Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scary Stuff...

Though I'm not a fan of Fall (as I've mentioned previously I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and Fall/Winter tends to drag the life out of me) it does have one saving grace: Halloween! Michelle and I LOVE Halloween. This year she wanted to be a skeleton girl so I decided to do Dia de los Muertos makeup for both of us. I used to be a goth so this kind of thing comes naturally to me. Michelle had a little skeleton dress and I had a skeleton shirt and socks that I got on sale after last Halloween. I like dressing up with Michelle to go trick or treating. I'm still just a kid at heart. At least now that I'm a Mom I get to enjoy these things again, through her. We went out early so that we could be back in time for most of the trick or treaters (because I love greeting them at the door on Halloween too.) But I'm getting ahead of myself skipping to the end of October. Let's start at the beginning...

I'm a little behind. Christmas is over, we're into 2017 and I'm just getting around to writing my October-November post.

With all the hundreds of photos I included in my last post I forgot to use any of the I-phone ones. My sister in law gave me her old I-phone. I'm still just mostly using it for emergencies though I have sent the odd text message on it (look how modern I am!) and I have taken some pictures with it. This is my fave I-phone photo taken in late Summer on the swing in my Mom's backyard. Most people only use their cellphone camera for all their pics. I still have my old Nikon that I carry in my purse everywhere too. Of course the handy thing about the I-phone selfies is that you can actually SEE what you're taking. I love Michelle's expression and her clasped hands in this one. Too cute.

I'm going to try not to go too crazy and post too many photos in this blog but I can't promise anything! I took quite a few pictures in October and November (especially considering I don't even LIKE Autumn...) Anyway, here goes...

Michelle was invited to her very first kid's birthday party (outside of the family anyway.) It was at a ceramics place where the girls would get to pick an item to paint. Aside from school I had never left Michelle before so I was a little nervous about it. It would only be for a couple of hours though and I figured I could go shopping nearby and come back. Fortunately I got talking to the Moms and realized I didn't have to go! I could stay and join in on the fun too! Again, being a big kid myself, this was great news! I was also excited that I'd get to stay to take photos! Which of course I can never resist!

We were sort of joking when the Moms asked if we could paint too but she said yes! It was harder than it looked. I was impressed with how well Michelle was doing. She chose a princess figurine. I picked an octopus. Michelle is such a perfectionist she was painstakingly adding details to make her princess like Cinderella (blonde hair, blue dress.) I was just trying to make a turquoise octopus that looked cute and not too gloopy. The brushes were scruffy and the squeeze tube let out too much paint (they set you up to fail! Usually it's kids doing this so they wouldn't know to complain! I was wishing I had my own paintbrushes from home.) At one point my octopus looked like Tammy Faye Baker with a little too much eyeliner/eyelash action going on but I tried to tone the eyes down a little. The Moms were really nice and it was fun spending time with them. I don't get out much so this was the closest thing to a social event that I'd had in a while! Little did I know when Michelle was invited to a party that I'd get to party too, with other grown ups! Bonus!

Michelle was anxious to take her Princess home but I explained that our ceramics had to be fired in a kiln to set the paint and give it a glossy finish and that we'd get our crafts back later that week.

Afterward Michelle wanted to go to Toys R Us. I didn't want the fun to end either so I said yes. Michelle found a pink sports car she wanted. It was over $300 so of course I said "Not a chance! Unless we win the lottery!"
"So if we win the lottery you'll buy it?!"
"Yes," I promised. But the odds of winning are 1 in 14 million."
"Can we go to Egypt too? And Disney World?"
"Sure. We'll travel all over the world if we win."
"So, let's win the lottery, Mama!"
As if it were that easy! If only!!!
"Well you don't just decide to win baby! You buy a ticket and you hope. It's highly unlikely."
So, if we win I am committed to buying her this car. And doing a lot of travelling... I could live with that! Fingers crossed!

We decided to celebrate the start of October by putting up some Halloween decorations and making some black cat crafts as well. It doesn't take much to make Michelle happy, just give her some glitter and glue and she's good to go. We made a few sparkly bejeweled black cat faces. And then we were pretty much crafted and Halloween-ed out for the day.

The cold, dark and gloomy weather can bring me down but it wasn't too bad yet and there were still lots of fun things coming up in October -- our annual trip to the farm with Auntie May, Reggie and Shannon, as well as a school trip to the farm (where I was going to volunteer for the first time) and of course, one of our favourite holidays, HALLOWEEN! Maybe I'd actually manage to escape the ravages of Seasonal Affective Disorder this year. Sure. Could happen...

But I was missing Summer. So we decided to have a Summer day. In October...

We went to the Butterfly Conservatory where it stays Summer -- a lush, tropical jungle -- all year long! It is always beautiful and I always take hundreds of photos but this time I managed to capture the shot I'd always dreamed of -- Michelle with a BLUE MORPHO BUTTERFLY! They are my favourite, but usually the most elusive butterfly. You can never get them to stay still for a picture. This time however, we found one that must have just hatched from her cocoon because she was pretty docile and she didn't fly away! I gently set her on Michelle's arm and she stayed! Michelle caused quite a stir with kids gathering to look at her. "Is that REAL?! It looks like a bracelet!" I had to stop a few girls from trying to touch the butterfly's wings. "No! You can't touch a butterfly's wings!" I warned,  "They're very delicate. You'll hurt them and then they can't fly." The girl didn't listen and reached over anyway. Forbidden fruit...

Michelle didn't mind all the attention. She was almost feeling like a celebrity with everyone staring at and talking about the girl with the HUGE blue butterfly on her arm! After a while however, the novelty wore off and Michelle was soooo over it.
"Mama, I want it off of me now."
So I gently took our friendly Blue Morpho over to one of the feeding stations (slices of orange on a plate.) I wanted to make sure she got something to eat and also to keep her away from prying hands as there was a large group of kids that would have been all over her. "I want to hold it!" On the ground every so often I would see a broken wing or injured butterfly and it would break my heart. Don't get me wrong. I'm not an insect lover in general. I will swat at a fly like there's no tomorrow and I believe mosquitoes are pure evil. However, butterflies are the exception. They are beautiful, perfect and good for the environment (flowers etc.) Horrible ugly insects like flies, mosquitoes and the like are parasites, spreading disease and generally ruining our lives. It's like the difference between flowers and weeds, good and evil, etc. (Opinions are mine, if you're a fly/mosquito lover, I don't want to hear from you. Ditto if you're a Trump supporter. But I'll get to that later. And yes I am putting him in the same category as flies and mosquitoes. Only he's far worse...)

Naturally, photoholic that I am, I would be remiss if I missed an opportunity to take a selfie with the Blue Morpho... Luckily I was able to get this one with Michelle smiling and the butterfly. Yes it was a good day. The happiest moments make the best photo ops and the best photo ops ARE my happiest moments! So it all works out! The times when I'm not having any fun whatsoever are also not coincidentally the times that I don't take any photos. (Generally when I'm sick, miserable, doing something unpleasant, general drudgery... Though I did take a couple of sad selfies for dramatic effect in November but I'll get to November later... November was a bit of a downward spiral for a host of reasons...But we're still in the happy moments of October during a day in Paradise so I shouldn't ruin it.) (You can probably ignore most of my parenthetical comments and you'd be just fine. I tend to ramble.)

It almost looks like we had the place to ourselves (which was far from the truth, it was actually quite crowded but I was just adept at seeking out a corner where no one was and snapping a picture before we got photobombed by some random stranger.)

Sometimes Michelle loses patience with my endless paparazzi tendencies but for the most part, she's a good sport. She's used to it. She knows the drill. Resistance is futile. I will get my shot and if you're cooperative and smile sweetly in the first take then I don't have to take another 4 trying to get it right (although sometimes I may anyway!) Hey, I'm OCD and this is the age of the selfie/Instagram so it's even socially acceptable now! I see other people doing it too. (Though most are doing it with their phones and not an old school Nikon with a scratched lens. That's just how I roll...)

When there was an unseasonably warm day we took advantage and headed to the park for a bit after school. Wearing capri pants and sandals in October is fine with me. Quite frankly I would have been happy to stay in sandals indefinitely. Unfortunately in Canada you can be in sandals one day and winter boots the next. Some people don't even know what to do. I saw a couple walking a dog with the female in a winter parka and the male in shorts and a t-shirt. I try to dress for the weather. Unfortunately we have had some REALLY cold and snowy days this winter. Even before winter started. But I'll also get to that later...

With Halloween right around the corner I was worried that all my dieting and exercise would be for naught. Unfortunately Michelle's school sabotaged my diet even before Halloween came. Yes, as schools tend to do as part of their fundraising efforts, they gave Michelle a carton of The World's Finest Chocolates (and I admit they are delicious!) to sell -- a.k.a. to EAT! So of course I ate a few boxes (after all they were sitting there, calling my name. As Oscar Wilde said "I can resist anything, except temptation.") and I realized we better get out there and actually SELL some of this stuff before Mama just eats (and has to pay for!) the whole box. (They're not cheap, either!)

Now I know they expect you to pawn your wares off on co-workers and family. I didn't really want to do that though I did actually sell a few to family and at work. Still I thought we should give it a go and old school sell door to door. I thought it might be a good learning experience for Michelle. Since we were staying at my Mom's that weekend for Thanksgiving, I brought them to my Mom's to sell (besides my neighbourhood was already overrun with Michelle's schoolmates selling the same darn chocolates! I had some parents show up at my door and I was like. "Sorry man. I have a carton of my own to sell! Good luck though!")

So we headed out. I carried the box and did most of the talking. Michelle just had to stand there and look cute with slightly pleading "Buy my chocolates" puppy eyes. How could we fail? I mean, I was expecting rejection of course -- with sales (especially door to door) you have to expect more nos than yeses. But hey, this is CHOCOLATE! It should sell itself. Who can say no to chocolate? More to the point, who could say no to an innocent little girl selling chocolate?! Apparently quite a few people.

We went to one house and they said yes. Then we hit another house where the man was quite pleasant and even bought two boxes! We were on a roll! This was great. Unfortunately our selling streak ended abruptly. Next thing we knew we had a rather cantankerous woman giving us the third degree about what school we were from and what we were doing in her neighbourhood and how she would only support a school that she believed in and blah blah blah. I almost wanted to say "Umm. It doesn't have to be political. It's CHOCOLATE! We're not scam artists. We're a mother and daughter selling CHOCOLATES for her school. I'm not collecting for the Human Fund!" I just gave her a sarcastic "OK then..." and we went on our way.

But it got worse. At one door a grumpy old man answered. He looked us up and down.
"What do you want?" he asked abruptly.
"We're selling chocolates!" I said brightly.
"Well I'm not buying!" he retorted and slammed the door in our faces.
Wow. I mean, I get that you're old and cranky but do you have to be THAT RUDE to a FOUR YEAR OLD?! You can see there's a little girl there with me. A sweet, innocent, impressionable child. And that's how you treat her? What is WRONG with you?! But I suppose that's why they call them grumpy old men. And maybe it's actually good for her to learn that lesson. Not all old men are Santa. Some of them are mean. They won't buy your candy and don't dare take any from them either!

After a series of rejections (ranging from polite no thank yous to rude no ways) Michelle was getting disheartened. Her shoulders drooped and she exclaimed "I HATE THIS! EVERYONE SAYS NO!"
"Welcome to the Wonderful World of Sales!" I joked and then I reminded her that not everyone said no. We even had the money (and a much lighter carton of chocolate) to prove it. You have to focus on the positives. We sold several more boxes that would not end up in Mama's tummy. It was a victory. We had to be thankful. Plus we sold a few more boxes at Auntie May's house the next day at the Thanksgiving celebration anyway.

We have a lot to be thankful for. I love our big crazy family. Getting together with most of them on Thanksgiving was a blessing. The fact that it was a beautiful day was even better.

May graciously offered to host Thanksgiving, turkey and all. I made a turkey once. It wasn't easy. I'm very grateful that May hosts so many events. Not only because it takes the stress off of me to do it but I love being at her place. Michelle loves it too. She says it's her favourite place in the whole world. Of course getting to play with cousin Reggie is part of that.

It was a great day. The kids were laughing and playing outside. We were talking and laughing inside. Dinner was wonderful as always. I don't have a social life to speak of anymore so hanging out with family is as good as it gets for me. May is my best friend and gets me like no one else. She is always making me laugh.

Shannon looked beautiful in her Egyptian goddess dress but she made me laugh with how ridiculous she could look when we swapped faces...

The FaceSwap I-phone app is at once horrifying and hilarious. For some reason when Shannon's face is on my head, she looks like her dad. When my face was on her she looked vaguely familiar, like an actress I'd seen in something but I couldn't quite place her. Kind of cool but in a distorted/slightly warped way. And of course, making faces just made it that much more ridiculous.

Seeing Uncle Chris and cousin Reggie swap faces was bizarre! Chris' face on Reggie looked like a despondent Benjamin Button. It was disturbing but we couldn't stop looking at it or laughing at it. Chris isn't very photogenic at the best of times but when his face is on Reggie it's even worse!

Michelle's face on Reggie was just plain creepy! Like a disturbing doll-faced monster!

And then of course there are puppies, deer, flower girls, queens. Oh the fun you can have with technology! I asked Shannon if she could magically put the app on my phone (like she did with Instagram, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope games). Unfortunately she said you actually have to have an account with Snapchat and I have too many websites to keep track of now anyway. I just use Twitter mostly, Youtube for videos, this for my blog & now occasionally Instagram since I figured out how to tap into wi-fi. To be honest I don't understand SnapChat. People post videos that self-destruct?! I want to keep everything. To me that's the whole point of taking photos. To HOLD ON. Not to let go. Still obviously the app DOES allow you to keep your photos if you wish because Shannon kept some and even shared them with me. It's just as well that I don't have it on my phone. I'd be playing with it far too much! I don't understand why they don't have cats though. They really should have a cat app!

Of course, the Funniest Face Swap EVER award goes to May and Shane! When Shannon showed me this, I completely LOST IT! I couldn't stop laughing. I was absolutely in tears. And when I'm having a really bad day sometimes I look at it just to crack a smile. I don't know why it stretched Shane's face so much or shrunk May's face or why they somehow BOTH end up with a cigarette (even sticking out of May's neck!) It's just too ridiculous for words! I love it!

Through the week the best part of the day is always picking Michelle up from school -- seeing how excited and happy she is to see me. "MAMAAAAAAA!" It just never gets old. Every time it's like we've been apart for a month (when in reality it's only been 6 hours.) Six hours really does fly by when you're trying to get things done but I'm always glad to be with my girl again.

It was another nice day so we headed to the park. Then Michelle wanted to do a Halloween picture. She drew a ghost, a goon, a skeleton, a couple of pumpkins and the moon (she always shows craters on the moon which is quite realistic but winds up looking more like a chocolate chip cookie.) Michelle definitely had Halloween fever and the closer it came, the more excited she was.

Every Fall May and I take the kids to Springridge Farm for the Fall Festival. It's become an annual tradition and we all love it. The kids love it because they can pick pumpkins, see animals, play on piles of hay, go on slides, walk through a haunted house, go on a hay ride, through a corn maze and corn trail. May and I enjoy it for the same reasons but mostly because it's awesome watching the kids have fun and taking photos. There are plenty of photo ops including the obligatory cheesy cutout boards where you stick your head in. Here Michelle is a cowgirl. Little did I know she'd actually get to ride a pony later!

The haunted house or "Boo Barn" (you have to be careful how you say that!) is always a hit with the kids. It's really not that scary. It's just kind of a dark tunnel with cute Halloween decorations, flashing lights etc. The kids love going through and usually want to go through it over and over again (exiting only to squeal "Let's go through again!")

It can be a challenge to make your way through in a crowd (and on a beautiful weekend in October it's VERY CROWDED!) It's pretty dark and difficult to get a decent photo (as I learned the hard way -- the flash makes photos washed out but no flash makes it too dark/blurry. So you can't win.) Somehow May managed to get this cute shot of us with a flash and it actually turned out pretty well!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had pony rides. Shannon and Reggie weren't interested and opted to climb the hay mountain instead but Michelle was all over it. As a photoholic naturally I was THRILLED! We had to wait in a long line for her turn but it only cost a few dollars and was more than worth it when I got pictures of Michelle on a pony and actually smiling and looking at me! I was snapping like a fiend! The hoverer in me was slightly nervous about her falling off and getting hurt but she seemed pretty safe (and there was an expert leading the pony anyway.)

It was a perfect day, not too cold, not too hot, not a cloud in the sky and I was snapping pictures of my baby on a pony, so this was like the best moment of my life! It was photo gold. I couldn't believe I managed to capture a shot of not only Michelle smiling but even the PONY SMILING (OK so I realize he's probably not actually smiling but it's close enough for me!) Seeing Michelle happy really is the highlight of my life and getting to capture moments like this and preserve them forever is why I am a photoholic. I get to keep this FOREVER!

Whether it's a special event, a celebration at home or an outing together, I always insist we get a group shot, even when camera-shy May protests ("No that's OK I don't have to be in it.") There's no point arguing with me. If I see a spot where I can sit a camera for the self-timer, it's ON! And I think people are usually grateful I take these shots when they look back. (I know even one of my ex boyfriends who complained about my snap happy tendencies later                 thanked me for taking some of the only pictures he had with his Mom and his family at a reunion.) Life is fleeting. Bring a camera!

This was a super awkward selfie with my i-phone where I tried to fit us all in and obviously failed miserably (Michelle didn't quite make it!) The one thing I like about the iphone selfies is that at least you can sort of see what you're taking. Nothing beats the self-timer on my Nikon though to fit everyone in but then of course you have to find somewhere to sit it. As you can imagine in the middle of a cornfield this isn't always possible...

I set up the self-timer for another group shot and someone walked right into it but we got a good laugh out of it and I did a re-take.

It's amazing when I see these shots because it often looks like we had the whole farm to ourselves when in reality it was very crowded! Again it was just because I became a pro at finding a spot/moment where no one was in the way (except for the odd time when they photo-bombed us/walked into the frame.) It was almost two decades ago when I got my first camera with a self-timer (a Canon.) That was when I became a true photoholic and insisted on getting a souvenir shot in front of everything. Yes I was doing selfies long before it was cool/socially acceptable. The self-timer is awesome. Find a flat surface, push the button, run, countdown 10 seconds, smile & hope for the best!

Afterward we headed back to May's house. Michelle had a ball as usual. Going to Auntie May's is her absolute favourite outing "in the WHOLE WORLD!" (Or at least until we win the lottery and visit Egypt!) I love visiting with May and the kids as well. I always wind up laughing my head off. We had fun playing with the Snap app on Shannon's i-phone again. This angelic flower girl filter was one of my faves. I love Michelle's expression here -- like a little doll/cherub!

Some of the filters of course weren't quite so pretty. Some were funny, others terrifying. The puppies were kind of cute. I still say they should have a cat app! There are more cat owners than dog owners, you know! Check the stats! The unicorns vomiting rainbows was special... Face Swap is always the most disturbing and hilarious. Shane and Shannon were beyond creepy! Like a giant and an elf! (Shane is the shirtless one!) Face Swap just never gets old! Again, it's a good thing it's not on my phone or I'd be using it ALL THE TIME.

Kids go through phases. You get one thing sorted and then there's another. You just never know what fresh hell may surface when you least expect. When Michelle was starting kindergarten for the first time in September I was relieved that she was excited to go (because I certainly wasn't. I was dreading it and if she had been screaming/crying/saying she didn't want to go, clinging to my leg as some kids did, it would have been even MORE heartbreaking for me!) Instead Michelle seemed to enjoy school. Awesome! She got through September. Mind you, she did get sick a lot (with an on-again, off-again never completely ending cold-cough but everyone assured me this was normal. Kindergarten is a petri dish of germs and kids catch everything as they build up their immunity.) As far as any school-related anxiety I assumed it would have shown itself in September if there was a problem and that now in October we were good to go, out of the woods, no worries. Not so much.

Suddenly in October Michelle started saying she didn't want to go to school, didn't like school. It became a battle every morning -- Michelle crying and saying she didn't want to go, me saying she HAD to go and asking her why she was doing this NOW?! Sometimes I'd drop her off at her classroom and she'd run back to me for another hug and another and I'd have to finally just leave her crying with the teacher insisting "She'll be OK." It was devastating for me. I went home and cried myself. I told May about it and she said one of her friends was going through the exact same thing now with her child! September was fine but all of a sudden in October he was freaking out and didn't want to go. I was glad to hear it wasn't just me. Why in October? I mean I get the kids that cry in September because it's new and they're scared but after a month shouldn't they be used to it by now? May suggested that in the beginning kids might be excited about the idea of school but that once the novelty wears off they might get sick of it and want to stop going. Maybe they were excited to try it out but didn't realize it was going to be EVERY DAY for the next 18 years or so...

Also I wondered/worried if there was a reason Michelle didn't want to go. Was there some traumatic event that happened? For a while Michelle said she wasn't going potty at school. I spoke to the teacher and found out that a few kids weren't fond of the bathroom because it was kind of noisy and smelly (Michelle can't stand loud noises and gags at bad smells.) So they got an air freshener and talked them through the noise. Some days she would say she had a "bad day" because a boy hit another boy or someone was mean or a girl said something rude to her or this or that. Michelle always seemed to be such a strong, confident kid to me. I thought she could stand up for herself but among kids her own age, perhaps it was different. I told her basically to try to be nice to everyone but if someone wasn't nice to her to just shrug her shoulders and avoid them, not let it get to her (if I had been able to follow this advice my own life would have been much easier! In school and beyond!) Her teachers assured me there were no real issues, that Michelle got along well with other kids and that if there were any problems they'd let me know. There were never any notes in her agenda that there was a problem. Other than a couple of times Michelle coughed, gagged and threw up a little. She has a REALLY strong gag reflex. It's a problem. Michelle was never involved in any conflict or anything but it seemed to upset her when someone else was. It's not a perfect world. It's not all sunshine and rainbows. This is part of what kids have to learn I guess. As much as I wanted to protect her and make her happy, I couldn't always shield her from the unpleasant things in life. Nor should I. This is part of growing up.

Thankfully Michelle's reluctance to attend school (mornings spent crying & pleading which was heart-wrenching for me!) was just a phase and only lasted about a week. Then luckily she was back to her old self -- my happy girl again. She still sometimes said she didn't want to go, that she'd rather be with me and that she missed me but she didn't cry about it and she didn't fight me on it. She accepted that this was just the way it was. Mama HAS to go to work. Michelle HAS to go to school. It's non-negotiable.

Of course Michelle did end up missing a few days of school. Some days her never-ending cough/cold was worse than others. Some days she coughed so hard she made herself gag/throw up (this happened quite often unfortunately, especially when she was in bed. If you've never cleaned vomit out of bedding and off your kid several times a night -- Spoiler Alert! -- it's HELL ON EARTH.) So I'd keep her home from school on the bad days. Michelle even wound up missing a birthday party because she was throwing up. She was so disappointed I wound up taking her to the indoor playground (where the party would have been) once she was better.

At least for one day I got to spend a school day WITH Michelle. I volunteered to attend a trip to the farm with her class. There were so many volunteers that I only wound up being responsible for two kids, Michelle and her friend, which was good because I was having a panic attack just trying to keep track of the two of them as they ran amok! At one point her friend had to go potty so I had to search for a port-a-potty on the farm. It was pretty stressful. Especially talking the girl through the experience (which, admittedly is not the most pleasant of bathrooms. Then I was worried I wouldn't find the rest of the class again and we'd be stranded there.)

It was actually a very fun day although exhausting. I always carry Michelle's backpack for her. (The kids had to bring their lunch in their backpacks.) By the end of the day somehow I wound up being the mule carrying Michelle's backpack as well as her friend's (which was VERY HEAVY! Her food containers must have been made of lead.) "Michelle's Mom can you carry my backpack too?" The backpacks, on top of their bags of apples and two pumpkins was a bit heavy. One parent shook her head and chuckled at me. "How did you end up getting saddled with all their cargo?" "Just a sucker, I guess." I was just glad that I got to be there and take so many photos.

Michelle had a ball walking through the corn maze (populated with straw/scarecrow versions of some of her favourite animated characters), playing in the hay bales, riding on the hay ride, picking apples and pumpkins and seeing the sights on the farm. She also enjoyed the storytime barn with pumpkins dressed as various characters from Halloween stories. The only one I recognized was "Room on the Broom" because we have that book and have seen the movie. Michelle was glad to have me there with her and kept hugging me. Her friend was very sweet and kept hugging me too.

Michelle's class left on the bus but I had my own car so I took Michelle with me. We stayed at the farm afterward so I could get some more photos. I'm a total photoholic so I couldn't resist having a photo shoot with Michelle and a bunch of pumpkins! It was a beautiful day which was really lucky because there had been some cold and rainy days in October. It's not often but sometimes things actually work out... It would have been an awful day if it was cold and raining and muddy to walk around the farm. Grateful for a lovely day!

We were in a Halloween mood so we made a trip to Spirit Halloween after the farm to visit Michelle's friend the Werewolf... She had met him on a previous visit. Most kids might be a little wary of a large animatronic wolf with glowing eyes and sharp teeth but Michelle is a little different. She was talking to him, hugging him, even put her little hand in his rubber jaws. My daughter is a true goth! That being said there were some monsters in the store that were too creepy even for her and she stayed clear of them. Some of them even gave me the willies... (The Insane Hotel at the back of the store had a collection of zombies, disemboweled corpses etc...)

I love Michelle's artwork. It's so cute. Her pictures are getting more colourful, detailed and imaginative. She's so meticulous about colouring and staying within the lines too. My Mom says she's really advanced for her age as far as drawing and colouring goes. I love this cute Shopkins Cupcake. Her characters are always happy. No matter what it is -- be it a person, inanimate object, tree, sun, pumpkin, it is SMILING! I'm glad that Michelle has a generally cheery disposition. I don't unfortunately. While I am content most of the time, I do let things beyond my control (which is unfortunately EVERYTHING!) drag me down. When I'm sick, tired and stressed it's tough to force a smile sometimes. Though I do try for Michelle's sake. I smile for her then turn with a heavy sigh. And cry quietly when she can't see/hear me. I want to at least appear to be strong for her. Of course it's easier to be happy as a kid when you have no worries or responsibilities. Harder for me when I feel like I carry the weight of the world sometimes. 

We carved our pumpkins before Halloween so we'd get to enjoy them for a few days. Michelle wanted to design one and I did the other. She chose to draw the face on our white "ghost" pumpkin. Last year when I was carving Michelle wanted no part of it because she thought the guts were too "gross." This year she was a little more adventurous and willing to do some of the scooping. Of course I didn't let her do the carving. I told her she's not handling knives until she's much older. And even I have a hard time cutting through the pumpkins. And my brother in law injured himself carving a pumpkin once. So I probably will NEVER let her carve them! (Maybe when she's a teenager...)

After our pumpkins were carved we posed with our "ghoul friend" who was going to sit on the porch on Halloween night to scare and delight trick or treaters, but until then was residing on our stairs (because that's not creepy at all.) Michelle wasn't afraid of him/her. She even talked to him sometimes on her way up the stairs. I didn't want to waste the batteries but sometimes it was fun to turn on the ghoul's eyes and watch them change colours. It's the little things that make me smile...

I hate Fall but I love Halloween. I hate Winter but I love Christmas. Somehow you just have to find a way to focus on the good to get through the bad. Or try anyway. Sometimes it's harder than others...

Another annual tradition we share with Auntie May is that we always have a Halloween dress rehearsal at May's place. It's fun getting pictures of the kids in their costumes. Plus, living in different cities we don't get to see Reggie and Shannon on Halloween so it's like we get to share an early Halloween with them. Michelle didn't want full makeup for the dress rehearsal. She said it was too itchy even just having a little black around her eyes. Shannon did her own Dia de los Muertos makeup and she was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! She's an awesome artist. She also painted one of her Pullip dolls with the Dia de los Muertos theme. Reggie was an adorable Pikachu (I think that's what it's called?) from Pokemon. Michelle of course was my little skeleton girl. I planned to dress up for Halloween but wasn't feeling ambitious enough to get made up for the dress rehearsal.


I just can't resist a photo op! As you can see I got a little snap happy with photos of the kids. It wasn't too cold outside so they posed on the porch for several shots. I even managed to get some smiles out of Michelle. She was very excited about Halloween. Shannon is at an age where some of her friends don't want to go out or dress up for Halloween (party poopers!) I think because Shannon is an artist she appreciates the artistry of it. You might as well have fun and dress up whenever you can! I'm an adult (supposedly) and even I enjoy it. I'm glad that I get to take Michelle trick or treating so I can enjoy sharing it with her. I like answering the door to trick or treaters as well. Back in the day (when I actually had a social life, boyfriends etc) I used to go to Halloween parties etc but really my favourite part of the holiday is sharing it with the kids!

And of course we had fun with the Halloween filters on the Snap app. Michelle was cute and creepy as a vampire with red eyes and long fangs. As she will point out, she has actual vampire teeth (pointed canines!) in real life but they're not quite THIS long and sharp. We took turns being vampires, zombies etc. Shannon was kind enough to email me the photos after. I still don't quite understand the whole SnapChat thing -- how you can take mini videos that disappear after they're viewed but you can snap pictures that you can keep. I would ALWAYS want to keep the videos and photos! What is the point of taking/sending a video that self destructs?! The whole reason I take photos is to hold on to the moment forever. Maybe it's a Millennial thing. I'm just not hip enough to understand the Snap phenomenon which is why I don't set up an account (also I wouldn't know how unless Shannon did it for me.) I guess if it was a really embarrassing video you would WANT it to disappear but then why even take/send it?!

As promised I took Michelle to the indoor playground to make up for the visit she had missed the day of the birthday party when she was throwing up. She had a ball even without a whole group of kids with her. She loves running around, climbing and sliding. In the Fall when it's not quite nice enough to go to the park it's nice to have somewhere kids can play indoors. I enjoy watching Michelle and getting photos. Sometimes I get a little panicked if I don't see her for a minute (there are parts in the upper climbing level where you can't see them!) but then she resurfaces. I don't think other parents hover the way I do (most are too busy texting on their phones to even notice when their kid falls and gets hurt -- it has happened a few times!) but I'm a total helicopter parent.

When I see an opportunity to set up the self-timer, I go for it. They have a jungle theme and some nice animal murals so I figured we might as well pose in front of them. People sometimes look at me a little strangely but I don't care. You can take your awkward too-close cellphone selfies. I'll take my old school self-timer selfies with my Nikon and get more than our faces in the picture!


Michelle and I were psyched for Halloween. It was a school day and the kids had the option to wear their costume to school. Michelle wanted to wear her skeleton dress but didn't want to wear her makeup because it might be "itchy" or uncomfortable to wear for a full day. I had planned to dress up too. I did some calculating and determined that there wouldn't be enough time after picking Michelle up from school to do her makeup and mine and get dinner and still be out of the house by 5:30 pm (I wanted to go trick or treating super early so I could be back in time for the trick or treaters coming to our door -- which is a part of Halloween that I love too.) It's one of the drawbacks of being a single Mom -- you can't be in two places at once! So I make do by taking Michelle out early and leaving a bowl on the porch with a note: "We're trick or treating! Be back soon! Help yourself!" I save the good candy (chocolates for when I'm back home and put a bowl of rockets out for the early birds. The bowl was almost empty when we got back. Anyway to save time I did my makeup ahead of time but this meant I would be going to pick Michelle up as a skeleton Mom. This didn't really bother me. I used to be a goth. I did get a few strange glances. And yes I was the only Mom in Halloween makeup until another Mom showed up as a fox. So we bonded and got a selfie... Everyone else was just boring and void of Halloween spirit!

Michelle loved her makeup. She kept admiring herself in the mirror. "Mama we look BEAUTIFUL!" Yes she really does love the goth thing as much as I did (and her father for that matter who loved monsters/horror movies.) Of course once we were done up I had to get several photos. Michelle was anxious to go out but I told her people wouldn't appreciate us going out TOO early. They may not even be home from work yet or would be getting dinner. We were going out early enough as it was. It was still light out. I was determined however to be home in time for most of the trick or treaters. It's always fun seeing kids come to the door dressed up. (I think so anyway. My Mom hates it. She's never liked Halloween and isn't a fan of kids coming to the door incessantly. She finds it a nuisance.) I was surprised to hear that some of Shannon's friends had no interest in dressing up/going out for Halloween. I guess it's not everyone's thing.

Michelle was stoked when we headed out. The wig didn't last too long. It was getting itchy and she ripped it off. She had a ball running from house to house. She fell a couple of times when she went too fast and wasn't watching where she was going but she was too excited to cry.

When there was a dark house (lights out, no car in driveway, no signs of life) I tried to explain the concept of not wasting your time because they're likely not home but she insisted on trying. So she would climb the steps, ring the bell and I would count "Ok...1...2...3...We're OUT!" and move on. I couldn't resist snapping photos of Michelle especially posing in front of some of the more interesting pumpkins and decorations.

Michelle got a ton of candy. We headed back home and I sorted out her Halloween haul. I claimed the things that she didn't like, such as Reese. Mmmm chocolate and peanut butter! Michelle had a few treats but didn't go too overboard. She's actually pretty good about not having too much junk food. I, unfortunately don't have quite that much restraint... Halloween was definitely NOT going to help my diet. I'd been pretty good about working out (yoga, tabata etc) and counting calories but once Fall and Winter hit usually all bets are off. Put candy in front of me and I can't resist.

We had a hard time getting Michelle's makeup off. She really doesn't like getting water/soap near her eyes during her bath so she still had a little bit of eyeliner on the next day for school.

And then, just like that,  it was November. It started out OK. It was a mild Spring-like day and the sun was shining so we headed to the park for a bit after school. You have to make the most of the nice days while you can because in the autumn they become fewer and farther between and then disappear altogether. Michelle had fun at the park.

She didn't seem too disappointed that Halloween was over. I probably took it harder than she did. It just meant one less thing to look forward to and now there was just bleak, cold, gloomy, Fall/Winter to contend with (until Christmas of course.) It gets dark and cold and my Seasonal Affective Disorder starts to kick in. I stop exercising, start overeating, gain 10-20 lbs. It sucks.

I decided it would be fun to surprise Michelle and be her Fairy Godmother. It was like Halloween, the Sequel! I already had the Cinderella dress and wig that I'd picked up on sale. We had fun role playing. Unfortunately we didn't have a Prince Charming! After seeing both versions of Cinderella (the cartoon classic and the more recent live action version) numerous times as well as reading the book countless times, I had the dialogue down! Bibiddi-Bobiddi-Boo! I am still a kid at heart myself. And I really didn't want Halloween to be over. "Maybe I can be Cinderella next year!" Michelle said. I told her she may change her mind by then...

As usual, I put up our Christmas tree early. It was always a tradition for my Mom to put it up the day of the Santa Claus parade (usually the second week of November) and I got into the habit too. This time I wanted the tree up before my Mom's birthday party which I would be hosting. I figure when you have an artificial tree you might as well enjoy it as long as possible. I enjoy Christmas decorations, carols etc BEFORE Christmas but after Christmas I can't wait to be rid of them. Half of the fun of Christmas is the anticipation. After it's over it's just depressing -- all the waiting and work and build up and then it's gone in a day. It's sort of anti-climactic. Michelle was excited to put up the tree and helped me with the decorations. She actually did a really good job of placing the ornaments. She even understood how to space things out. It must be her artist's eye -- she understands about composition -- how it has to be balanced. You don't put two similar things too close together, you alternate colours etc.

Far scarier than Halloween -- one of the most frightening days in recent memory -- was November 8th 2016: the U.S. election. Ordinarily I don't really follow politics but the fact that someone like Trump was even in the running made it kind of fascinating to watch. Like a train wreck. How could you look away? I watched one of the debates between Clinton and Trump and it was comical how incompetent Trump was. Clinton was poised, intelligent, reasonable, prepared. Trump was quite simply an imbecile. Someone aptly compared him to a student who had to do a book report on a book he hadn't read. #TrumpBookReport was trending on Twitter all day. It was hilarious but horrifying at the same time because this buffoon may actually BECOME THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD! An infantile, irascible, openly racist, Xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic (with allegations of sexual assault), Narcissistic bully/Twitter troll who had defrauded thousands of students with a bogus university (and settled the case for $25M just before the election), refused to release his taxes (no wonder with countless conflicts of interest and a billionaire who has gone bankrupt numerous times) Trump was so despicable, had so many red flags it was hard to believe he was even allowed to RUN much less that he could actually BECOME PRESIDENT. After the things he had said and done he was an embarrassment to the country. Surely he didn't have a chance. So, like many others, I was certain that Clinton would win by a landslide and it was pretty exciting to think that this would be the FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT! History in the making.

So I actually watched the election results. At first Clinton, as expected, seemed to be ahead but then something disturbing happened -- Trump was in the LEAD?! This couldn't be happening. I felt sick to my stomach. The implications -- for America and the world -- if Trump won were horrifying. And then he won. Wait, WHAT?! It wasn't by a landslide. It was by a small margin but he won. At the time all I could think was this is not the United States of America. This is the Divided States of America. Half of America was (distressingly) full of uneducated white supremacist males who hated Obama, believed all the Trumpaganda about Clinton and wanted change. They voted for Trump. They wanted the wall (among Trump's outlandish promises was to build a 2000 mile wall across the US-Mexican border and to get Mexico to pay for it. Sure. Could happen.) They wanted to put Clinton in jail (Hillary for prison! Trump had his idiot supporters chant. Though for what I'm not sure. The FBI investigated her TWICE over the whole email thing and came up empty handed. Trump should be the one in jail since he's guilty of treason, colluding with Russia to hack the DNC and lose the election for Clinton.) The other half of America (sensible folk who saw the good that Obama was trying to do, who voted for Clinton knowing she was the only choice an intelligent voter with any morals whatsoever could make. Trump's catch  phrase "Make America Great Again" should have been "Make America Hate Again" because he was inciting violence among his supporters. Clinton wanted to build bridges not wall. Hers was a vision of a unified America, caring, inclusive. Trump wanted to tear America apart -- to prey on his supporters' hatred and fear -- of other races, other countries. And the greatest irony is that somehow a billionaire sitting on golden toilet conned Mericans into believing that he cared about the working man. I just couldn't make sense of it. All the more maddening was that Clinton actually won the popular vote by 3 million but because of the antiquated (and clearly VERY FLAWED!) Electoral College system, Trump bluffed his way in. He was the President Elect.

I was in shock. I almost couldn't breathe. I mean, I'm not even American... Thank God I'm Canadian (and never more grateful for that fact!) but it terrified me because Nostradamus predicted a third anti-Christ would come into power and bring the Apocalypse (and Trump fits the bill!) Now an insane hothead has HIS FINGER ON THE NUKES?! This is not good. Trump has been compared to Hitler (and apparently didn't mind the comparison?!) has the endorsement of the KKK. The fact that Americans VOTED HIM IN is scary AF. I remember the David Bowie (RIP -- yeah 2016 was an awful year all around, a lot of tragedies, several celebrities passed away, Trump became president) song/video: "I'm afraid of Americans..." Truly I am afraid of half of America. The half that voted for a lunatic just because they hated Obama and Clinton so much and wanted "change" even if it's a change for the worst and brings on the Apocalypse!

I didn't sleep that night. I consumed an inordinate amount of Halloween chocolate (I lost count after 15 mini chocolate bars...) I was like a zombie taking Michelle to school the next day. I couldn't even force a smile for her sake. The sky was dark and ominous, a foreboding grey. It was a bleak, gloomy, utterly terrifying day void of hope. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been for Americans, the sane ones who voted for Clinton and watched as the Electoral College FAILED THEM UTTERLY and endangered all of our lives...People were crying. And Trump's band of "deplorables," his racist, ignorant supporters gloated and made jokes about Liberal tears. This couldn't be happening. This couldn't be the world. Trump hadn't been subtle. He had basically declared war on women, any race other than white, the environment. He was a maniac with no respect and now he was put in a position of great power. He might destroy his country and possibly the world. Why on earth was he given that chance?!

On Twitter there were many others expressing the same sort of shock and dismay that I was feeling.

I tweeted this:

Unfortunately the orange monster has taken up residence in my brain ever since. I am somewhat obsessed with checking out Trump tweets on Twitter to see what stupid/horrifying things he says and does next. As one tweeter put it, his cabinet appointments are like a countdown to the Apocalypse. It's beyond belief. A climate change denier himself, Trump of course installed a climate change denier to head the EPA (so I guess your corporations can pollute/rape/pillage the environment as much as they want since it has no effect on climate anyway! Yee haw!) The head of Labour is someone famous for saying he preferred robots to workers (he'll really be looking out for the working man, won't he?!) Another of Trump's catchphrases was "Drain the Swamp!" but apparently he drained it to recruit crocodiles to his cabinet. Worse than just lobbyists, these are White Supremacists, misogynists, xenophobes like himself. It's like watching a train wreck. I can't look away. I shouldn't let it get to me. There's not much that I can do about it. I did sign a petition (along with 4.5 million others) asking to make Clinton President. Unfortunately it was for naught. I was impressed by Green Day at the AMAs chanting "No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist USA!" by Irish senator Aodhan O'Riordain who made an impassioned speech against Trump as a Fascist and more recently by Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes calling Trump out for his cruel, bullying, inappropriate behaviour. I'm glad that people are speaking out.

I wanted to speak out in my own way. I was inspired to write a song about Trump as President: "Dark Days." I had hoped that the Electoral College would reverse their vote on December 19th. They did not. Of course there's always impeachment. I just hope Trump is removed from office before he does too much damage (like blowing up the world! Trump recently tweeted that America needs more nukes though they already have enough -- over 7000 -- to annihilate all life on the planet.) Here is the video of my song --"Dark Days: Trump as President" --

The reality is he only won by a narrow margin and even many of his own supporters are losing faith in him. There are Twitter pages dedicated to #Trumpgrets -- tweets by people who voted for Trump but are supremely disappointed by him. His approval rating is the lowest ever for a President (around 37% the last time I checked.) Even many Republicans are embarrassed by Trump's inappropriate behavior on Twitter etc. He doesn't behave like a President. He doesn't behave like a man. He's an immature, self-centered bully. All we can hope for now is that he's removed from office (impeached) before he does any irreparable damage. Or that he somehow miraculously rises to the challenge of leading a nation, has a change of heart on all his hateful views, is remorseful and wants to make  amends, becomes a mature and compassionate man who appreciates the enormous responsibility he has...(I don't hold out much hope. Just counting the days until his impeachment. It can't be long now...) Anyway I really shouldn't be taking this much time to discuss my views on American politics in the middle of my blog about my daughter and I but this has been stressing me out since November and may have played a part in my overall stress/health issues that started in November...

As I've mentioned numerous times, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Fall and Winter just isn't a good time for me, even at the BEST of times. This Fall/Winter has been the WORST for a number of reasons. Though there were some unseasonably warm days there were also some terribly dark, cold days and some HORRIBLE weather (aka snow). I had added stress about work over some changes going on and my future was somewhat uncertain. I was stressing about Trump as president and the Trumpocalypse that might ensue. I was eating too much and gaining weight (I blame Trump for half of it!) Then I got really really sick and everything seemed worse. And of course insomnia/sleep deprivation is an ongoing issue for me and makes everything that much more unbearable. So I was not a happy camper to say the least...

I got into the habit of taking a family photo on the stairs just about every day, even when I didn't feel up to it. Sometimes I couldn't even force a smile and I'm not sure why I bothered. This one however, turned out perfect. Michelle has a subtle smile, I'm smiling and even Ali is there and actually LOOKING at the camera, which is very rare! Here Michelle is also hugging the stuffed grey cat that she started taking EVERYWHERE with her for a while until she lost it at Grandma's and found it again a month later (my Mom's place is like that!) Michelle is fickle and keeps changing her mind what stuffed animal she loves the most at any given time (she has a LOT to choose from!)

My sister May winds up hosting most events because she has the best house in the most central location so it just makes sense, however it's not fair that she winds up having EVERYTHING there. I agreed to host Mom's birthday party. I was excited to have the family over but it is a lot of work and stress trying to get the house ready. Tidying and cleaning is a Herculean task when you have as much stuff as we have (like a Toys R Us threw up) and when you have little time to get things done. I LOVE when the house is clean & tidy but I really hate cleaning it! Still I managed to get it in order in time for the party. Michelle loves to dress up so she was happy to be the Belle of the Ball. And of course I can't resist photo ops so we had a photo shoot before the gang arrived.

I have to admit it is somewhat overwhelming/stressful/chaotic having the whole gang over. And I don't even make a meal! I just order in! It's still a challenge trying to set up snacks, get drinks for people, make sure the kids are OK, not getting hurt/breaking anything. I even tidied/organized the basement to make a play area which was an ENORMOUS job I'd been putting off forever but this gave me an excuse to get it done. As I've mentioned before, I'm no Martha Stewart. I don't like "entertaining" however I do love my family and I'm grateful to spend time with them. And it's nice to have them at my place once in a while. But it is a LOT of work. I'm very grateful to May for hosting most events!

Mom wanted to get a picture with her kids and grand-kids. It was hard to fit all of us on the couch (and my nephew Dan wasn't even there.) We're a big family. Michelle is always happy when she gets to see her whole wacky family because most of the time it's just the two of us. It's good for her to have some men in her life as well since she doesn't have a Dad. She's very fond of her Uncle Chris. He's great with kids but doesn't have any of his own. Kids all love him because he's funny and playful and does things like throw them up in the air and catch them. The kids often line up to get picked up and thrown by Uncle Chris (which sounds strange but is apparently really fun.) I try to lift and throw Michelle but I'm not quite as strong as Chris.

I always like to get a group shot with the cake as well even though it's awkward trying to run in to the shot while singing Happy Birthday and the candles are melting... As you can see I managed it. Chris actually ran in at the last minute as well because he was on the floor looking under my dishwasher. My dishwasher stopped working (started leaking) last Christmas and I kept putting off getting it fixed and just washed dishes by hand. Somehow Chris had a magic touch. He just looked at it (let it run and watched the mechanisms underneath) and it worked again and stopped leaking! I ran a test load afterward with a towel nearby just in case but it worked. The only problem is the detergent didn't circulate properly but I just started putting it on the bottom of the dishwasher instead of in the compartment (as someone suggested I try.)

Michelle wanted to go to the indoor playground again and I was in. It's a great way for her to run off all that excess energy while I mostly just sit and relax watching her, and/or follow her around taking photos. This time we even got a selfie next to a giraffe's butt which is always a plus...

Michelle gets a lot of exercise. She has a hard time keeping still. She'll often run back and forth in the hallway, role playing or just running for the sake of running. The indoor playground is perfect because she can run amok, climb, slide just like at the park. Sometimes I'm almost tempted to climb up and go down the slides too (I did it once, some parents do) but it's too awkward carrying my big heavy purse and I don't feel comfortable leaving it unattended. I'm a control freak. Half my life is in my purse (calendar, camera, phone and all!) I'd be lost without it!

Luckily the weather was pretty good the day of Michelle's school Walkathon. It was a walk for charity and I wanted to watch Michelle and decided that I would even do the laps with them for moral support (as well as to snap pictures of Michelle along the way.) So there I was, like an awkward paparazzo following Michelle around with the camera "Can I get a smile? A wave?" Michelle was excited to have me there, sharing it with her. She did 16 laps and would have kept going but they were wrapping things up for the little ones so they could get back to class and ready to leave for the end of the school day. The weather was perfect. We didn't even need our coats. I figured it was good exercise for me as well. Especially after all that Halloween chocolate!

Michelle had her "buddy" with her -- they partner kids from older grades with the kindergarten kids to keep tabs on them. They were holding hands most of the time which I thought was really cute. She's the same buddy that does activities with Michelle in her class, reading her stories etc. It's a good idea. It gives the older students experience working with younger ones, the younger ones appreciate spending time with a peer closer to their age and it gives the teachers a bit of a break giving individual attention to each student. The teacher even gave me a picture of Michelle doing a craft with her buddy at one point. The buddy probably thought I was a bit of a psycho following them around with the camera. There were a couple of other parents watching but most of them weren't walking and none of them were snapping photos like a fiend!

After the walkathon we had to return to the school that evening for the parent teacher interview. In kindergarten they don't get report cards or "grades" per se. You just sit down with the teacher(s) who tell you how your child is doing. I was very happy and proud to hear that Michelle is doing well, that she's very bright and also that she's very caring, kind and helpful with other kids. They showed me some of her work and even a video that they'd taken of her. The teachers even brought tears to my eyes when they said what a good job I'd done and what a great girl Michelle was. I told them it's a challenge as a single parent and that it's very encouraging to hear that you're doing well!

On another beautiful Fall day Michelle played in the backyard with Grampa. I had to go in to work night shift later that day but I enjoyed spending some time in the yard with them and getting some pictures before I left. Michelle loves Gramma and Grampa's yard where she has LOTS of room to run and play. There were some pretty red leaves on one of the small trees so I had us pose there of course.

Michelle challenged Grampa to a race and she won. She challenged me but I didn't want to get all sweaty before heading to work. That was my excuse anyway.

It was tough to get her to stay still for a bit (she loves running amok, especially with so much room) but she did agree to pose for some portraits.

I can't get over how CRAZY ELECTRIC BLUE Michelle's eyes are in these pictures! I love it! With her white skin and the red leaves she was like an American flag! She was just beaming. It was hard to leave her. I wished I could have stayed there all day. I was happy at least to get a bit of sunshine. When there is a nice day we make the most of it because there are plenty of dark, cold days where we're stuck inside. Having a nice day all of a sudden is a treat -- like a sudden throwback to Summer. I was really starting to miss the summer, especially the beach. Even Michelle said she missed the beach (and the seagulls!) sometimes. I assured here we'd be back one day.

Michelle is such a good sport she doesn't even complain about my taking too many pictures. She poses willingly (she knows she has no choice anyway and it goes more quickly if she's cooperative!) I think she even enjoys the attention. It has to be at least somewhat flattering to have someone take a hundred photos of you and tell you how beautiful/cute/amazing you are.

I love Michelle's expression here. She's my angel with a sweet little smile and her baby blues and of course her golden auburn hair which goes with the autumn leaves...

It was hard to say goodbye but I hugged her and told her I'd come snuggle her in the morning.

The warm weather didn't stay. By the next day it was FREEZING COLD. Back to winter coats again.

I have boxes full of Michelle's artwork already and she's only 4 years old. I just can't part with any of it. I can't imagine as she gets older how I will possibly store all of it.

I love this adorable chubby reindeer she drew! Her drawings always amaze me. She can be quite hard on herself and complains that her art isn't as good as mine. I explain to her that I'm 10 times her age and have had a lot more practice! I told her that she is an extraordinary artist for her age and that she'll be drawing circles around me in no time! She's such a perfectionist she gets frustrated with herself if things don't turn out just the way she wants. She is so careful to colour within the lines as well.

She's such a sweetheart she's always drawing me pictures and making me cards saying "I love you."

Yes, nerd that I am I couldn't resist getting us matching shirts. In my defense they were on sale and came in her size as well as mine, so really it was a no brainer!

Although our shirts said "Stay focused on the positive!" I was having an increasingly difficult time doing that. Aside from it being Fall, Trump being President and things being uncertain with my work situation, I got sick. Really REALLY sick. It came on so suddenly it was hard to know where I picked it up. It could have been anywhere -- work, home (from Michelle), grocery shopping (when a cashier coughed into her hand as she put items in the bag.) You can't escape germs. They're everywhere. And when you're stressed and sleep deprived and get run down, you're screwed. When it started I thought it was a flu, the worst I'd ever had. I would get the chills so bad my teeth were chattering and bundle up, only to then overheat and have a fever and have to strip down. I also felt weak, bone tired and my muscles ached like I'd been hit by a train. This lasted for a couple of days and was replaced by a cough. The worst cough I'd ever had. Like an old man at the hospital. When I went into work coughing they said it sounded like bronchitis. I usually avoid going to the doctor (my Mom was a hypochondriac and went ALL THE TIME so I try to do the opposite and never go but sometimes it's really necessary.) So I finally went to a walk-in clinic to get checked out. I brought Michelle too because although her wasn't nearly as severe as mine, she was coughing too. The doctor checked her out and said she was fine, that it was normal for kids to catch everything to build their immunity. Me, on the other hand, not so fine. He thought I had pneumonia and sent me for a chest X-ray. He gave me a narcotic cough medicine (it was STRONG. One of the possible side effects on the first page was DEATH. So I was a little nervous. But I was desperate at this point. From coughin to coffin. Sure.) and a puffer (which I couldn't ever quite figure out if it was actually doing anything.)

The chest X-ray confirmed I had pneumonia. I probably should have been in bed instead of doing all the things that I had been doing (going to work, Christmas shopping, going about my life like a zombie but with no choice but to do everything because as a single Mom it's all me and there's no one to cover for me.) My sister said one of her friends had pneumonia and was in bed for 3 weeks while her husband did everything. How nice it must be, I thought, to have that option. Sometimes it really is hard being on your own without help. I had gotten so worn down that I was falling apart.

Sometimes I would just break down and cry. When I was coughing so much that my ribs were aching, I had trouble breathing. When I was completely drained, depleted, had nothing left but still had to carry on because what else could I do? I usually tried to wait until I'd dropped Michelle off at school then I'd go back home and cry. One day on the way back home there was a beautiful rainbow. It almost felt like it was a sign not to lose hope, that things would get better. I kept waiting for things to get better. But they didn't. Then I got some bad news at work, the pneumonia didn't go away and seemed to get worse. It seemed like I was just more sick and more stressed and of course it was impossible to sleep when I couldn't stop coughing. 

December and Christmas were difficult but we survived it (and I'll save that for the next blog. This one is already too long! So much for not including too many photos! FAIL!) 

What I didn't realize at the time and admittedly don't always acknowledge (especially when I'm sick and stressed out and things go wrong!) is that even on my worst day, I AM BLESSED. It could be so much worse. When I hear what some people are dealing with I realize just how bad it could be and I have so much to be grateful for. At the end of the day, even at the worst of times, I have the necessities of life. Food, water, shelter, clothing. Most importantly, I have love. I have a wonderful family and above all, the sweetest little girl in the world. I thank God for her. She is what keeps me going. No matter what, there is still more good than bad. That is what I have to focus on and be grateful for. Every challenge can be overcome. This too shall pass. I have to remember on the bad days, that it COULD be worse, that it WILL get better and that I am still so fortunate to have the blessings that I have. That is what matters. Everything else is just a temporary inconvenience. November wasn't easy. December would be worse. But we got through it. And we still had a (mostly) Merry Christmas...