This will be my last regular Bump in the Road piece. I've decided it's time. It was, after all, meant to be a "baby" blog and Michelle is certainly no longer a baby. She's a little girl and growing up more every day. I may write an occasional post -- maybe once or twice a year or something, just to check in but I'm not keeping up the once a month thing anymore. It's becoming too difficult. I will still be keeping a journal about Michelle off-line as I've done since she was born. (A little turquoise leather bound journal, a gift from a friend, where I make note of her milestones, new words and phrases etc. I'm glad I did that because my memory seems to get worse and worse and I want to keep a record of everything.) When I started this blog it was therapeutic. Pregnant and alone it gave me a place to share my thoughts, vent my frustrations. I was surprised and pleased by the response. To those who have been following my journey, thank you so much for your support. I especially appreciated your kind comments & emails. It helped to know that people were sympathetic to and could relate to my experiences. For those that are interested you can still follow me on Twitter. Or you can email me (mention my blog in the subject line so I know you're not spam!)
Every year I seem to make New Year's Resolutions that I don't stick to but this year I'm really going to try. In 2015 I resolve to simplify my life, to take better care of myself, to get more rest and to stop spending so much time online. I also want to get back into hobbies I've neglected for a long time -- painting, singing, playing guitar and writing songs. I've been pretty good so far about cutting down on my internet time, especially late at night. I'm going to bed earlier. I managed to write a couple of new songs. It felt good to pick up the guitar again. I also spent a couple of days drawing and painting with Michelle. It was great. I had used her as an excuse not to paint (I told people "she'd never let me") but then someone told me it was something I could share with her and it would be good for her to see me doing something that I love. It worked. I didn't think she'd let me sit at my easel and work but she was fascinated. She watched me and asked questions while working on her own masterpieces. Michelle loved seeing me paint and was thrilled with the portrait I did of us: She did one too: I asked what that was on my face. She said my belly-button. Oh well, she's 2 and a half. Some kids can't draw a face until 4 or 5 years. It warmed my heart when Michelle said to me "I'm an artist like you Mama."
In early December I had helped Michelle make Christmas cards for Grandma & Auntie May. I did the writing and she provided the artwork, snowmen (I cut out the pieces and glued them onto the cards.) I decided snowmen were probably easier than anything else. They're really just three circles and a face. I wanted to keep the cards myself after they were done (I have a folder that's just bursting with all of Michelle's artwork. I can't seem to get rid of anything. God knows what I'll do when she's in school.) I just took photos of them so at least I'd get to remember them:
Yes, if you do the math that is a LOT of presents. I was picking things up months in advance anytime I saw anything on sale. Walmart had Princess dresses regularly $30 on sale for $10 so I got her one of each -- Ariel, Cinderella and Rapunzel. They had the Little People Farm and House on for $20 (regularly $50) so I picked them up. I also found things on sale at Toys R Us, little things at the Dollar Store. I couldn't resist getting toys for Michelle. I hate buying for adults (I never know what the heck to get and half the time wind up getting gift cards which is only a half step up from handing them cash.) but buying for kids is fun. Especially young kids. The truth is I'm a big kid myself and having a valid excuse to shop at Toys R Us for dolls and stuffed toys is my idea of Heaven! So yeah, I spoiled her. Anything she showed interest in, anything she mentioned, if it wasn't too outrageous (and ESPECIALLY if it was on sale!) I got it. It got to the point where I would ask her what kind of present she wanted to open each day and then I would go to the stock pile (all wrapped in tissue and gift bags and stashed in my guest room) and pick up that exact thing to give her. A princess dress? There you go! A stuffed kitty? Here's one of ten! A house? OK. Minnie Mouse? 3 of them. I figure when she's a teenager she'll be asking for expensive electronics and name brand shoes. At that point one gift could be hundreds or thousands of dollars. While she's young and I can make her eyes light up with gifts that are under $20 each, I'm taking advantage of it!
While I was admittedly spoiling her rotten I did want Michelle to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Adorably Michelle herself kept asking me to read "The Christmas Story" -- a miniature golden book she has about the birth of Jesus. She knew that Christmas was Jesus' birthday. It became a routine for me to read it to her every night. During the Christmas story, at the part where it mentions the manger, I sang "Away in a Manger" to Michelle. I was surprised after only a couple of times she remembered and was singing it herself. I even managed to catch her on video:
Michelle singing "Away in a manger":
Though Jesus is the real meaning of Christmas. I didn't see any harm in letting her enjoy the legend of Saint Nicholas as well. Unlike my Mom, I wanted to give Michelle Santa too (Mom flat out told us there was no Santa from the time we were very small. It was Jesus' birthday and that was that.) For me, I think anything that adds to the spirit of Christmas and makes it fun for kids can't be bad. So I watched the Christmas specials with her and I saved one of her gifts to be from Santa. She also went to visit him at the mall. It was a dramatic change from the year before. She wasn't shy or nervous at all. She was friendly and outgoing with the elves, hopped right up on Santa's knee, smiled for pictures and had a nice conversation with him. She told him she wanted dolls & cats. That's also what she said in the letter we mailed to him. (And we did get a form letter reply!) Santa Claus North Pole HOH OHO!
Michelle loved building snowmen in November. We managed to make another snowman one day in December after it snowed and the weather wasn't too terrifyingly cold. Again, I'm REALLY not a fan of the cold, or snow, or anything to do with winter but I make an effort for Michelle's sake. In the nice weather we were outside every day so I try to get her out for some fresh air and make the best of it when we can. A couple of times she mentioned the park, the beach and Halloween never seems to completely leave her mind. I told her that every season has something fun to look forward to: Spring the weather gets warm, flowers bloom and we can play outside every day. Summer is hot and we can go to the beach. Fall is still nice and we can play in the leaves and dress up for Halloween. Winter we can build snowmen, decorate the tree and get presents for Christmas. The truth is if I had my way it would always be Summer. I dream about living in the tropics but then you have to worry about tropical storms.
Seeing Michelle dressed as Ariel and hugging her Ariel doll was so precious! I am so happy that Michelle loves dolls. I always loved them myself so the dolls I bought for her are, admittedly also for me! Most of the toys/dolls I got for her say age 3+ or more but I don't even worry about that. Michelle is so advanced for her age. I read something online that said at 2 & 1/2 the average toddler can say 50 words. Michelle's vocabulary is up to about 5,000-10,000 words now. She speaks in complete sentences -- adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions. And the phrases she says out of the blue are astounding. She has such a vivid imagination you never know what she's going to come up with next. One minute she's casting a spell on you, turning you into a dragon. The next she's taking you into outer space in her rocket ship. She'll whisper that she has a "dinosaur secret" then tell you in depth about the dream she had about a lion on the beach, playing in the sand, sitting on her shoulder and then swimming in the water. Sometimes she drives me crazy and other times she melts my heart. "I love you Mama. You're my sweetheart. Will you marry me? Can I keep you forever?" "Well I can't marry you," I tell her, "but I'll love you forever and ever. No matter what."
The day I realized I had probably gone overboard was when I got Michelle a second Rapunzel dress. She already had one but then I found a different one on sale that came with a crown and a whole tea set. Michelle LOVES having tea parties with me and her dolls so I couldn't resist. My Mom shook her head when she saw me making trip after trip to Toys R Us. Of course my Mom is partly to blame, she has always been a shopaholic and I inherited the gene. I went so long barely buying anything because I couldn't afford to. With Christmas coming I had a reason to shop and once in the store I seem to lose self-control. I think part of over-buying for Michelle was also guilt in a way. Guilt over having to leave her (when I work). It's also perhaps a way of overcompensating for all that I can't give her: A family. A father, siblings. Michelle has started mentioning "Daddy" more and more. When she watches Caillou she says "Caillou has a daddy. But I don't have a daddy." "That's OK," I tell her, "You have a Mommy that loves you VERY much." I made the mistake of telling her as well that someday she "might" have a daddy IF I meet a man that's VERY nice and loves us very much and we get married. Of course that's a big IF! One day of course she will ask and I will have to explain what happened to her father but luckily at this stage she's too young to go there. Since he never gave me an answer I'll have to make up my own, which I'd like to believe is the truth: "Your dad had a LOT of problems. He was afraid he would hurt us more than help us if he stayed. He knew we would be better off without him. He loved us enough to leave. He did love you. He called you Michelle. He kissed you when you were still in my tummy." That last part is true. I still can't possibly fathom how he could leave the way he did. I would really like to believe he loved us in his own way. I guess I'll never know.
We went to a party for Shane's Mom. Michelle feels comfortable at family events but I wasn't sure how she'd be in a house full of strangers. She loved it. Michelle had a blast playing with the other kids and entertaining the adults with her dancing and antics. It was amazing to watch her hamming it up for strangers in the room. Michelle LOVES to be the centre of attention. Everyone made a fuss of her which encouraged her even more. She was hilarious. A few people commented on what a good dancer she was. "Look at her hands! Her expression! You HAVE to put her in dance classes! Ballet or jazz. She has a gift."
When I went down to the playroom I was happy to see Michelle playing well with the other kids, sharing, taking turns. My Leo girl really does think she rules the world. She can be bossy and domineering (she will grab your hand and lead you around, tell you what to do, even if you're a grown woman/man. She's surprisingly strong!) She expects to get her way and doesn't always want to share. I worried how she would be when she goes to school. But she was great. In a room full of kids younger and older than her, she was having fun and getting along with everyone. I was so relieved!
Seeing Michelle's face light up when she opened her gifts was the greatest gift to me. Her surprise and excitement brought me back to my own childhood when Christmas was magical. Somehow you lose that over the years. These days I don't even care about gifts for myself. Everything is for her.
Her main present was her rocking horse. I gave it to her ahead of time as well. It would have been too big to transport anyway. I got a video of Michelle with it:
As expected, the week of Christmas was sheer chaos between work, family, travel, presents and then to make matters worse getting sick with the flu on top of it all and running to the bathroom every few minutes. I seem to have a lower immunity than ever because I don't get enough sleep and feel run down most of the time. Half the family was sick. Thank goodness Michelle didn't get it at least. She had a great time at home, at Grandma's and Auntie May's. As much as I enjoyed our month of Christmas, I was kind of relieved when it was all over with. I couldn't wait to take the tree and decorations down. Before Christmas, I enjoy the tree. It makes the room cozy. After Christmas, it's just depressing. I don't want to look at it. I couldn't wait to reclaim my living room again, to have more space.
Michelle was happy with all of her gifts. She especially loved her robot kitty from Santa. I got a video of her singing "Soft kitty" (Sheldon's comfort song from "The Big Bang Theory".) She learned it from Mom and I singing it:
I had 5 days off in a row where there was nothing scheduled, no appointments or errands and I could just stay in with her and work on it. I had a brand new chart and stickers, an Elmo potty DVD, a slew of potty books and an arsenal of silly songs to encourage her. I had bribes -- chocolates and "poo presents" to reward her for her first #2 on the potty. Despite my valiant efforts, the first two days of potty-training were SHEER HELL. So frustrating, discouraging, exhausting. "Just put her on the potty every hour," my Mom said. It was a nightmare. It seemed the whole day was just sticking Michelle on the potty, to no avail. She would not do ANYTHING on the toilet. Not one drop. No amount of begging or bribery worked. I tried to catch her each time she needed to do something. Tried to reason with her. I kept running with her to the potty and she'd sit there and do nothing then wait until I took her off so she could go in her pants EVERY SINGLE TIME. Since I was squeamish about accidents I had decided to put underwear on her and pull-ups over that for insurance. I thought (mistakenly) that feeling the undies against her skin would be a deterrent and that even if she had an accident the diaper on top would catch it. The undies didn't seem to do a thing. She just went ahead and peed in the underwear every time. She'd sit on the potty, listening to my song and dance and stories until my back and butt and legs were cramped and do nothing only to urinate in the undies the second I took her off the toilet. It was like she was deliberately defying me. I tried everything. I even had the underwear TALK to her! Olaf and Sven begged her not to pee/poo on them! She went ahead and took a dump anyway so I threw that pair out. She just wasn't getting it. The second day was more of the same. I was losing my mind. She was crying for her diaper and saying she didn't want to go in the potty. I told her that she didn't have a choice. There was no going back. There would be no more diapers. She had to learn this. She would get used to it. Toward the end of the day she FINALLY did a little trickle in the potty.
I needed to step up my game. I decided to bring in reinforcements. I enlisted the help of Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck. I sat them on their own little potties. Then I got really creative. I made some little feces out of Play Doh (if you mix primary colours together they will make brown!) and put them in the mini-toilet. "Michelle! Look! Even MINNIE did a poo on the potty!" Michelle laughed. She wanted to play with the poo. I let her but made sure she understood NEVER to play with real poo! I thought it was rather creative of me. I also thought how sad it was that this was what my life had come to: spending a Friday night designing feces for Disney characters.
On the third day I knew I had to suck it up and face my greatest fear as a germophobe and control freak: the bare bottom. Most people online said the best way to potty train a child was to have them naked and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak. They have a few accidents but learn rather quickly that when they need to go, it has to go somewhere and it's rather unpleasant having it run down their legs and all over the floor. So I took a deep breath and embarked on a "bottomless" day -- I put a dress on Michelle so she wouldn't be cold but I put nothing on her bottom, no undies or diaper. I covered the couch in garbage bags and towels just in case. I removed her rocking horse and soft chair from the room. At least I didn't have carpeting in the living room. I had paper towels and disinfectants ready.
So it began. I watched Michelle like a hawk. And it worked. It was a breakthrough. All of a sudden Michelle would get this worried look in her eye. "Do you have to go potty?!" I'd ask and not even waiting for the answer, grab her and run her to the bathroom. And she peed on the toilet! I was thrilled. I praised and praised her. Then it happened again and again. She wouldn't exactly tell me she had to go potty she'd just look worried, start to cry a little or say "I want my diaper!" She even did a #2 in the potty! She got her "poo present" which was a Play Doh Belle Castle set. She loved it. We had fun playing with it. She started to get the feeling of when she needed to go and by the end of the day she WAS telling me she needed to go. Aside from one accident (thankfully just #1), she did great. The fourth day was a bit of a rollercoaster. She was doing really well until halfway through the day she had an accident that was like a dam breaking and pee was everywhere. She was moody and difficult and my nerves were shot. It was discouraging. Then on the 5th day, she just got it. She was trained. Done. She told me every single time she had to go #1 and #2 without fail. From morning until night she stayed dry. She was dry in undies, dry in pull-ups. She even stayed dry when I had to go out to the store with her for over an hour. She went on the toilet as soon as we got home. I was thrilled. I praised her and thanked her and told her what a clever girl she was, that she's a big girl now. I was worried how she would be at my Mom's place when I had to work. Would she go potty for my Mom and Dad? Thankfully, she was great for them too. She told them she needed to go every time. She stayed dry all day. Night is another matter. She does still wet a diaper through the night but she asks to go potty in the morning and stays dry all day. One of the problems with the night is that she still drinks through the night but that's a habit I'm hoping to break soon. For now, I put an overnight pull-up on her at night.
I want to say thank you once again to those who have been reading my blog for the past few years. Having this outlet to share my trials and my triumphs helped me through pregnancy, infancy and the "terrible twos." It has been quite a journey and despite some really rough patches, I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Though I won't be writing often I may still try to visit here now and then for an occasional update. And if you're interested in hearing how we're doing you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch us on Twitter and Youtube: