iced capps.

And then suddenly the kindest young man EVER overheard me telling Michelle that I couldn't afford the pony ride and he motioned for me to come over. "Here," he said and handed me tickets for the pony ride. I hugged him. "OMG! Thank you! What a sweetheart!" Michelle was over the moon. She loved riding the pony. I was thrilled for the photo op too and kept snapping away. The control freak in me was a little nervous that she might fall but the girl handling the pony was right there and assured me it would be fine. Michelle wasn't nervous at all. "Look at me Mama! I'm on a pony!" "I know!" And I was like the paparazzi following them, snapping away.

One of my favourite October traditions is our annual trip to Springridge Farm with Auntie May. Climbing hay mountains, going down slides, riding the hay wagon, meandering through the corn maze, walking through the haunted house, visiting the farm animals and checking out the gift shop, the kids always have a ball and I am a sucker for the photo ops! Of course I make everyone pose with pumpkins and corn and everything else. This year there was a road closure and we got lost on the way there but even the car ride was fun. Everything is fun with Auntie May! She's the best sister and the best friend in the world! Now that Michelle is bigger she can sit in Reggie's old seat and we can all ride together.

After our day at the farm we went back to May's place for a Halloween dress rehearsal, another annual tradition. It was fun seeing the kids in their costumes (and a total photo op!) Michelle and I wouldn't get to see Reggie and Shannon on Halloween so this was our way of celebrating Halloween together. I brought my costume too. Shannon looked beautiful as a Ghoul/Enchantress. Reggie was "someone from Star Wars" (I only know characters from the original Star Wars movies. I never got into the sequels, I mean "pre-quels.") and of course Michelle and I were matching Victorian Vampires in red and black. Michelle was having a hard time walking in the dress and I wondered how on Earth we'd manage on Halloween. "Remember to walk like a Princess," I told her, "hold up the sides of the dress as you walk." She did a little practicing. She loved the gown. She wanted to keep wearing it. I told her it would get dirty/ruined and then she wouldn't even have it for Halloween

Always looking for new adventures to share with Michelle, I heard about "Boo at the Zoo!" at the Toronto Zoo. If you brought a child in costume, the weekends before Halloween they'd get in for free. I'd always wanted Michelle to see the zoo anyway but I was afraid it would be too busy in the summer. So we went with my Mom. I thought it would be fun to dress Michelle up as a monkey. It seemed like a good idea until I realized how tough it is to keep makeup on a kid's face all day. She kept rubbing her nose and wiping it off. I had also forgotten just how massive the zoo was. The last time I went many years ago I didn't have a small child (or my elderly mother) with me. It was pretty stressful dealing with the two of them (who were both too tired to walk all that distance.) It was a little cold and very exhausting but we still managed to see most of the zoo and I was thrilled to get capture some great photo ops.

And then it happened -- the shot that made my day -- Michelle and a baboon looking at each other through the glass. It was the sweetest thing ever and it was worth all that walking in the cold and getting lost and getting stressed listening to Michelle and Mom complain they were too tired to walk. It was worth anything to capture this beautiful moment where my little monkey and a real monkey (well, close enough!) were staring into each others' eyes. Cutest. Photo. EVER!

And then it was Halloween! After months of waiting the day had arrived. Michelle was so excited she could hardly contain herself. After I'd done her makeup she looked in the mirror and said "WOW Mama! I'm soooo beautiful!" I love Michelle's confidence. Part of it probably comes from constantly being praised but she also seems to have an innate sense of self-assurance which I envy. I was always insecure growing up. I wish I'd had her bold, fearless attitude. Michelle thinks she owns the world. I just hope she's not going to be too much of a Diva when she gets older. She already loves makeup & dressing up.

Once she was in her Vampire gown she couldn't wait to go out. We headed out a little early (before it got dark) because I wanted to be back in time to give candy out to the kids. That's the tricky part of being a Single Mom -- you can't be in two places at one time. Usually as a couple one would go out trick or treating and the other would stay home to answer the door to the other trick or treaters. My solution was to have a bowl waiting on the veranda with a note "Trick or Treating! Be back soon. Help yourself!" Good thing I did too because when I came back the bowl was nearly empty.

Michelle had a blast trick or treating. Thank goodness it didn't rain this year until we were heading home. Everyone made such a fuss of Michelle saying how beautiful and spooky she was. One man said it was the best costume he'd EVER seen! :) She was pretty good at walking like a Princess but she did have a couple of stumbles/trip ups. Luckily she only fell on the grass.

Michelle was mostly fearless. She was a little creeped out by some of the houses with creatures popping out and scary music playing inside. Then we came to the scariest house of all. The veranda was sealed off with Caution Police tape. "How can you even get there?" I asked. Then we noticed that there was a black curtain on the garage. "There is NO WAY I'm going in there!" Michelle said. Suddenly Freddy Krueger leaned out with candy. Would she take candy from a creepy monster? I wondered. Yes she would! Very hesitantly she went over and took the candy. It was so cute. I wanted to get a picture with Freddy in his garage. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen -- A Nightmare on My Street! -- So a neighbour snapped a photo for me. Michelle politely declined. She did NOT want a picture with Freddy.

We came home and dumped out her Halloween haul and Michelle had a bit of chocolate and a couple of lollipops. I asked her what things she didn't want and I had some of those. Thankfully the trick or treaters took most of the chocolate bars I bought or I would have eaten all of them.

This Fall, much to my surprise, we had a lot of warm days. September, October, even into November. It was like Summer, the sequel! Michelle and I made the most of it with trips to the park and even to the beach, as late as NOVEMBER (mind you we didn't go swimming in November but we had fun playing in the sand and sitting under the palm trees in the sun at Port Dover Beach.)

It was kind of surreal hanging out at the beach in November, knowing that a week later it could be dark, cold and snowing. I wanted to soak up every second of it. To remember the Summer and hold on to those memories during the long, bleak Winter months.

Michelle had asked to go to the beach a few times when it was cold and I had to tell her it was impossible. But when it was 21 degrees the first week of November and she asked I said "Sure!" We met others there that day enjoying Summer's last hurrah. I was happy to see the palm trees were still there. I imagined living somewhere tropical where we could enjoy the sun, the sand and the palm trees all year round. Maybe some day...

Then when we fell on dark days I decided to make our own sunshine and visit some tropical paradises nearby. We went to the Butterfly Conservatory and the Bird Kingdom again.

As usual, being the photoholic that I am, it was my dream to catch a picture of Michelle smiling with a butterfly on her at the conservatory. Just as I was starting to lose hope, I got my wish! A black butterfly sat on Michelle's hand. I told her to be very careful and not to touch the butterfly's wings because they're very delicate and you could hurt them. It was hard to keep her still long enough for a photo but I managed a couple at least. And then I even had a butterfly land on me. "There's a butterfly on you Mama!" Michelle said. I almost handed Michelle the camera but I managed to get an awkward selfie with the butterfly...

They know what they're doing at the Bird Kingdom. They set up photo ops with parrots and lorikeets and don't let you use your own camera. Their staff take photos which they show you on your way out and which you have to purchase or they delete them. Being a photoholic I can't miss out on these photo ops so I then have to buy the pictures. And since I'm also a Twitter and Blog-o-holic I then have to scan them to put them on the computer! How can you say no to a picture with a bird on your arm?! I was thrilled that Michelle even smiled with the lorikeet on her arm but she wanted him off of her almost immediately after the photo!

It wasn't too bad out so I thought while we were in Niagara we might as well walk to the Falls. Michelle had never seen them. While a vacation isn't really in the budget I'm thankful to live close to some cool places so we can make day trips at least. Niagara Falls is one of the wonders of the world. A stranger was kind enough to take our picture together in front of the Falls. It was a bit longer of a walk than I'd anticipated (especially carrying Michelle halfway because she got tired of walking. And then I had to run back to the car afterward carrying Michelle when it started to rain! Running several blocks while carrying a 40 lb child. Yep. That's a workout! I was so out of breath by the time we got to the car I nearly collapsed.)  

While in Niagara Falls I picked up a brochure/coupon for a SpongeBob 4D ride playing in Niagara. It sounded awesome! Michelle LOVES SpongeBob now. She has several DVDs. She loved it when we went to a 3D movie. 4D would be even better! You'd get to move around and feel and smell things like you were really there. I'd heard about it but I'd never actually been to one before. So we made the trek to Niagara Falls again. I had no idea the misadventures that lay in store for me...

I don't have GPS. I'm old school. When I'm going somewhere I usually just Google Map it, print the directions and go. So the movie was supposed to be at Falls Avenue Resort. Cool. That would be easy to find I figured. My directions got me as far as downtown Niagara Falls but of course it didn't say where I'd have to park. I went to what looked like it was probably a big hotel or something. I thought that might be it. There was an underground parking but I never like those so I pulled into a lot across the street. Unfortunately it was a parking for the Duty Free shop. I tried to leave the lot but the only exit LED TO THE USA! "You've GOT to be kidding me?!" I thought. It was like a trap. You pull into the wrong parking lot and there's no going back! There was nowhere to make a U-turn. The road led straight to the border. "OMG." I figured I'd just have to tell the border guard that I don't want to go to the United States. I was just trying to see SpongeBob in 4D and got lost. (How STUPID does that sound?!) So we get up to the guard and he is not amused. Maybe they're not allowed to smile.

"Sorry. I don't have a passport. I don't actually want to cross the border. I just pulled into the wrong parking lot and the exit led here. I'm trying to go to Falls Avenue Resort, in Canada. I just want to make a U-turn."
"Can I see some ID?"
I hand him my DL.
Then he glanced into the backseat. "Is this your child?"
"Yes. She's my daughter."
"Let me see her ID."
OMG! For a second my heart sank. Oh no. I wasn't sure I had Michelle's ID on me. At one point I'd put her documents in a folder in the cabinet because I didn't think I'd need them. OMG! What proof did I even have that Michelle was mine?! This was absurd! I felt sick to my stomach. This couldn't be happening. What if I got arrested for kidnapping and crossing the border with MY OWN CHILD! All because I was trying to see stupid SpongeBob (who by this point, I hated.)
Thank goodness I found Michelle's birth certificate and health card.
"Look," I said to the guy, "I don't want to be here. I didn't plan to go to the US. I just want to make a U-turn. Just let me turn around. You can watch me leave."
He went to talk to someone else. What were they talking about?! Why was he giving me such a hard time?

I looked up at the ceiling of the car. My head was about to explode. All because of a silly SpongeBob movie. This could not be happening.

"Are we going to see SpongeBob?" Michelle asked.
"Yes sweetheart. Hopefully. Eventually." If we make it out of here alive, I thought.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity (probably about 10-15 minutes) he returns and says "Ok. You can make a U-turn. Just go up to the gate, make a left and go back to the Canadian border."
"Will I have to go through all this again to cross the Canadian border?"
"Probably. And you'll have to pay the toll."
Super. So I drive on. Next thing I know guards are running up to my car.
"What? He said to drive to the gate and make a left."
"No. THAT gate!"
Dear God just get me the Hell out of here, I thought.
I was so stressed out by this point I could barely breathe. Now we had to pay the toll to get back to Canada. Awesome.

So eventually we made it to the Falls Avenue Resort which was like a maze in itself trying to find our way to the cinemas. I realized afterward that it would have been easier to get to the theatre from Clifton Hill rather than through the resort but hindsight is 20-20 and the brochure wasn't very clear about anything. I tried to find out more online but nothing was posted, not even the price.

As I very wearily walked up to the counter to buy our tickets for the 15 minute SpongeBob 4D movie that I had driven for hours, gotten lost and accidentally crossed the US border to see, the cashier uttered the phrase that would make me loathe her. "Sorry. She's not tall enough for the ride."
"Excuse me?"
The woman ushered Michelle to a ruler on the wall. Michelle was just shy of the height requirement for the 4D ride. It hadn't even occurred to me that it was a "ride." I thought of it as a movie. Why would height matter. You're sitting in a chair.
I was livid. "You mean to tell me that I just went through Hell on Earth FOR NOTHING?! For a movie that she CAN'T EVEN SEE?!"
"Well you can still watch it in 3D in a stationary seat. We apologize for the inconvenience."
"No it's beyond an inconvenience at this point! I went through all this trying to take her to see something special. I told her it would be in 4D." Michelle probably couldn't have cared less. She didn't even know what 4D was anyway.

Nowhere on their website or the brochure did it mention ANYTHING about a height requirement. Considering the target audience for SpongeBob would be SMALL CHILDREN you'd think they'd have the sense to mention your kid might be too small for the ride!

To apologize they gave me a discount and gave Michelle a large stuffed SpongeBob which she loved. We still got to watch the movie in 3D but we had to watch the rest of the audience enjoying it with seats moving around like a rollercoaster. Michelle was still thrilled. Afterward she said "I'm so happy! This was the BEST DAY EVER! Thank you Mama!" We also got to see the other 3D (should have been 4D!) movie the Great Wall of China and it was pretty cool but I was still pissed.

The movies were short and we'd driven all that way so I figured we might as well walk around a bit. We went into the Movieland Wax Museum. I enjoyed it more than Michelle. She didn't know who half the people were so it wasn't quite the same for her. I couldn't resist photo ops getting our pictures with celebrities. "That's Taylor Swift!" I told Michelle. "All those songs in the car." (We have Taylor's 1989 CD and Michelle loves it and sings along. She'd never seen Taylor Swift though. She's only heard her voice.)

Every year we go to see the Princess Margaret Dream Home. They're always beautiful. I would love to live in Oakville closer to my family. Of course I literally would have to win a lottery to live there!

I am so glad to have a close knit family that gets together so often. With such a big family it seems like there's a birthday or some occasion just about every month. We headed to Mike and Barb's place for his birthday in September. Then my sister hosted Thanksgiving in October and I hosted my Mom's birthday at my place in November. From what I gather most families don't bother celebrating every birthday together except once in a while for a milestone birthday (like 50 or 75 etc.) I love spending time with family and Michelle loves playing with her cousins.

I am very thankful for my family. My Mom drives me crazy sometimes but I talk to her every day and I honestly don't know what I'd do without her. My sister is the best sister and best friend anyone could hope to have and I'm so lucky to have her in my life. Michelle loves her Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie May, Uncle Chris and her cousins. We always laugh when we're together and Michelle always has a ball.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving together. We were thankful the weather was beautiful too.

I'm a little further off the beaten path so it's not too often that I wind up hosting events. I had Mom's birthday party at my place this year and even Mike and Barb were able to make it. Michelle always wants to dress up when there's a party. She's my girlie girl.

It was a little chaotic having everyone (especially all the kids) running amok in my little house but it was fun. It got pretty loud (Michelle was still the loudest screamer to be heard!) but it's nice to have company once in a while. It isn't often for me these days. It took me a while getting the house clean and tidy. I love when everything is in its place but it's an uphill battle with kids.

I can't believe we're into December already! Time goes by much too fast. And my little girl is growing up more each day.

Recently Michelle has had another milestone -- she's finally sleeping IN HER OWN ROOM! If you've been following my blog then you probably know I've been co-sleeping with Michelle since she was born. As a newborn breastfeeding every hour or less it was just easier for both of us to have her right beside me through the night. And then it just sort of stuck for the next few years. Even after she was weaned. I tried putting her in the crib a couple of times and it didn't work out. She would scream. People say that they stop screaming eventually and that that's how you "sleep train" a child. To me it just seems cruel. And having heard my Mom tell me that as a baby I screamed all night in the crib, I didn't want to put Michelle through that. Unfortunately she's a restless sleeper, rolling around, kicking and flailing. So I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in 3 years.

The plan was to sell the crib, move a twin bed into Michelle's room and sell her on the idea of sleeping in her own room. I had the crib on Kijiji for quite a while and was beginning to lose hope when someone finally bought it. That night, I was on a mission. I moved the twin bed from the guest room into Michelle's room -- dragging the mattress, then the box spring & bed frame into her room. I had to reconfigure things to make it fit. I had to move Michelle's dresser to another wall and have the bed in the middle. I already had a Princess bedspread and sheets for her. I set up Michelle's room and showed her the next day. I wasn't sure how it would go. Would she resist moving to her own room? Would she be afraid to be alone? I tried to make it sound like a good thing. "Won't that be exciting having your OWN BED in your OWN ROOM?!" It worked. Michelle LOVED it. She was so excited. She kept saying "I LOVE MY NEW BED!" She loved the princess sheets and comforter and soft pink blanket. It was so soft and cozy. I didn't want to get my hopes up too high. The true test would be that night when she went to bed. She was actually psyched to have her own bed. She didn't seem nervous at all.

For the first time in years I had my bed to myself with no body pillows and thrashing kids. I lay on my tummy, diagonally across the Queen sized bed. "Ahhhh." It was too good to be true. It lasted about two hours. Suddenly I heard a thud. And then a scream. Michelle had fallen out of her bed. I had pillows on the floor just in case but it still startled her to fall. My little restless princess was used to throwing herself around on a queen sized bed where she was surrounded by me on one side and a body pillow on the other side. The twin bed wasn't big enough to fit body pillows on each side of her. She was so upset I took her back to my bed for the rest of the night. "So much for that," I thought.

To my delight, the next night Michelle was still excited to go to her own bed. She fell out of bed again on an even higher pile of pillows. This time it didn't phase her. She didn't even cry. I picked her up and put her back in her bed and she slept there ALL NIGHT! She still woke me up asking for a drink and wanting to go potty but it's progress. This is LIFE-CHANGING for me! After years of living with sleep deprivation I may actually get some sleep now. My Mom gave me a guard rail thing to keep Michelle from falling out of the bed. She's thrilled with her own room and wants to paint it pink. It will be tricky moving all that stuff away from the wall but I will try!

Eventually Michelle will be able to get up and go potty on her own and won't have to wake me and I can finally sleep through the night. Michelle actually can go potty by herself (once in a while if I'm in the shower or something and she has no choice she'll go on her own but otherwise she wants me to help her.)

I remember there were times when I was so overwhelmed I didn't know how I'd get through. When Michelle was a baby and so demanding and I had to do everything for her. Now, in many ways it has become easier. Michelle is becoming more independent. She can do things on her own. She'll entertain herself for longer periods -- playing with toys, looking at books, drawing without asking me to play with her every second (though she does still ask me to play with her she's a little more understanding now that I have to do work around the house etc and can't play all the time.) She'll get herself a drink out of the fridge. She'll sometimes put things away when I ask her. Now she even has her own room and next September she'll be GOING TO SCHOOL! It seems like only yesterday she was a helpless little baby who needed me for everything. Now she's a little girl, getting bigger every day.

Michelle amazes me every day. She's always coming out with something unexpected that makes me laugh or takes me aback.

Michelle loves writing letters now. She wants to read and write.

As much as she's eager to learn she also has a lot to teach me: To see the magic in every day. To focus on the bright side even when things go wrong. To make time to play. To say yes to life. To stop stressing out so much.

Michelle thinks she owns the world and in some ways she does. She is bold, confident, strong-willed. I wish I had been that way growing up. I was always shy and insecure. I've tried so hard to make her feel loved and special. Some have said I spoiled her but if she's happy then that's all that matters to me.

Though Michelle can be difficult at times, overall she is a bright, happy, sweet, loving, affectionate girl. Even on my worst day when Michelle hugs me and tells me she loves me I know that I'm blessed. And when she says "You're the best Mama in the WHOLE WORLD!" I know that all of my sacrifices have been worth it.

Michelle has taught me what a fool I was. I thought I knew myself and what I wanted but she turned my whole world on its head and it's what I needed. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. An unexpected miracle. I am grateful to share my seasons with her (even Fall and Winter). To go on adventures (and misadventures!) To experience life anew. To see that there is beauty and magic in everything if you only look for it.

And there's always something new to look forward to. Now Christmas is almost here! But I'll save that for the next blog...