The past three years have flown by. That is not to suggest that it's been easy. Some days were more challenging than I can possibly explain. Some days Michelle just decided to be impossible, for the Hell of it, it seems.
I'd heard about the "terrible twos" (of course Michelle was going through her terrible phase even from 0-1) but someone told me that three could be even worse. "That's when your kids REALLY become a-holes!" someone warned me. Great. I could hardly wait.
Approaching her third birthday Michelle went through one of her worst phases yet: the THERE'S JUST NO PLEASING ME, SO DON'T EVEN TRY! phase. Where you can't win. She screams if she doesn't get what she wants. She screams if she gets what she wants. She screams because, perhaps, she really doesn't KNOW what she wants and she's just exerting her power...And attachment parent that I am, she has a lot of power. I am SO owned. I try to be the best Mom I can be. My version of that is catering to her every whim to make her happy. Yeah, how could that POSSIBLY go wrong?!
One day Michelle said she wanted to go to the water park. Great! I had mentioned it before but she wasn't interested. All of a sudden, she was all for it. "I want to go to the WATER PARK Mama!" Awesome. So we go. Michelle ran in the splash pad for a couple of seconds before screaming that she didn't want the water to touch her. When the water went in her face she screamed bloody murder and said she HATED the splash pad. (I might have seen that coming because one time she said she wanted to go in the sprinkler & subsequently SCREAMED when water touched her face. She also doesn't allow water to touch her face in the bath so I have to very carefully hold her head back to rinse shampoo from her hair.) OK. So she hated the splash pad. That was 1 out of 3. Then I thought we'd try the pool. We no sooner go into the pool and Michelle says NO! She doesn't like it. It's too cold, too wet, too deep. Nope. She doesn't want to be in the pool either. That was 2 out of 3. There was still the lazy river (floating in inner tubes) to try...At first she protested. "I don't WANT to float in the river! NOOOO!" "Michelle please. It was YOUR idea to come here. This is all that's left. At least TRY it." After some negotiation (I wouldn't take no for an answer) and some struggling to get the two of us in the tube (no easy feat. I'm sure I looked all kinds of ridiculous. Graceful, it WASN'T!), we were off. Michelle LOVED it. Now mind you, she was sitting on my belly so she wasn't actually touching the water AT ALL. I explained to Michelle how ironic it was that she wanted to go to the WATER park and not get wet AT ALL but she wasn't listening. We floated around lazily a few times and then Michelle, perfectly dry, wanted to go to the playground. Getting out of the tube was even less graceful. Trying to wriggle out off of a tube like a greased pig & not drop Michelle in the water. I was afraid we'd never get out. That we may just have to float there indefinitely until the end of time.) Michelle even complained about the playground. "There's WATER on the SLIDE Mama!" (There were a few drops.) "Yes. It is a water park after all. Some kids actually GO in the water, love." So she went on the swing.
Then when we were on the way there was a huge accident on the highway, closing down the highway (the only route I knew!) so we almost didn't make it. (This may have been a sign to just turn around and go back home but I was stubbornly determined to celebrate Canada Day.) After some creative navigating and a lot of stress, we finally made it to Auntie May's. Though tired Michelle ALWAYS loves visiting Auntie May, cousin Reggie & Shannon so I was hopeful it would be a fun day.
We get to the park & I couldn't believe it. Anna & Elsa (or performers dressed as them at least) were on stage singing a medley of Frozen tunes! Geek that I am, I sang along. This was perfect! Michelle and I LOVE Frozen. I put Michelle up on my shoulders for a better view. After a few tunes, all of a sudden, inexplicably, Michelle starts throwing a tantrum during her favourite song. Elsa is belting out "Let it go!" and Michelle took that as an opportunity to let her emotions rip. "What's wrong?!" I couldn't get anything out of her. She didn't want to be on my shoulders so I brought her down. She didn't want to be down so I picked her up. Whatever I did, she screamed. "What is wrong?!" At least the music was loud enough that no one (other than the poor unfortunate souls in our vicinity) could hear the commotion coming from my little inconsolable monster. It seems that she wasn't comfortable on my shoulders but was disappointed to give up the view. Or something like that. Since I didn't have magical powers that would allow her to hover in mid-air, there wasn't a way to fix the situation. Mama Fail.
But it didn't end there. Next my sister got Reggie a cute little Canada Flag tattoo (just a temporary stencil) on Reggie's cheek. How patriotic! I wanted to get one for Michelle too. She stood there, looking much less enthused than Reggie but she waited until they were actually finished the artwork before saying "But I don't WANT a flag on my face!" Sigh. "Well it's too late now, honey. Sorry." Then she was whining for milk, wanting to go back to the car, wanting to go home. "Pleeeease Michelle. Don't ruin the day for everyone!" I begged her. Reggie & Shannon were in good spirits & getting more temporary tattoos. I looked around at other kids, laughing, smiling, having fun. Michelle was sulking, whining, crying. I sighed. "Why me?" But we were going to the bouncy castles next and they had a Sponge Bob one! (Michelle absolutely LOVES Sponge Bob.) So after us paying an exorbitant fee for a string of tickets and waiting in a ridiculously long line, finally Michelle and Reggie entered the Sponge Bob Bouncy thing...
Not even 10 seconds later, Michelle wanted out. I tried to reason with her. "Michelle! You LOVE jumping around. You LOVE Sponge Bob! We paid a lot of money & waited in a long line. Give it a chance!" No. She wasn't having it. She was out. When my sister asked Michelle for an explanation later Michelle said that she didn't like the loud fan noise. The fan that keeps the bouncy castle inflated. I hadn't even thought of that. Michelle can't STAND loud noises now. She hates the vacuum, fans in the washroom, loud toilets flushing (in public bathrooms etc.) She covers her ears and yells "TOO LOUD!" It's not pretty. Lesson learned. No more bouncy castles. Unless I bring ear plugs for her I guess. But she probably wouldn't like them either.
When we sat down for lunch, all of a sudden Michelle was yelling "My butt is on FIRE!" and laughing. Ever since potty training Michelle finds it hilarious to talk about poo and bums, especially if we're in public. When she's around Reggie, the two of them giggle together conspiratorially. I guess it's a phase kids go through. "Shh!" I told her "You can't yell about butts in public. ESPECIALLY when you're having lunch!" I had to stifle a laugh myself. "MY BUTT IS ON FIRE!" Never a dull moment. You just never know what she's going to do or say. One day she went up to my Mom while in line at the bank and asked (rather loudly) "What's WRONG with you Grandma?" She was also kind enough to ask me "Do you have DIARRHEA Mama?!" In a public bathroom stall. "No, I don't. Thanks for asking at the top of your lungs though." She loves making up nonsense songs and singing them as loud as she can. Sometimes I wonder how I dare to leave the house with her at all. But I do. Because I figure it's good for her and for me to get out of the house and have adventures.
Thankfully Michelle isn't ALWAYS difficult. Sometimes she's a dream. Most of the time she's sweet, affectionate, funny, curious and remarkably wise for her age.
Michelle and I both love the beach and I tried to go as often as possible. My favourite beach, by far, is Port Dover. Since a tropical vacation isn't exactly in my near future, it's a treat to sit under palm trees right here in Ontario and pretend. It's my version of a "staycation."
Photoholic that I am of course I ALWAYS had my camera with me and had to take a million pictures...
It's my way of holding on too, because life is so fleeting. Taking pictures, writing this blog, posting tweets on Twitter, it's my way of making the impermanent permanent. Preserving our history. It may not matter to anyone else but it means the world to me.
Someone accused me of not really being in the moment because I'm experiencing everything from behind a camera. My argument is that not only am I enjoying the moment but I get to keep it forever and relive it through the photos, tangible memories. Being a Mom now I'm more of a photoholic than ever because I want to capture every moment as Michelle grows up.
She was a baby not too long ago. Now she's a little girl. And she's growing all the time. Next year she'll be starting school. Before I know it she'll be a young lady. The older I get the faster time seems to go by. The Summer has gone by in a flash. We're into September already. Soon it will be Halloween. Then Christmas. Then another New Year. It blows my mind. I guess that's why I'm a photoholic. Pictures stop time. They freeze everything. You get to keep that moment forever. The blue skies and the seagulls and the smiles and my little girl, still little.
Every time Michelle and I went to Port Dover was a different experience. When we went on weekends during the Summer, it was a MADHOUSE. So crowded the parking lots were full and you had to step over bodies to get a spot on the beach. Michelle wasn't a fan of those times (nor was I) so we tried to avoid weekends from then on. Going there mid-week in September was a treat. The weather was still warm but we had the beach almost to ourselves! Michelle loved having so much room to run around and play in the sand. I liked setting up camp under one of the palm trees (this is prime real estate when the beach is crowded. After all, how many places can you bask in the sun under a palm tree IN CANADA?! Not very many!)
Michelle LOVES the sand and brings half the beach with her when we go. There's sand in her hair even after a couple of baths. There's sand in my purse, the car, the carpet at home. It's OK. It's worth it. Someday I'd love to actually LIVE by the beach. Just waiting on that lottery win...
Family is very important to me. I am so grateful to have a close-knit family that gets together often. Especially my Mom and sister. We see them regularly. Michelle loves playing with her cousins Reggie and Shannon.
Usually we head to May's or Grandma's house. Once in a while they come to our place for a visit. One time May's car broke down on the way and Michelle mentions it ALL the time. "Mama, can I tell you something? Auntie May's car BROKE DOWN!" "Yes I know sweetheart that was months ago. But she got it fixed." "Yes but
our old car broke down & we couldn't fix it so we got a new one." "That's right. Our old car was TOO old. It had too many things wrong and couldn't be fixed so we got a new one." (We've had this same conversation several times in the car on the way to May's or my Mom's place. Each time Michelle talks about it as if it just happened. "Mama, can I tell you something?" Here we go again...)
It's always fun getting together with Auntie May, whether we just hang out at home or go somewhere. Nobody understands me or makes me laugh like my sister! And Michelle always has a blast with her cousins. Burlington Beach was fun briefly, until it started to rain. Bronte Pool was awesome. Michelle LOVED it. She was so comfortable in the pool that she went in deeper than she's ever gone. She was even making me a little nervous that she was going to go too deep. Usually she wouldn't go into the water past her knees. The kids loved the Children's Play Farm at Bronte Creek Provincial Park too. And I'm a sucker for cheesy photo ops!
My Mom suggested Gulliver's Lake one day. We hadn't been there in years. Michelle loved it. The water was calm and clean and she felt comfortable walking and splashing around in it. I even got to swim and float on my back for a bit which is a rare treat -- something I can only do when my Mom and sister are there to watch Michelle. And it helps to have still water without waves throwing you around. Floating on my back in the cool water, staring up at the blue sky felt like a temporary vacation. A moment of freedom. And then seconds later I look over to make sure Michelle is OK. Control freak that I am, I could never really take a vacation away from Michelle. I know that some parents do go away without their kids sometimes. I just can't imagine it. I'd worry too much. If I ever do go to Hawaii, or any of the places on my bucket list, it will be WITH Michelle.
The only break I ever get from Michelle is when I go to work and then I miss her. My favourite part of the day is coming home to see her. She's always so excited to see me. She runs and hugs and kisses me. "MAMA! I'm so happy to see you! I MISSED YOU!" Or if I'm working nightshift I crawl into the bed next to her and she's so happy to wake up and see me there. "Mama! You're home!" I'm grateful to have my Mom and Dad to look after Michelle and also thankful to have a job where I can work fewer days and have more time to spend with her. Despite sacrifices I've had to make (financial and otherwise), this time is priceless to me. She won't be this young for long and it's so important to me to have as much time with her as possible. I also don't want to burden my parents too much with looking after her. Although they adore her, it is exhausting for them. And I refuse to leave her with a stranger. Yet. I know next year she'll be starting school. And then I'll have to leave her with a teacher all day. It will be very hard to let go!
My sister kindly offered to have the party at her place since it was more convenient for everyone and has the most room. It was a bit of a challenge loading up two cakes and all the presents to transport to Auntie May's but I managed. (I had to buy a special cake carrier. I figured I'd already invested enough into the Castle Cake enterprise so might as well travel with it in style.) Everyone was impressed with my creation. Especially since they know I am NOT a baker. Usually I'd just get a store bought cake or slap some icing messily on a cake mix cake. But for my girl, anything! If Princess wants a castle, she's getting one!
Michelle got a little spoiled of course, mostly by me. She was happy with her presents. She was especially excited about her Elsa dress (I'd picked it up when it went on sale.) She is still a Frozen fanatic.
It's funny how we learn. We try, practice, stumble and fall, get discouraged, think we're never going to get it and then suddenly something just clicks and it becomes second nature.
Michelle had been trying to ride a tricycle since she was 2. I tried to teach her -- one foot at a time, the up foot goes down and you have to steer. Sometimes I'd get frustrated because she wasn't getting it and it seemed so basic. She was able to ride cousin Reggie's tricycle at Auntie May's but couldn't seem to ride her own. The wheels seemed too stiff or something. I tried oiling them but nothing seemed to help. Then one day before her 3rd birthday, I heard a rumbling sound. The sound of Michelle riding her little pink tricycle down the hallway, perfectly, one foot after another, steering and everything! Suddenly it just clicked. I had told her that once she could ride her trike perfectly indoors that she could ride it outside. So I took her out and she loved it. We went around the block.
One day at the park she met a girl who was 4 years old and had a bicycle with training wheels. Michelle wanted to try it so they let her. She did pretty well. I thought maybe she was ready. She had just mastered the tricycle. Was it too soon to consider a bicycle?
I took Michelle to Toys R Us just to look. I figured if they had something the right size & the right price I'd let her try it out and if she could ride it, I'd buy it. She'd need a bike eventually anyway so why wait? She's only 3 but she's the size of a 4 year old. I found a cute little purple bike that was on sale (a lot less than I'd expected to spend. I guess because it wasn't a name brand or Disney themed one -- those were twice the price.)Michelle LOVED it. She test drove it all around the store and rode it up to the cash for me to pay for it. Though it was a big gift I didn't want to save it for Christmas because then she'd miss out on months of enjoying it before Winter. I got her a fairy helmet to go with it. Michelle was over the moon. I said "You better be a really REALLY good girl now!" "I will Mama!" she promised. I asked her "Who's the luckiest girl?"
An enthusiastic "MEEEEEEEE!" was the reply.
I started to tear up a little seeing Michelle on her bike. She looks like such a big girl. She was a baby not too long ago and couldn't even hold her head up. Now she's pedaling down the street almost too fast for me to keep up.
Michelle had a blast. We went around the block once and she wanted to go around again. The next night she wanted to go even farther. It was stressful for me though, control freak that I am, coaching her the whole way: "Watch where you're going! Look straight ahead not at your feet! Steer! Be careful! Not too fast! Slow down at the end of the sidewalk, you have to turn!" On her first day she wiped out twice on the grass when she got distracted by a dog and wasn't looking. She didn't get hurt at least. I was a nervous wreck. I saw other kids riding bikes on the road, alone, racing around. They didn't look much bigger than her (but were probably twice her age.) I couldn't imagine just letting her go off on her own like that. Even at 6 years old. Or 10 for that matter. I don't know if I'd ever want her out on her own. Not until she's a teenager. Even then I'll worry.
The bike earned me some brownie points for sure. The morning after she got her bike she woke up and said "You're the BESTEST MAMA of them all!" and gave me a big hug. I didn't have the heart to tell her bestest wasn't a word. Frankly it should be. When you're better than the best! LOL
I don't know if it's because she's a Leo (naturally born bold, confident Lion!) or because I've always showered her with praise and attention, encouraged her, let her win at games, catered to her every whim, (or maybe it's a combination of nature & nurture) but Michelle is definitely not shy. She has all the nerve in the world. Too much sometimes. She's very social, outgoing, the loudest one wherever we go, wants to be in the limelight, life of the party. (Basically the opposite of her shy, shrinking violet Mama!) I've tried to warn her about strangers but she will go up to anyone & say hello. At the park she actually goes up to kids and says "Hi little girl. What's your name? My name is Michelle." Sometimes she even tries to introduce herself to pre-teen boys. I try to explain that sometimes it's inappropriate. "Those boys are older. They don't want to play with a little girl." When she finds a girl about 4 or 5 years old though, it's just perfect and they get along wonderfully. I don't worry about Michelle when she goes to school. She'll be just fine. She'll probably love meeting all the kids and she loves learning. It will be great for her. It will be hardest on me. I'll have a REALLY tough time letting go.
As much as I am a control freak and rather cautious because I don't want Michelle to be hurt, at the same time I know that the only way for her to learn is to let go somewhat & give her room to try things. Perfect example: The rock climbing wall at the park. Even Michelle was a little hesitant to try it until recently (probably because she sensed my fear as I hovered waiting to catch her fall.) But then all of a sudden she was ready and wanted to try it "It's OK. You can do it." I encouraged her. I was still close by to catch her but I backed off a little. She started to pull herself up. I told her where it would be best to put each hand and foot. She started to get the rhythm of it. When she was almost at the top she panicked and said "Mama, I'm scared. Get me down!" The worrier in me nearly did pull her down but then I realized if I bailed her out she'd never learn. And she was so close. "It's OK. Try. You can make it. You're almost there. One hand and one foot at a time & pull yourself up." And she did it. When she reached the top, you could see the pride in her face. She was just beaming. "I did it Mama!" "Yes! You did! I told you you could!" It's like the tricycle opened a doorway to mastery of other challenges. She's building her independence. Even at the pool at one point Michelle said "I'm OK. I don't need you. I like deep water." I explained that no, she couldn't swim yet and I needed to be nearby and that she shouldn't go too deep. I didn't have swimming lessons as a child and have never been a strong swimmer. To this day I have a fear of deep water. I need to be able to touch the bottom or I panic.
She's a little Diva already. Princess that she is she feels at home in a tiara. She loves dressing up and putting on makeup. She doesn't even mind me taking photos. She'll strike silly poses for me and smile.
She loves when we spend "girlie days" at home and do crafts with glitter and glue or dress up like princesses and do our makeup and nails. I've created a monster of course but I love it too. I'm a girlie girl as well. This was one of the reasons I was hoping for a girl.
She's growing up so fast sometimes I think "Oh my God! She DOES look like a little lady!"
Of course she is still my wild and crazy little girl and I'm never quite sure what she's going to do. After what I went through the first time, anyone in their right mind would have avoided the Water Park like the plague. But hope springs eternal and I wanted to give it, and Michelle, another shot. I was glad that I did because Michelle did a complete 180. The first time she hated everything. This time, she LOVED it all.
Sometimes Michelle just needs to get used to something, to feel comfortable with it. I don't want to miss out on opportunities and fun that Michelle and I can have together because I'm worried how it might go. I don't want to limit our adventures. I might even try a bouncy castle again! Sure. Maybe if there wasn't a long line and it didn't cost a fortune. I believe in second chances. Besides, it's almost like turning 3 was a magical switch. All of a sudden Michelle can do anything: ride a bike, climb mountains, face her fears. And she's thrice as nice! Sweeter, more loving and affectionate than she's ever been. She's always hugging and kissing me and saying she loves me. She even grabs my face and gives me a kiss on each cheek. That's the Italian in her coming out I guess. My dad's relatives used to do that. She calls me "the bestest Mom" and her "best friend." I tell her she's the best little girl in the world. And I really mean that. She may not be the easiest child to deal with but she's extraordinary and I'm incredibly grateful to be her Mom. OK maybe I'm a little biased. But even complete strangers after talking with her for a few minutes are struck by and comment on how remarkably intelligent, sweet and unique she is. She's a character!
I can't believe we're midway through September already. Next year at this time Michelle will be in school! I'm dreading it but Michelle, social butterfly that she is, will love it. Both for the social aspect and the learning aspect. Michelle is eager to learn. Her vocabulary is nothing short of miraculous. She'll say things like "You startled me!" Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions. She's even using past tense properly now. (For a while she was saying things like "I runned." "I winned." Now after me correcting her/explaining to her that words change when you're using them in the present or past tense she knows to say "I ran," "I won" etc.) Michelle will tell you an entire story, with details, descriptions, all from her imagination. She keeps asking for definitions of words now because she wants to be sure of their meanings. I got her a workbook to practice writing letters and she loves it. She can do the entire alphabet and is quite adept at linear letters (A, M etc). Curved ones like S still prove to be a challenge sometimes. Sometimes the S is backwards or she turns it into an 8. After developing proficiency with the capital letters I started her on small letters. She adores books and I explained to her that once she recognizes all the letters and knows how to sound them out, she can start to read! A very exciting prospect! She even started to read a few short words. I wrote down CAT and she sounded it out. She even figured out what it would be if I switched "C" for R, B etc. She wrote out the entire alphabet. She did pretty well. Sometimes randomly she does one letter WAY bigger than the rest (usually M or O which are her favourites.) She has been able to write her name for a while and recognizes her name when she sees it. I got her a little sign that says "Michelle Street" and put it on her bedroom door. From what I've read, being able to write and read is unusual at only three years old.
Michelle is also quite a little artist. A love of art runs in the family (my niece and I are artists). Her drawings are quite advanced/detailed for her age. I find them both adorable and frightening. She did a portrait of us at the beach (above left). The sun is massive and I have a rather demented smile. Michelle explained that I was REALLY happy. I've heard of smiling from ear to ear but I seem to be grinning from eye to eye (and frankly I don't think I've ever been that happy. I don't think it's humanly possible!) Almost as disturbing is my wardrobe malfunction (the bikini seems to be falling off of me!) She did a portrait of a bunny Mama and baby which is cute and quirky as is her style. It's always Mama and baby. I wonder when she goes to school and sees other kids drawing their families if she'll be tempted to draw a father figure. Anytime she mentions daddies I explain that every family is different -- some kids just have a mommy or just a daddy or both or two mommies or two daddies or just grandparents or who knows? As long as there's someone to love and take care of them it's OK. She has a Mama that loves her more than anything. One day she might have a Step Daddy (if that elusive Mr. Right -- a combination of Jesus, Superman and Will Ferrell -- finally shows up! But he's M.I.A. so far! LOL) For now, we're OK on our own.
The other day Michelle asked me to read Robert Munsch's "I'll Love You Forever." I sighed. I hadn't read it in a while. I have a hard time getting through it because I bawl my eyes out every time. I'm a sentimental fool. I always have been but now that I'm a Mom it's even worse. It's a beautiful story but so sad. So I started to read. It didn't take long for me to get choked up. Michelle looked at me curiously as a tear trickled down my face. She didn't understand why it was sad. My voice cracked as I tried to sing "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, As long as I'm living my baby you'll be." "Why are you sad Mama?" Michelle asked. "Because you're my baby. And you'll always be my baby but you're growing so fast. And just like the Mom in the book, I love you very much and I always will, even when you drive me crazy. And even when you're a grown lady, you'll still be my baby & I'll watch over you. Until maybe one day you'll watch over me..." When the man carries his Mom it's just too much and I start bawling. I think about my own parents getting older. I think about me getting older. I'm an older Mom after all. I want to be healthy and strong and live a long life so I can watch Michelle as she gets older. To see the woman that she becomes.
"Look how fast I can run, Mama!" "Wow!" I say (because she expects a reaction.) I'm just afraid that she's going too fast, that it's all going too fast. And I want to hold on.
"Look how fast I can run, Mama!" "Wow!" I say (because she expects a reaction.) I'm just afraid that she's going too fast, that it's all going too fast. And I want to hold on.
The last few times I wrote a blog I thought maybe it would be my last one. But this time I'm pretty sure it won't be. I don't know when my next post will be (maybe after Halloween? Or Christmas?) but I would like to continue writing. As difficult as it is to find the time I enjoy having a place to collect my thoughts, memories and photos and to share them with others. Thank you for reading and sharing my journey for the past three years!