Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Be Kind...

Time keeps going by at warp speed! I'm always saying it but it's always true. April and May absolutely FLEW BY! I can't BELIEVE we're through June already! (Actually I'm still working on this and it's mid-July! I'm always running behind.) It's crazy. Of course there were so many special occasions and with my insane work schedule now life has gotten so hectic there's barely time to check the calendar and see that a month has somehow disappeared.

But amid the rush sometimes you have to take a moment to breathe, enjoy the sunshine and hug your little girl. Michelle is my happy place and I am grateful for every moment with her. Having time away from her just makes me appreciate her even more.

Spending time outside together is my favourite thing. And it's official. Spring is here! (Actually Summer is here now! But this is a post about April and May...)

Michelle and I were both happy to see Spring. Of course Spring can go either way -- winter one day, summer the next and as the saying goes "April showers bring May flowers." On cold and/or rainy days we still found fun things to do. We went to see "Boss Baby." It looked cute and funny. Michelle and I were both excited to see it. I love Alec Baldwin, especially his recent impressions of the other Boss Baby (aka Man Child, inept President Donald Trump! Melissa McCarthy is brilliant as Sean Spicer as well and I'd LOVE to see them do a satirical feature film together but I don't suppose I could drag Michelle to that!) Anyway, we both loved "Boss Baby." It was adorable and entertaining and wound up being quite heart warming as well. I tried to hide my tears underneath the 3D glasses. But I'm a sentimental fool and I'll cry at just about anything!

The obligatory self-timed picture by the movie poster, because I'm a camera-carrying photoholic! As evidenced by our winter garb it was still on the cold side out but livable.

I was reluctant to remove my snow tires because they were still calling for snow now and then and if I switched to the Spring tires and then got stuck in a snowstorm I'd be FURIOUS! Eventually however it seemed we were out of the woods and I had the tires changed. I really can't recommend snow tires enough for the peace of mind/feeling of safety. I used to risk it many years ago on my own but with Michelle I don't want to take any chances and I do so much commuting now that I really didn't have a choice (especially after that terrifying night I got stuck in a brutal snowstorm pre-snow-tires. I NEVER want to experience that again!)

Another way to make the most of a cold or rainy day is to head to the tropics, indoors. Michelle wanted to go to the Butterfly Conservatory and I'm ALWAYS up for that! Yes we both dressed in butterflies, as you can see. Michelle in one of her several butterfly dresses and I in a butterfly shirt.

When you're a photoholic you make the effort! It's all about the pictures! And if you're going to look at butterflies you might as well dress the part! People often remark on our outfits "Isn't that cute? You're both wearing butterflies!" I'm sure there are also people who glance and roll their eyes thinking "What a loser! Bad enough she dresses her kid in theme but herself? LAME!"
I can't help it. I gotta be me!

Most of the butterflies are pretty shy/skittish but sometimes you get lucky and find a friendly one who will sit on your finger or arm for a moment or two for a photo. I always remind Michelle NEVER to touch a butterfly's wings or you could hurt them. I cringe when I see other kids (usually in a large group like a school trip or with a family) grabbing at the butterflies, trying to pick them up by their wings... I want to tell them off but of course it's not my place. I try to be gentle about it "Careful sweetie... don't touch their wings!" meanwhile shooting daggers at the parent/teacher whoever is oblivious to the kid about to murder one of the most beautiful creatures in existence. Yes it's ironic that I have a phobia of/hatred for certain insects (the ugly ones! Centipedes, earwigs, spiders -- though I'm learning to respect spiders for killing other bugs) I'm fiercely protective of other ones, the beautiful ones, like butterflies. It's kind of like my feeling on dandelions vs wildflowers.
And then sometimes a butterfly just lands on your dress like a well placed accessory/broche!

I never tire of snapping pictures of Michelle. My happiest moments are going on outings with her and taking pictures. It's like I get to enjoy it twice (or endless times actually!) All of my favourite beautiful/adorable moments forever frozen in an image that I can go back and look at whenever I want. It's a sort of magic that just never gets old for me. From the old school Polaroids that you could see instantly to the prints you used to have to pick up at the PhotoLab (remember that?! FILM cameras?!) to digital cameras where you see the images right away on the screen and can upload them to your computer (and eventually, hopefully actually print your favourites and get caught up on your baby books for the past 5 years!) I have been in awe of photography for several years. I love it. Life is made up of moments. Taking a photo lets you capture and keep it. That is everything to me.

I love Michelle's expression when the butterflies were flying at her and got too close to her face -- that slightly freaked out yet amused grin, backing up to stay out of their way... So cute and funny! I managed to capture a few of these moments. While we were there we saw one girl, about twice Michelle's age who was screaming and running away, freaking out at the butterflies. Apparently she was afraid of butterflies. I wondered why her sadistic parents would have dragged her there if she had a phobia of them or under what circumstances she came to be there. I wanted to ask how she could possibly be afraid of something so beautiful. I mean, I'm afraid of ugly bugs (scorpions, earwigs, centipedes -- creepy, evil alien looking monsters with pincers and too many legs and God knows what) but how can you be afraid of something beautiful and that can't possibly hurt you? But then there are people with phobias of puppets and pickles so it's not something you can rationalize. Still. If you know you have a phobia of butterflies., WHY WOULD YOU GO TO THE BUTTERFLY CONSERVATORY?! Just saying...

I always have to get into a couple of pictures just to show that yes, I was there too. I'd be lost without the self-timer. Well, I just wouldn't be in any pictures. I'd just be the invisible mom behind the camera. This is the selfie generation now and everyone does it. I never see anyone else setting up a timer with their old school camera like me though. I just feel like the i-phone selfies are too close up. (And I can't use my phone camera anymore anyway. Apparently the i-phone 4, though it's a modern gadget to me, has been rendered all but obsolete. But I'll save that tale for later...)

Butterfly on my finger. A blue morpho no less, my favourite. Unfortunately she wouldn't cooperate by displaying her stunning iridescent blue wings. We just got to enjoy the brown side with their fake eyes. The morphos are very elusive. The hardest butterfly to get close to. Once in a while we get lucky...

She flew away before I could take any more photos. I still felt privileged to have gotten even this close for a moment.

Happiness is like a butterfly. Sometimes it eludes you. And other times you find it or it finds you when you least expect it. So you just enjoy the moment and be grateful for it, however long it lasts (even if it's only a few seconds before it flutters away...)

When Michelle was younger (and much less cooperative) I dreamed that one day I'd actually get a picture of her smiling and looking at the camera, with a butterfly. Now she indulges me all the time! She understands about posing. I'm glad that she loves going to beautiful places as much as I do, of course for different reasons. For Michelle she loves the adventure of running around and discovering things. For me, the best part of anywhere we go or anything we do is being able to TAKE PHOTOS! When Michelle asks to go somewhere I usually say "Yes!" but counter it with "as long as you let me take photos!" because I will take hundreds. Eventually she does lose patience and roll her eyes or say "No more pictures, Mama!" but I usually get 100 photos in before that happens...

Michelle is a good sport. Big smile for the selfie with Mama and butterfly! I love Michelle's smile. These are the happy moments I hold on to when I'm going through a rough time. And to me, you can never take too many pictures. When she's older (and she's growing more every day!) I'll be glad that I captured these moments and these smiles. These experiences that Michelle and I share mean so much to me. I know I don't remember a lot (or anything) about my childhood under the age of 5. There aren't a lot of photos either. These photos are tangible memories that she can look back on. Even if she didn't remember she could relive these times through the pictures and I get to look back and enjoy them. One day when I get around to it (I've been procrastinating the project for years!) I will collect my favourite photos and put them in albums. So far I don't have photo albums of Michelle since she was a newborn.

Michelle loves dropping a coin in this donation receptacle. It spins around the large funnel gradually until it gets to the small hole in the centre where it spins faster and faster. She wanted to keep doing it over and over but I ran out of change. I rarely have actual money on me. I use my credit card everywhere (even to get my iced capps at Tim Hortons! Even the Dollar Stores are taking credit cards now! Woo hoo!) And any time I do have a bit of change in my purse, somehow Michelle ends up with it. She's amassed quite a collection of (my!) coins in her piggy (actually Sponge Bob) bank. At least she sometimes pays for her own ice cream when the truck comes down the street!

I love these photos with the rainbow lollipop and colourful painting in the background. I'm a sucker for colour. It's hard to believe when I was younger I dressed in nothing but black because now I LOVE colour. The more colourful the better! (Though I do still wear black occasionally.) Especially for photos and paintings I love colours. Turquoise, pinks and purples are my faves. Michelle's favourite colours are pink and purple and she wants to paint her room pink and purple. I told her we will try to do it someday though I shudder to think of the all the furniture I have to move away from the wall! I don't even know how I'm going to do it! I actually like painting (walls & canvases!) It's the prep work (moving furniture, putting down drop clothes, taping etc) that I CAN'T STAND! I wish I could just twitch my nose and it would be done. Then again I wish all housework was like that! Oh to be like Samantha in Bewitched!

This is Michelle and her (rather realistic looking!) leopard (one of her MANY stuffed animals.) Michelle always has to have a stuffy with her -- to go to school, on car trips etc. I'm glad that she's so affectionate and loves to cuddle. She's always asking me for hugs as well and I'm always more than happy to oblige. When I can't be there (in the backseat with her in the car and at school), she has her stuffy to cuddle with. I'm hoping it's something she'll outgrow, like a security blanket. So far I haven't denied her when she's wanted to bring a toy with her though I draw the line at her bringing them into a store (they might not realize you came in with it!) and draw the line at her bringing several!
"You can bring one animal to school, not a whole zoo!" I love stuffed animals too though I have given my collection to Michelle and I wasn't in the habit of bringing them along with me (though I do have Beanie Boo key chains -- a leopard and a black cat!)

Generally, I'm not a fan of masks. There's a whole "Eyes Wide Shut" Satanic cult/bandit/horror movie killer creepy factor to them for me but Michelle loves them and particularly likes making them so when she found this butterfly mask craft in the gift shop she begged me to get it. I'm a big softie and pretty much give in to her demands (within reason) so I got it.

Michelle had a ball making her masks and then wanted us to try them on/have a fashion show. Of course I'm a photoholic and have to document everything so here it is. The masks are prettier when they're not on your face. Admittedly there are some feathery beaded Venetian masks which are sort of pretty but even they sort of creep me out. I just always think the person wearing a mask is pure evil. I tried putting a mask on Ali (our cat) but she wasn't having it. Not for an instant. The stuffies were much more cooperative.

Michelle gets a kick out of playing on my cellphone (obsolete i-phone 4 that it is.) She likes scrolling through pictures, playing Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. I know some kids her age already have their own devices (tablets and what not). I won't be doing that. I don't even have a tablet myself. She is going to have to wait. She's already asked me for a computer. She does have a little V-tech toy one with games on it and she likes to pretend it's a laptop like Mama's and that she's doing work on it. Some people have tried to tell me that Michelle will be left behind if she doesn't have the latest technology. To me, she picks things up so naturally I'm sure she'll figure things out when she has one to use. Besides I think kids are too attached to their gadgets "Is there wi-fi here?!" and I'd rather she just engage in the real world outside rather than be staring at a screen all the time! There's plenty of time for computers and apps and things when she's older. Kids should be kids! Play and use their imagination, not be glued to mindless gadgets!

I miss Michelle when I have to work but my Mom says it may be good for her to have some time away from me so she gets to miss me and not take me for granted so much. She's always so excited to see me when I get home (back to my Mom's) after work.

I try to spend a little time with Michelle in the backyard at my Mom's when it's a nice day either before work (when I'm on nightshift) or after work (when I'm on dayshift.) It's good to get some fresh air and relax on the garden swing with her, play catch or hide and seek with Michelle. She also has a ball running around Grandma's big backyard. After a long dark cold winter it's a treat to get outside and get some sunshine whenever you can. It had reached the point where you didn't need a coat but you still needed a sweater.

An impromptu family portrait of Michelle, Ali and me! Michelle usually sits on the stairs to put on her shoes. When Ali comes to join her I say "Let's get a photo!" Usually Ali doesn't look but sometimes we get lucky and she looks right at the camera.

With the cellphone because you can actually see the screen (and know what you're taking) when you take a selfie, we could see Ali's face and it made Michelle laugh which made for an even cuter photo! "Say cheese!" The quality of the i-phone pics was never very good but it was great for taking selfies, when I could still use it as a camera but that came to an end in May....I'll get to that story a little later...

A beautiful day to head to the park! Michelle was thrilled. Now that she can swing on her own (though she still likes a starting push from me) she likes to go on the "big girl swing." I love how animated she is, how excited she gets over the simplest things. I wish I got that excited or happy about anything!  Everything is an adventure. Everything is magical. It never gets old.

"I'm FLYING MAMA!" I see other kids who seem relatively calm/unexpressive while Michelle is over the top thrilled and I'm glad that I have such a happy girl. Though sometimes it makes me feel like a gloomy Gus/Eeyore in comparison. In my defense it's tough to be too enthusiastic when you're sleep deprived and zombie-like (as I am most of the time!)

My other girl, Ali, gets somewhat neglected since Michelle has been around the last few years (let's face it, my daughter comes first!) but she's still my baby too and she's always happy when she has my full attention (when I'm home and Michelle is in school.) My favourite photos of Ali are always in natural light. The sun was streaming in one day and I managed to get a selfie (or two!) of the two of us under the table. I love her expression here and how she's staring right at the camera, as though she could see her own image. Cats are so beautiful. I especially love their eyes.

Another day at the park, this time the park near Grandma's house. It had been a long day and I was beyond exhausted but Michelle asked if we could go to the park and I couldn't say no. Anything to make her happy, regardless of what it might do to me! Seeing her happy is worth it. So, ready to drop, I walk to the park pulling Michelle in the wagon. I couldn't help but think how nice it would be to have someone pull ME in a wagon! How nice it is to be little and have no responsibilities -- to have nothing to do but play and have fun and to have someone to take care of you, to indulge your every whim (not that my Mom indulged my every whim as a child or even ANY whim! Everything was no-no-no. I try to say yes to Michelle as much as possible if only to contrast what I lived through!) Of course, being the grown up and a single Mom at that, it's all me and there's no help. So I'm the one pulling the wagon, paying the bills, doing it all. Even when I'm really REALLY tired. (So always...)

I do enjoy watching Michelle play at the park though --when she actually allows me to just sit on the sidelines, that is. Often she wants a push on the swing or wants me to play "pirates" etc with her.

I must be getting older because lately it seems there's always something hurting -- I keep throwing my back out, hurting my shoulder, etc. I try to explain to her that sometimes Mama can't pick her up/give piggybacks, pull the wagon etc. The hardest thing is lifting her out of the car and carrying her up to bed when she falls asleep in the car. That nearly kills me. She's under 50 lbs but she feels like 100 when she's asleep! Sometimes I REALLY wish I had help! Heavy lifting is one of those times! I'm also not a big fan of mowing the lawn, putting out garbage etc. But at the rate I'm going I may not date again so it looks like I'll be doing all the heavy lifting and outdoor chores myself for the rest of my life!

Hanging out in Grandma's backyard is one of my favourite things. After a long day it's nice to just sit on the swing and get some fresh air and de-stress. As I've mentioned many times before I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder so I was very happy to see the winter end and to break out my sandals again! I waited until the last minute to remove my snow tires because we still got a random snowstorm here and there and I didn't want to be caught without them (especially after that time I got caught in a blizzard pre-snow tires and barely made it home alive! NEVER AGAIN!) My snow tires are safely tucked away in my garage until next year now. I am grateful they got me through the winter.

Michelle and I went to see the Smurfs. I wasn't overly keen on going to see it but I did wind up enjoying it. I even got a little teary at the end (without ruining it for you if you planned on seeing it, there is a bit of an incident with Smurfette, the one female Smurf in the village...) Michelle loved it. It was cute. Pretty much any animated film you see has some humour that will appeal to adults (since the filmmakers realize grown ups will have to sit through the movie with their kids, it might as well be entertaining to all ages!)

I had watched the Smurfs on TV when I was a kid. The movie, like the show, featured the little blue creatures (smurfs) and their nemesis, the evil wizard Gargamel and his cat Azrael. Michelle didn't know anything about these characters and hadn't seen them before but saw a preview for the movie and that was enough. The twist with this movie is that they come across a village of warrior female smurfs. Michelle talked me into getting her a stuffed one. We also picked up some of the collectible smurf houses in McDonalds' Happy Meals. With kids' movies it's all about the merchandising!

Michelle was excited for Easter coming up. While she knew that it's about Jesus rising from the dead (they teach the kids some version of that in kindergarten) she was mostly psyched about the chocolate, bunnies and egg hunt. I wound up giving her a couple of her bunnies ahead of time (and she already had quite a collection of bunnies -- they almost seem to multiply like rabbits!) I have always loved stuffed animals (even before I had a child!) and now that I have a good excuse to buy toys my sales resistance is even lower. If I see something adorable and inexpensive, I basically have no choice!

We went for a visit at Auntie May's. Shane had been working on renovating their Lego room and now it was done it looked beautiful! It's adorable seeing a whole little town made of Lego! I can't believe the details in the pieces. They really think of everything! Michelle loves the room of course. She wanted to play with the Lego. They do still have some loose pieces to build with. She knows not to tamper with the finished pieces! Heaven knows how long it took to put them all together. At least it's a hobby Shane can share with the kids. They all love it. I guess I'm not the only one who's a kid at heart and loves toys!

I love the periwinkle blue walls and it adds to the illusion that it's a real little town surrounded by blue skies!

I was dressed in almost the same shade of blue so I couldn't resist getting a photo next to the wall! I love this picture of Michelle and I. She looks so sweet. Seeing rooms freshly painted in pretty colorus makes me want to paint my own house but as I mentioned before I hate the prep work and it's a bit of an overwhelming task, especially on your own. One of these days I'd definitely like to paint Michelle's room (anything that would make her want to FINALLY sleep in her own room!), possibly my room, the bathrooms etc. There are a few areas that need touch-ups as well from nail pops etc.

The kids in bunny ears! Total photo op! They were excited for Easter too. My Mom never did Easter egg hunts with us that I can remember but May and I do them with our kids (Mom also never allowed us to believe in Santa Claus. She told us it was when Jesus was born and that's the end of it. I just don't see the harm in letting kids enjoy all the magic and fun of each holiday. Michelle is familiar with both the religious and pagan versions of each holiday. Although we didn't have egg hunts we usually got a chocolate bunny for Easter. I always wanted the pretty ones with the fancy candy eye but Mom said the solid chocolate ones were a better value. It always took so long to eat and I always started feet first.

We played with the apps on Shannon's i-phone and they had some special Easter themed ones. Michelle as a chocolate bunny was just too adorable for words! I love this picture!

Michelle and I always love visiting Auntie May. We both have a ball. Michelle enjoys playing with her cousin Reggie and I love catching up with my sister and my niece. Somehow May always has me in stitches laughing. Sometimes I barely make it to the washroom in time nearly wetting myself laughing so hard. Laughter really is the best medicine. With health issues that come and go and ongoing stress/lack of sleep it's a treat to be able to let loose and laugh your head off once in a while. I can always count on May for that. No one shares my sense of humour the way she does. The snapchat snaps are always good for a laugh too.

We were home for Easter, Michelle had a great time on her Easter egg hunt and collected a lot of eggs. She was especially excited about the ones with something inside (Play Doh etc). She loves collecting eggs and sometimes asks me to hide them so she can look even when it's not Easter.

"You're getting warmer...You're getting colder..."
It's tricky though because my memory is so bad I often forget where I even hid them! So we just come across one at a later date in some random spot (like inside a boot or something!) The Easter bunny did a better job of hiding them where they could be found without too much trouble. I got a set of ears for Michelle to wear. I even had a set for Ali and I though I think Ali sported hers for approximately 10 seconds before she shook it off in disgust.

It was too much to hope for that Ali would keep the ears on AND look at the camera. This was as good as it was going to get. You just set the self timer and hope for the best.

You can't really see in the photos but even Michelle's dress had a bunny on it. As evidenced by photos at the Butterfly Conservatory etc I am very into "themed" dressing because I'm a total nerd and truly it's ALL ABOUT THE PHOTOS! We dress for the occasion no matter what it may be. I didn't have a bunny shirt for me or I would have worn it! I had to settle for pastel hearts that sort of reminded me of Easter candy. H&M makes the most adorable dresses for girls but they neglect to make them in adult sizes so I could have one to match. And yes I would wear dresses with butterflies and bunnies on them. Hell to the yes! LOL

Pink ears, pink bunny, pink bunny dress. Pink overload because why not? We are unapologetic girly girls! Michelle knew that she'd better give me a smile so I'd be satisfied and stop taking photos and she could open her presents.

When I was a kid I was lucky if I got a chocolate bunny. That was it. No presents, no stuffies, no egg hunts. Michelle gets it all. As I've said before my parenting style tends to be saying yes to all my mother's nos -- giving Michelle all the things that I didn't get to have. Also because I'm a single Mom Michelle gets all of my love, attention and focus and it's pretty hard not to spoil her with cute things which I enjoy almost as much as she does. It's like Christmas for every occasion. Actually some kids wouldn't get this much for Christmas! I usually don't plan to get so much. It just kind of happens. I'll pick up a couple of things here and there over time and by the time the date rolls around, I've amassed a motherlode of gifts. (Mind you a lot of them are from the dollar store so it's not a lot of $$$!)

I did break down and get Michelle a Hatchimal. She had asked for one at Christmas and they were completely sold out EVERYWHERE. Then this year I was at a Toys R Us and saw one behind the counter. I asked about it and they said they had just gotten the one but I was welcome to purchase it if I wanted. It wasn't on sale. It wasn't Christmas but I panicked and thought "What if they never have them again? What if I miss my chance to get one of these limited impossible to get toys?!" So I got it and put it aside. Then I realized. AN EGG?! PERFECT GIFT FOR EASTER! And it was! I didn't even give the Easter Bunny credit for this baby. Mama had to pay $70 for this little gem. Michelle was thrilled though and it was quite an experience getting it to hatch. It was worth it just to see how happy and excited she was. I got a bunch of photos and some video of her with it.

It was exciting when our little "Penguala" (like a penguin fused with a koala I guess?) hatched. It was a pretty cool concept so kudos to Spin Master for the whole experience though I was still a little bitter about the whole Christmas thing. I mean HOW DO YOU MISS THE CHRISTMAS MARKET?!?! Anyway, being an egg and all it did seem like the perfect Easter gift! But on top of everything else obviously Michelle was SUPER SPOILED. Again, I can't help it. As a kid I felt like I never got ANYTHING I wanted. So I try to give Michelle EVERYTHING she wants. If I can afford it.

We had pancakes for brunch. Michelle didn't like pancakes at first but now she loves them and when we're home on the weekend I try to make them. She felt quite grown up eating with a knife and fork (it's a special cutlery set for kids so it's not too sharp.) She had several pancakes. I always give myself the crappy first batch of misshapen fugly hotcakes and save the perfect rounded ones for her (for some reason the first set NEVER work out. Maybe it's too much butter on the pan or something? Or maybe I'm just a really bad cook -- hint -- yes I am!) I love when we can just stay at home and relax and not have to worry about rushing anywhere. Somehow between work and school and everything else it seems like more often than not we are rushing to go somewhere and don't get to just chill at home and have brunch and play. There's no place like home. Especially when you don't get to be there often.

Michelle also loves playing in the backyard. Though our yard isn't quite as big as Grandma's (it's about 1/3 of the size) it's still plenty of room to run amok, play ball, chase bubbles or whatever.

Michelle is very vocal. Sometimes I ask her to tone it down. As some parents say "use your inside voice!" but I don't know if Michelle HAS an inside voice. She sings, yells, plays all at the top of her lungs. No matter where we are. At home. In the park At the store. She's an extrovert and I'm an introvert. While she's trying to get the attention of the whole world I'm just quietly trying to go about my business inconspicuously. I'm glad she's happy/having fun but sometimes she embarrasses me. Sometimes she gives me a headache. Or both. When we're outside I warn her that some people may have their windows open and she may be causing a disturbance!

Ali loves to be outside as well though I have to keep an eye on her/make sure she doesn't wander off. She's mostly pretty good because she knows if she leaves the yard I will scoop her up and put her in the house but if she just chills out in the backyard she can enjoy the sunshine longer. The only problem is that she loves to eat grass and then often throws up inside. I don't know why she does this or whether all cats do it but it's a bit of a nuisance.

Michelle gets a kick out of having Ali outside, as you can see. Sometimes she chases a bug which is quite amusing to watch. She may be huge and round but it doesn't slow her down. Ali can run like a jack rabbit, scampering across the grass in record time.

Michelle loves to dress up. Sometimes randomly she'll just disappear into her room, close the door and come out later as a fairy/princess/bride/who knows? So she came out as a bride this day and had a little white cat purse to match. I can't remember who she was marrying, if anyone. Being only 4 years old of course Michelle is not getting married though she apparently has a more active dating life than I do. One day she told me that TWO boys in her class had tried to kiss her! She said she didn't let them (Good girl! Just say no!Stay that way as long as you can please!) One was calling her beautiful. It's cute at that age but kind of scary too. I can't even imagine when she's old enough to date. I'll probably have a heart attack. I just try not to think about it! I won't want to let her out of my sight! It's a delicate balance of course because if you're too restrictive they want to rebel but if you're too lenient/not dialed in they can get into trouble and you don't even know about it. I am a control freak. I will be on her like white on rice!

Somebunny was in our backyard eating clover. I wanted to tell him to help himself to as much as he wanted because it saves me mowing it! I actually don't mind clover because at least it's green and seems to grow better than grass.

I managed to get a decent photo of our bunny friend by zooming in. He didn't seem to notice me with my camera through the patio door. He also had an audience of Michelle and Ali. "Michelle look! Bunny!"
"Awwwwww!" I couldn't resist getting a picture of them watching him.

Nothing says Spring like a bunny in your backyard. I guess if I was growing vegetables I might be annoyed at him nibbling but he's just so darn cute!

Michelle drew a couple of bunnies and a puppy that were very cute. I love her drawings and how meticulous she is about colouring them in. I save all of her artwork and am accumulating quite a massive pile that has to be sorted through. I was labeling her work and putting it into file folders but I'm about a year or two behind now so I'll have to go back and organize them at some point. I just keep adding to the huge pile which is now in the guest room waiting for me to find the time to do something with it. Of course since she's been in school there is even more work collecting. I remember one woman I used to work with who threw out her kids' artwork (! I can't even imagine! But she wasn't the sentimental type like me and couldn't stand clutter.)

And then the weather warmed up even more and it seemed to go from Spring to Summer. I love when you don't need to wear a jacket anymore. I love when the sun is shining again and the flowers bloom and it's not so dark and bleak anymore! Spring was here to stay and we enjoyed it in Grandma's backyard. For a little bit anyway until I had to go to work nightshift.

It was crazy hair day at school and I had just put Michelle's hair in a ponytail on top of her head but her teacher added some pipe cleaners and ribbons.

We went to visit Auntie May one day and it was such a nice day we all went to the park.

It's a great park with rubber ground so it doesn't hurt as much if you fall (which is brilliant and a huge improvement over gravel or wood chips which get stuck in your shoes but I guess it's somewhat cost prohibitive.) Michelle loved climbing on the dragon sculpture. A friend of May's at the park offered to take a picture of all of us. I always love getting group shots and there isn't always a handy place to sit the camera for the self timer.

Even with the rubber ground somehow Michelle managed to fall and get hurt THREE TIMES! She didn't want to leave (we offered). She still picked herself back up and wanted to play. One time she slipped and fell running. Another time she misjudged the rungs of a ladder and fell through. Another time she fell off the slide. I tried to watch her every moment but even as a hoverer I missed a couple of times. I always ran to comfort her as fast as I could. When she fell through the ladder I was worried she might have hurt her leg but a nurse that happened to be there assured me she was OK. Before I knew it she was running and laughing and playing again.

It's constant stress having a kid though. They fall and get hurt ALL THE TIME. Usually a kiss from Mama is enough to cure her/stop her from crying.

In spite of the Coyote warning signs we decided to brave a walk through the woods. We didn't come across any coyotes during our stroll. I hear you can always drop an anvil on them anyway ("Beep! Beep!" If you're not a Looney Tunes fan or loony just ignore this...) We were hoping to see a deer (apparently many had been spotted in the area -- get it? Spotted deer? OK I'll stop!) but we didn't find any of them either. I couldn't resist grabbing a selfie (or a few!) of us. This one that turned out the best, with all of us in it, the others were a bit off with someone blocked and/or making a face.

Then the kids wanted to have a race. Maniac that I am, I decided to join in. I wound up overtaking everyone and winning (I often let Michelle win races but this was a race against multiple opponents and my competitive nature kicked in!) but not without collapsing at the end of it, completely red-faced and out of breath with every part of me aching. I can really push myself when I have to (as I did last year for the Fitness Test where I got 99/100! That still blows my mind!) but it takes a lot out of me. And I shouldn't push myself because I usually pay for it later. Especially lifting Michelle. I keep aggravating old back/shoulder injuries.

Who could resist the opportunity to be a fennec fox? Not me! How adorable are they?!

I always love playing with the silly snaps on Shannon's i-phone. It's always good for a laugh. And I'm a photoholic so any photo op is welcome! The sillier the better!

May and Shannon ALWAYS make me laugh. Michelle always has a ball too. Visiting at Auntie May's is one of our favourite things to do! We go there as often as we can. No matter what is going on in my life, now matter how tired or stressed I feel, going to May's always makes me feel better. No one gets me like May and no one makes me laugh the way she does. I wish I could see her every day!

Michelle went on a school trip with her class and got to make a planter. I was surprised they'd let the kids use a hammer and nails on their own but she did pretty well! She was anxious to plant something in it so I got some soil and flower seeds and she planted them. There's something magical about planting a seed in the earth and seeing it transform into a living, growing thing. Michelle kept checking and watering and was very excited when it started to sprout and continue to grow. I think it's a good experience for kids to learn to plant things. Michelle has a green thumb already!

My niece had been borrowing my keyboard until she got her own then she gave mine back. I set it up in my room and Michelle has been playing with it. I want to get her piano lessons at some point. She's already started making little tunes and WRITING HER OWN SONGS! I love her lyrics. So cute and creative. I loved her line "My heart is breaking up with you." I found it a clever turn of phrase. Instead of a heart breaking it's "breaking up" with you! Michelle never ceases to amaze me. A songwriter at 4 years old! Of course it's in our blood. I've written about 1000 songs.

A beautiful day for a slide! Michelle insisted on going face first. It's sort of symbolic of her approach to life -- to just dive in headfirst, full of enthusiasm. Meanwhile I'm the more cautious one, waiting in the wings, worrying, warning her that she could get hurt. I try to step back a bit and let Michelle be Michelle. She's the opposite of me in so many ways -- so full of energy and joy, so friendly and full of life, an extrovert who wants to be friends with everyone. I'm more reserved and withdrawn. While Michelle is hooting and hollering, running amok and having a ball, I'm usually sitting quietly, slightly embarassed, with my head in my hands, trying to stifle my impulse to say "Shhh! Settle down!" And sometimes I do say it when she's really over the top. But mostly I let her have fun because she might as well. I'm more than uptight enough for the both of us!

This is a photo of Michelle in her class that her teacher took. I love the contrast between how animated Michelle is and how solemn/unexpressive everyone else looks. It just sums Michelle up. She is a bubbly happy girl with a zest for life. A couple of mornings when my weariness was showing enough that her teachers commented how tired I looked (when I had to work 16 hour nightshifts) I confessed how supremely exhausted/sleep deprived and stressed I was. I was happy to hear her teacher say that there is no evidence of my stress in Michelle. I might be going through hell but you'd never know it to look at her. She is a happy, bright, excited and energetic girl. It brought a tear to my eye. That's all that matters. As long as she's happy, it doesn't matter what I'm going through. My sacrifices and commute and lack of sleep and everything else I go through is to make a better life for her, so if she's good, it's all worth it. At the end of the day (even a very long exhausting zombie day for me) she knows that she is loved.

As a single Mom it's tough. (Especially in a case like mine where there is no ex in the picture.) You don't have help. It's all you. You give your child all your love and attention and meet their needs to raise a healthy happy human being. You also have to pay the bills, take care of the house, the car, buy the groceries, make the meals, carry the weight of the world on your shoulders etc. So when a towel rack comes off the wall (Michelle pulled on it for God knows what reason. Climbing I guess.) you have to figure out how to get it back in (I did eventually but it was a heck of a struggle! How you push a solid plastic rod between two end pieces when the rod is longer than the gap between the ends was like an impossible math problem but I just kept pushing until it magically snapped in. And nearly broke my arm! Luckily I'm stubborn.) When the pot lights burn out you have to figure out how to change them (I did that too by Googling it! And I was so proud of myself! LOL) You have to mow the lawn and pull the weeds (even when you're beyond exhausted with a bad shoulder and a bad back because there's no one else to do it and you can't let the house go to hell -- even though some people do, even dual parent households! Come on guys, if I can do it all my by lonesome in between working 16 hour days you can get off the couch & off your iphone for a second to mow your friggin lawn and pull the weeds so the dandelions don't go to seed and blow all over the neighbourhood!) I try to get most of my chores and errands done during the 6 hour window (which flies by in an instant!) when Michelle is in school because I hate to have to drag her along for things. It's boring enough for me never mind for a 4 year old. I scheduled an oil change because I would never want to drag Michelle on errands like that. I had to when she was a baby and it was sheer hell.

One day when I went to the dealership they were quite busy and I had to wait over an hour and a half. For a friggin OIL CHANGE. (Of course they always try to up-sell you and gouge you for a lot more than the oil change but I've learned to put my foot down and just say no. If it's not absolutely required, I'm not paying for it.) I am not a fan of boring errands. I hate wasting time when there's so little of it and so much I have to do. To make matters worse while I was waiting an older male in the waiting area was playing poker on his tablet. "Swish" I kept hearing every couple of seconds. "Swish" each time he would play a card. I looked around. A guy across from me gave me an "I know, right?!" look. His eye was twitching but he wasn't speaking up. I looked around at the others. A woman flipping through a magazine, a young male on his cellphone. A businessman reading the paper. No one was saying anything but it was like nails on a chalkboard to me and I had to speak up. My patience level lately is less than zero.

"Excuse me, Sir?" I begin.
No response. 
"Excuse me..." a bit louder.
I manage to pierce his bubble this time. He looks at me like I have three heads. Everyone looks at me like I'm from outer space. And maybe I am but I've gotta be me!
"Uh...Could you possibly turn down the volume on your tablet? It's just a little loud." 
He looks dumbfounded. "Oh. Sorry." 
He does something with the tablet but apparently not the right thing because he then returns to his game and it's JUST AS LOUD. SWISH. SWISH. Now my eye is twitching. 
"Umm. It's not... It's just as...Never mind." At this point I have to give up. SWISH. SWISH. SWISH. I want to kill this man. I'm thinking "What the hell?!" I can't sit here anymore. And why the hell does it take TWO HOURS to get a friggin oil change at the dealership when meanwhile I can go to the cheapo place and get an oil change in 10 minutes?! I literally CAN'T EVEN so I get up to walk around and escape the cacophony of swishing noises. There's nowhere to go so I head over to the sales part of the office where the cars are. Then the sales people come out of the woodwork to hound you because they think you're buying a car. So I explain "Oh. No. I'm not looking. I'm just killing time waiting for service and I couldn't sit in the waiting area because there was a guy making noises on his tablet and it's like nails on a chalkboard and I just couldn't take it." The sales person chuckles nervously and escorts me to a desk where I can sit in relative peace. I'm sure they're probably calling the police and ambulance to have me taken away as a mental patient. I sit there for a while and text my sister on my cell. Hip modern woman that I am. I can text! Finally I wander back to the waiting area and loud tablet guy is gone. Finally my car is ready. By now it's almost time to pick up Michelle so all the other errands I had to run aren't getting done today. What a swishing waste.

Michelle was thrilled when the seeds she planted in her little planter started to sprout. She was pretty good about watering it every day (I always did anyway even if she forgot.) It's a good experience for her to feel like she's growing something and it's pretty cool that she even built the planter all by herself. We also planted some seeds outside. I don't have a lot of money (read -- any!) for landscaping. So I try to get things that are cheap and cheerful. Seeds fit the bill and then Michelle gets to watch them grow. We planted a little garden in the backyard where there's a bare patch near the house.

And then one day, for some insane reason, I tried to book a dental appointment. Because apparently I'm a glutton for punishment and surgery hadn't been quite enough. Basically now that I had benefits I thought I might as well be using them. It had been quite a while since I'd gone to a dentist. I figured I should have one in town because I do so much driving I might as well save myself an hour's drive where I can. Plus it would be handy to go to the dentist while Michelle is in school. So I took a chance and went to a new office in my area (there was a flyer in the paper and they were 1 minute from my house. So convenient!) I sat and filled out a mountain of paperwork in the waiting room.

The hygienist was a sweet, pretty East Indian girl. Unfortunately she inadvertently whacked me in the head with a machine... She led me into a room for a "360 X-ray" which I'd never heard of and frankly gave me the willlies. She started to lower the machine without warning me or asking me to move over and it bonked me in the head. After being whacked with a heavy metal machine I thought "I'm not off to the best start in this new office!" A bit startled but alive I was then lead to stand still while this creepy rotating machine spun around my head. I was pretty freaked out, unsure if I was going to be hit again. The girl seemed a little bit confused/inexperienced/disorganized but she was so kind and sweet that I almost forgave her. Then after all that the x-ray didn't even work. She asked if I wanted to do it again (?) I said oh hell no. So she just made do with the regular x-rays. Because I hadn't been to the dentist for several years (when I didn't have benefits. I don't like going to the dentist when it's free so I SURE wouldn't pay for it!) my teeth took a long time to clean. She had to book another appointment to get the rest of the scaling done. At least it wasn't so bad. She told me to raise my hand if the pain was too bad and I never had to raise my hand. Normally I'm a nervous wreck at the dentist but after going through the biopsy this was a cakewalk! She was a pleasant young woman and talked to me about her son's birthday party etc. The office seemed rather disorganized but I figured it was because they had just opened.

Then the dentist came in. He was decidedly less than pleasant. He was a stern looking, insensitive Middle Eastern man with dark eyes and an inability to smile. I don't know if he said two words to me. He seemed a bit annoyed the 360 x-ray hadn't worked and assured me my insurance company wouldn't be charged for it. My first impression of him as not very nice turned out to be accurate. He was a monster. When he looked at my teeth, rather than gently asking me to turn my head to the left or right (as every other NORMAL dentist does) he forcibly pushed my face back and forth, up and down, poking at my cheeks like I was a cadaver or a doll. I was totally creeped out. I thought maybe I'm just being too sensitive but I ran the story by a couple of other people who said no that's really weird. I never wanted to see Dr. Insensitive Psycho again. Unfortunately I had an appointment booked for a couple of small fillings. Maybe I'd get lucky and it would be a different dentist. I called the office to ask. No it was going to be the same one. Yikes. No way Jose! I told them I never wanted to see him again and why. So they rescheduled the appointment with another dentist in the office. 
This time when I went in the office seemed even MORE disorganized and unprofessional if such a thing is possible. I was led to a room where the seat WASN'T EVEN CLEAN! Seriously. The germophobe in me was screaming. There were bits of white stuff on the seat (?!) I can't believe I didn't say anything but I was already borderline having a panic attack at the idea of the drill. Flashbacks of previous dentist trips and the biopsy flashing through my brain. I looked around the office. I couldn't believe there was a set of plastic drawers on the floor (the kind you get at Walmart). PLASTIC. Like they didn't even have PERMANENT FIXTURES to house their instruments?! They couldn't spring for proper drawers/cabinets? Just plastic drawers? It was all just a little bit makeshift and thrown together. How long had they been in business? A few months? Did they even know what they were doing?! And I was entrusting them to do things to my TEETH. To make matters worse, the dental assistant/hygienist (this time a blonde) was completely disorganized/bumbling. She kept walking back and forth from one room to another, asking other girls for things. She seemed lost/distracted/not all there. Then I could see her in the lunch room making her tea. It was weird. I've never been in an office where I could see them in their lunch room. Shouldn't that be closed off/private?! And wait, she didn't even wash her hands after handling the tea bag?! She finally came in and told me I'd be getting my fillings and then the cleaning. I asked if it wouldn't make more sense logically to do the cleaning BEFORE the fillings? She said she'd check. She left for a while. Then she came back and told me no this was how the appointments were booked and there was no changing them. Logic be damned. I was worried. I didn't feel safe. I didn't feel comfortable. I wanted to get up and run and never look back but I was supposed to get my fillings and I just wanted it over with and the office was so close to my house and I'd gone to the trouble to fill out all that paperwork... So I sat. And waited. Possibly for my doom. Or to catch something from the dirty seat, the tea-bag hands (I'm sure she wore gloves... hopefully?!) and God knows what.

The dentist this time was Spanish and seemed friendly enough, a human being at least -- he smiled. But then he and the dental assistant started bickering RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME (?!) and I was sort of freaking out. They were arguing about an appointment or something and I just kept thinking this is so inappropriate and I wasn't in love with the prospect of two people who were angry with each other being inside my mouth and drilling into my teeth! At one point she just muttered whatever and then the dentist apologized to me for their behaviour. I said sarcastically "Oh, that's OK... It's all just ADDING TO MY ANXIETY!" Going to the dentist isn't my favourite at the best of times. This was the worst of times. He asked if I wanted freezing or not. I deferred to his expertise (though why I still trusted him I'm not entirely sure.) I said if the needle for the freezing would actually be more painful than the drilling then let's forgo it! My goal was to experience the least pain possible. He said he thought I should be all right without freezing. Not getting a needle sounded great to me. He didn't have to drill too deep. Again I was to raise my hand if it became too painful. Thankfully I didn't have to raise my hand. My tooth felt REALLY REALLY COLD at one point and it was bordering on painful but then it stopped and he said he was done. I thought he was just done the one tooth but they were both done. I was pleasantly surprised. Yay! I survived getting a filling (two actually!) Even in a bumblingly incompetent crazy dental office with an arguing dentist and absent-minded assistant and plastic drawers and dirty seats! Now I just had my cleaning with the nice East Indian lady in another (somewhat less disturbing) room. I just wouldn't let her do a 360 X-ray head bonk this time. I lived through the scaling. Again, no hand raising. She gave me a bit of a lecture (though pleasantly) on the importance of flossing and dental appointments. My teeth were clean and I got to hear about her son's birthday party and to talk about Michelle and how she turns 5 in the Summer. I liked  her. She was the one nice thing about the office. Even if she was a bit clumsy too. And maybe it was my fault for being under the machine when she lowered it? (No. She should have warned me. I had no idea what to do. I was the one who was new to this. She was supposed to know what she was doing.) 

They talked me into booking an appointment for another cleaning a couple of months away because my insurance covered it. The more time I had to think about it however (and to tell people about it) I realized I should NEVER return to that office. Like ever. I'd rather drive an hour if I have to to go to an office that is clean, professional, friendly and I feel safe. Besides, I would have to take Michelle to the dentist at some point and there was NO WAY ON EARTH I would take her to these jokers! So I called to cancel my cleaning appointment.

"Ok. When would you like to reschedule...?" the secretary asked, obliviously. (After all how could she know what I had been through? Well she knew I didn't like Dr. Psycho pushy face but not my latest encounter.)
"Umm. Never actually. I'm not coming back to your office."
I would have let it go at that but she pressed me.
"There were just a lot of RED FLAGS," I offered, dismissively.
She had to know. So when she asked "Like what?" I let the floodgates open.
"Ok. If you really want to know..."
She listened to my tirade and then I could hear her bristling. I had offended her office. She was very defensive and had an explanation of sorts for everything -- the dental assistant was pregnant and distracted, the plastic drawers were for root canal tools to be moved to different rooms and this and that. I think I even forgot to mention the dirty seat. Dang. I wonder what excuse she would have had for that? The bumbling prego assistant? I told her it didn't matter anyway. There was literally nothing on earth she could possibly say that would lead to me setting foot in that gong show of a dental office EVER AGAIN. 
"How long have you been in business anyway? A couple of months?" I asked.
"7 years," she said.
"Yikes." Somehow that made everything even worse. You've been in business almost a decade and you're a trainwreck? Wow. I wondered idly if others had suffered the same fate as I had (or worse.)

I looked online out of curiosity and saw that some poor soul with botched dental work had given them a scathing review. So it wasn't just me. Lesson learned. At least I survived relatively unscathed. But no more fly by night local offices from flyers in the newspaper for me.

At least it was an adventure and I got some laughs out of it telling May my whole sordid tale. It's almost worth going through bad experiences when you get an amusing anecdote out of it... As May and I used to say when we went through a bad experience "See a few things, LEARN a few things..."

Yes we made yet another trip to the Butterfly Conservatory because we both love it and it's our happy place.

This time Michelle got up close and personal with something other than butterflies. Yes, Michelle is far more brave than I am. Clearly. She was willing to touch this massive and utterly terrifying leaf bug or whatever the devil it was. I wasn't going near the thing. I stood at a distance and zoomed in to take a photo. The way it moved with it's creepy legs was nothing short of sinister. I was certain he would kill us all. I imagined being under a tree and having a leaf suddenly start moving and I literally couldn't even.

It was somewhat crowded but we managed to circumvent the crowd long enough to snap a photo (or two) of the two of us in a corner. Because as you know, I'm a photoholic and I like having the self timer to show that I was actually there too! I'm not just a disembodied photographer behind the lens all the time! I am sharing these adventures with Michelle!

Yes it's an obsession/addiction but compared to some addictions/obsessions I think I could do a lot worse! Besides, being a photoholic is almost in vogue now! Everyone's doing it!

Michelle and I with butterfly. The only way it could have been better would be if Michelle had been smiling, but hey, you can't have everything! I'll take what I can get!

This must have been a newborn (recently hatched) butterfly because he didn't seem to fly very much. We put him on an orange slice to eat afterward. I didn't want him to be stepped on or picked up by some careless/rough kid. I'm protective of the butterflies. I don't like to see kids handling them roughly, grabbing at them. It stresses me out.

You're not supposed to touch the butterflies at all actually. Michelle is always very gentle and careful with them. She knows to never touch their wings and to just let them sit on her finger/arm.

Don't worry, BEE happy! They didn't have a butterfly one and Michelle asked for this bee balloon. Then she posed in front of the honeycomb full of bees. I love bees. And we need them. The declining bee population worries me. Two thirds of the food crops we eat require bees/pollination. I remember hearing the terrifying quote "If the bee disappers, mankind has four years." Because with no bees at all eventually we wouldn't have plants. We wouldn't have food. We would die. Problems like habitat loss, pesticides, disease and climate change are destroying bees and it could have devastating consequences for us as well. We are all in this together. We need to protect the planet and the creatures in it since we depend on them.

I've never killed a bee. Let them BEE!

We walked through the museum area afterward and Michelle had a ball playing with a little girl she met. They wanted to keep playing for the rest of the day but her Mom had to go and we had a bit of a drive back home as well. I love that Michelle makes friends so easily everywhere we go (completely the opposite of me!) She's very outgoing and friendly and will talk to anyone (also the opposite of me!) Sometimes I worry that she's too friendly, especially with older adults -- complete strangers. She knows she's safe when I'm there but even so I don't always feel comfortable with her making conversation with strangers. I want to teach her to be cautious. I grew up with a very fearful mother. I don't want to be that sheltering but I want Michelle to have some boundaries anyway and to stay safe.

A parting selfie with a butterfly, the Idea Leuconoe, the large tree nymph (also known as paper kite or rice paper.) They are silvery white with black spots and come from Southeast Asia, Northern Australia and Southern Taiwan. I still find it amazing that we get to enjoy these beautiful creatures in a tropical jungle here in Ontario.

These tree nymphs seem to be the friendliest/most accessible of the butterflies in the conservatory. Or at least they're the ones that land on us the most often and don't immediately fly away. We're always grateful when they stop and spend some time with us!

This is a harder shot to get without being photobombed. The walkways are really never clear and especially when you have to set the timer and count.

At least no one walked directly into the shot. I love Michelle's pose here with her hand on her hip. My Mom says Michelle will be a handful as a teenager. She's already got a bit of the teenage attitude! I'm sure when she's a teenager though she won't even go with me to excursions like this, much less be willing to pose with Mama for photos. She would probably be too embarrassed. Or maybe she will stay close to me and be my best friend as she gets older? I can hope! In any event I have to cherish this time that I have with her while she still thinks hanging out with Mama is fun!

We found this Egyptian mummy in one of the museum rooms at the conservatory. I wasn't entirely sure what mummies had to do with Butterflies (I didn't bother to read the write-up next to the display case) but Mother's Day was coming up so maybe it was a Mummies for Mommies display? We got a selfie with it anyway. It was just a replica of an actual mummy sarcophagus from Egypt.

I've always been fascinated by Egyptians and their beautiful art/sculpture/jewelry/architecture/hieroglyphics. These were people that really appreciated beauty. Plus they worshiped cats so I can completely relate to them! Their obsession with death was a tad morbid but at least they got to die in style! Beautiful mummies encased in gold and housed in a pyramid! (Mind you I think that was just for royalty...)

Michelle loves to draw. It has to be her idea though. If you ask her to draw or colour something she'll protest. If you pester her long enough she'll grudgingly do it but make a halfhearted effort -- stick figures scribbled and not coloured in.

If it's her own idea however she will draw and colour an entire page until her hand is sore. This adorable picture was her idea and I love it! A panda, a parrot, a cat, a bunny and a mouse. I'm not sure what inspired her to suddenly draw this menagerie but I'm grateful. Her artwork always makes me smile. I try to keep all of it. I still have to organize it in files. I'm several months (a year?) behind on labeling and filing things. It's one of the many projects on my someday "to do" list that never gets done...

Now that I'm a Mom, Mother's Day is even more meaningful for me. I'm grateful to have a girl who loves and appreciates me and is ALWAYS expressing it with hugs, kisses, words, cards, pictures. I have never felt so loved. And as my sister tried to tell me, it is the greatest love, nothing else compares.

I was happy that Michelle made me a Mother's Day card without any coaxing but then she makes me "I love you cards" all the time for no occasion.

I also never have to coax Michelle to dress up. She LOVES wearing dresses. She's always happy to have an excuse to get dolled up. After we were dressed I couldn't resist getting a few photos of us...

One last photo (or two) before heading off to my Mom's and my sister's place for a Mother's Day celebration. I was hoping to get Ali in the photo as well (she sometimes joins us on the stairs for a pic) but she wasn't having it.

Michelle picked out her turquoise dress and hairband to match. I can't remember where I found this navy dress (it was either Walmart or Giant Tiger) but it was a great deal and very comfortable. I love wearing dresses in the Summer. It's just so easy and comfortable. It's almost like wearing a nightgown all day. Might as well! Technically it was still Spring (Summer doesn't officially start until June) but the weather was warm and it felt like Summer! Good enough for me!

The obligatory group photo at May's place. My brothers had plans and couldn't make it for Mother's Day so they gave my Mom her gift ahead of time.

Michelle had learned a little Mother's Day song in school: "Moms are special. Moms are nice..." She sang it for me. She was going to sing it for the whole group at my sister's but she got stage fright and only wanted to perform it for me. I recorded a video of her singing it so I could show everyone. I put it on Youtube. Here's the video below:

Mother's Day video of Michelle singing "Moms are special."

It was a beautiful day so we ventured outside for a while and got a group picture in the sunlight. I should have been a little more cognizant of having people lined up by height. You can barely see my dad's poor little head peeking out between my Mom and Shannon from the back row. At least everyone is actually looking at the camera, so there's that. I look like I'm in the middle of saying something but I may have just been doing the countdown (I always have to set the timer and run counting down from 10. I usually make it but sometimes I count too fast/slow.)

We got a couple of silly snaps on Shannon's i-phone with the fancy filters. My Mom wanted flowers in her hair. May and I had to take turns since it only allows two flowers girls at one time. Why my Mom insisted on having this overly serious face I'm not sure. Something about "smiling causing wrinkles." I still think wrinkles from smiling are preferable to, say, looking like a serial killer posing for a mugshot...but that's just me!

I always wind up laughing at May's place. It's one of my favourite places to be. It's always a treat to be there. I was grateful that May agreed to host Mother's Day and even offered to host my birthday at her place. My Mom's place is much more crowded. Of course Michelle always loves going to Auntie May's as well. It's the best!




It was a beautiful Summery day and Michelle wanted to go to the park after school. I'm always happy to watch her play and I figure the more exercise she gets running around outside the more likely she is to sleep well at night.

I love this picture of Michelle on the swing. She's so happy. It never gets old -- the joy of swinging, touching the sky. "I'm FLYING MAMA!" She loves it. Especially now that she can swing on her own like a big girl. She always wants a push from me to get her started. The tough part is when she wants off the swing because she's not quite big enough to get down herself and when I go to stop her, lift her off sometimes she jumps and pulls on me, putting a strain on my back. Lately I've had to be more careful because I keep aggravating old back/shoulder injuries, mostly by lifting Michelle. I still carry her in when she falls asleep in the car and I sometimes get talked into giving her piggyback rides. I'll think I'm OK and all of a sudden "AAAACK! My BACK!"

Yes, I'm getting old! At my age, birthdays aren't exactly a welcome thing. (Though I don't want them to stop! LOL) I can't actually believe how old I am. I'm so old that I actually forgot how old I am! (Yes. I'm losing my mind a little. My short term memory is shot. Information overload I guess. Too many years of taking in random facts. My hard drive is full. Now I'm losing stuff. Short term memories are first to go. I forget things so easily.)

One good thing about birthdays is getting to spend time with family. I was extremely grateful that May offered to host my birthday party at her house.

Michelle and I got dressed up and got a few photos at home before heading out. Her panda had to get in the picture of course. She goes through phases with her stuffies. Panda was Number #1 during May and she had to take him EVERYWHERE. To school, in the car, to Grandma's etc. I drew the line at letting her take him into stores with us. Even if it was a store that didn't carry pandas.

I'm glad that Michelle is a girly girl. It's fun sharing girly things with her, like going shopping and trying on dresses (one of my personal faves!) I don't have to twist her arm to try things on. She LOVES it. She was even happy to pose for pictures. I wound up getting a couple of things for myself and a few dresses for her.

Michelle has a LOT of dresses. I can't help it. I love dressing her up. I was buying her dresses before she was even born! As soon as I found out I was going to be having a girl I bought her a frilly dress to celebrate! You can see it in the post "It's a girl!" from 2012 when I went for an ultrasound and got the good news. One of the best days of my life. Don't get me wrong. I would have loved a boy too but it would have been different. There would have been a lot of things I wouldn't have been able to share with him. Trying on dresses is one of them!

My brothers missed Mother's Day and couldn't make it to my birthday either but I'd be seeing them at my place for May's birthday and they'd be bringing my gifts then. The reality is most families don't get together half as much as we do. Most people think we're nuts when they hear how we get together for every occasion. Some only see their extended family once a year, if that. We tend to be the exception rather than the rule. I'm grateful to have a close knit family. These days I don't have a social life to speak of so my family is basically it! My sister is my best friend and I'm always happy to spend time with her. My family and Michelle especially are the greatest gift and I'm so lucky to have them!

I love taking silly snaps with Shannon's i-phone. I wanted us both to be mice (at least I think it's a mouse!) but it was only allowing one at a time. Some filters only allow one participant, others two. I guess it's hard for the phone/camera to register more than that. I like the filters that give you cute animal faces/funny faces. I'm not a big fan of the ones that give you horrifying monster faces (beady little eyes and misshapen heads and whatnot. I try not to post those ones! They haunt my dreams!) Shannon emails me the pics afterward so that I can save them. After Mother's Day I could no longer take photos with my i-phone. I got the white screen of death one day and looked online to discover Apple did an upgrade to deliberately render old i-phones (like my hand-me-down i-phone 4 obsolete. Those buggers!) I refuse to buy a new one so I'm just using my phone for emergencies now -- I got rid of the white screen and I can still call/text. Just no more photos or Instagram for me... Until/unless someone gives me their old i-phone 5! LOL (I'm sort of kidding.)

I love Michelle as a mouse! It suits her. The big eyes, the ears, the cute little nose! She loved being a mouse too. She wanted to see the photos on Shannon's camera. If she had her way she'd have taken 100 selfies with all the different filters. I can't imagine when she finally has a cellphone of her own! (It will be quite a while since as I've mentioned, even Mama is behind on technology. If I won't purchase a new cell for myself I sure as Hell am not buying one for my 4 year old!) I think kids are exposed to technology too young and get addicted to their gadgets. There's a real world out there to explore. I'd rather she draw on old school paper and use her imagination playing outside in the real world than being hooked on video games on a little device. Still, I'm a photoholic myself so I TOTALLY get the whole selfie thing. Lately there has been a disturbing trend in the news where more people are getting injured/killed taking dangerous selfies. Come on people! I appreciate a good photo op more than just about anyone but it's NOT WORTH YOUR LIFE! Step away from the cliff edge (though having said this I got a photo of myself sitting on the edge of the cliff at Rattlesnake Point back in the day! I was somewhat more reckless back then...And that was before it was even in vogue! I also got a selfie with a tiger and a moose with her baby so I'm a bit of a hypocrite here!)

And then there is the glowing flower/angel/fairy filter... This time Michelle and I both got to take part. I love her face here, like a porcelain doll! She is my angel for the most part. I couldn't ask for a sweeter more loving girl. Of course she's a ginger, like Mama so she has her moods as well. It's a trade off though. I love that she's passionate and animated and over the top. She's happy most of the time and it's wonderful to behold. The rare times she freaks out (usually when she's over-tired and cranky, frustrated/overwhelmed) are tolerable considering she's a joy most of the time. And I'd rather have a child who wears her heart on her sleeve and feels deeply than an inanimate zombie kid with no reaction to anything (I've seen kids like that. No life, no enthusiasm. I blame the gadgets. They are raising a generation of zombies but I will take my old school lively child with the wild imagination who loves to shout and sing and dance around and has more to say than "What's your wi-fi password?")

People of Walmart (if you haven't had the pleasure, Google it and see what comes up. There's a whole website and quite a few gems!) always made me laugh hysterically. Of course I love Walmart but I'm hoping I never wind up on that website as one of the questionably dressed. I love Walmart but you just never know who (or what?) you may run into there... One day, for no apparent reason, Cookie Monster was there. So of course I made Michelle pose with him for a picture (or two!) He's wearing a tag so I guess he's an employee? Maybe in the bakery section? COOKIE!

Michelle hadn't seen Sesame Street in a while (it's only on in the wee hours of the morning and we usually don't make it to the TV at that time) but you never forget Cookie Monster! I was expecting there to be some kind of display, a plate of cookies, a new Sesame Street book or something to explain the presence of a giant blue monster but it just seemed to be a random presence on an ordinary day. I'm always happy for a photo op whatever the reason!

Sometimes I think Michelle is happy it's a rainy day so she has a good excuse to go to the indoor playground (when it's a nice day I tell her we can just go to the park.) In the winter the indoor playground was one of her favourite places. She loves running amok there. Sometimes she's up and down on the slides, other times she prefers to swing on the rope. She also enjoys playing table hockey with whoever will play with her (random kids who come by or me, failing that.) She gets so excited when she scores a goal but she kind of rubs it in. I didn't even realize it was a motorized table until a stranger came by and turned a switch on under the table that made the table vibrate slightly. That made it easier to get the puck (when the table isn't on the puck sometimes gets stuck in the middle of the table and you have to lean over to reach it.)
"Thank you!" I told the guy "I didn't even know there was a switch to turn it on!"

And I always try to get in at least one shot even though it's always a challenge to set up the self-timer in a crowded place without getting photobombed by the many kids running by! I got lucky and it snapped just before a kid ran right in front of the camera blocking us. Timing is everything. For some reason Michelle always jumps up and clings to me (like a monkey!) at the last moment as the camera snaps, almost knocking me over. It's murder on my back as well having 48 lbs hanging off my neck unexpectedly all of a sudden. I've told her not to do it but she seems to forget every time. I guess it's my own fault for asking her to pose for the photo. She sometimes jumps up on my parents and I've told Michelle never to do that because Grandma and Grandpa are older, more fragile and she might BREAK THEM! She's just so full of energy she forgets sometimes that we're older and not quite as limber as she is.

It's hard to get a shot of Michelle coming out of the tunnel slide. She either gets stuck in a line up of kids and takes forever and I wind up snapping a picture of the wrong kid. Or I'm too late on the draw and just miss her. Once in a while I get lucky and catch her just in time and she almost has a smile on her face. The slides used to be her favourite thing but now she mostly plays on the ropes, with table hockey or the other games on the back wall that she took no notice of before. I just enjoy watching her play. I'm not a fan of when she's in the upper level and I can't see her. I get that moment of panic/sick feeling in my gut when I can't see her. Of course she's safe but I'm a worrier/hoverer so it's hard to let go. I almost wish I could be blase like other parents who spend the whole time on their phones and never even look up to check on their kids. Almost.

I started doing yoga again. I was afraid to try any other exercise because I seemed to hurt my back when I attempted weight lifting or cardio. Yoga is pretty soothing and if anything it helps my back. Michelle joined me one day, doing the poses with me. She said they do yoga in school too which I thought was great. Afterward I saw her making a little book. I laughed my head off when I saw "Mama and Michelle's Yoga Book: The Yoga it is a dance." It was so cute. I wasn't sure if that was something she came up with on her own or something she'd heard. Her drawings were adorable too. I laughed at Michelle attempting some of the positions. Sometimes I laughed so much I lost my balance. I told her not to attempt the headstand. It took me a year to get my strength/balance in order to do it and I don't want her hurting herself. I think it's good for her to try yoga though and I'm glad that her school encourages it. They do meditation as well.

Sometimes I'm having a bad day and I'm beyond exhausted and I don't know how I'll get through but then Michelle gives me a card that says "I love you Mama! You are the best!" and it's all worth it. I love that she's a little heart and I'm a big heart with teeth and everything! Her artwork makes me so happy! She's always hugging and kissing and telling me she loves me too. I'm glad she's so affectionate. I am too. I know that some people aren't demonstrative with their kids. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I can't imagine being any other way!

I've been working a lot more this year which means Michelle is at my Mom's place a lot more. She loves running around and playing in Grandma's big backyard. I don't like leaving Michelle but I'm glad when I can at least spend a little time with her in the backyard before I have to go in to work (or after I get home if I'm on dayshift.) In the nice weather we like to sit on the garden swing and relax for a bit (or my Mom and I do anyway. Michelle prefers running amok or putting on a show for us. "Welcome to the Michelle show!" which involves her doing acrobatic moves, singing and shouting at the top of her lungs.

I'm so grateful for my happy girl. I was pleased that even her teacher said Michelle is such a bright, happy girl, whatever stress and difficulty I may be experiencing with my crazy schedule (and lack of sleep) at least it's not affecting her. Michelle loves being home with Mama but she also enjoys her second home at Grandma and Grandpa's. Life is crazy for me with all the commuting I do back and forth for several hours a day on top of the 12 hour shift (sometimes I wonder how I survive!) but it's just a fun adventure for Michelle who is along for the ride and just rolls with it wherever she may be. I try to put on a brave face for the most part and not let her know the toll it's taking on me.
May was a busy month for events as well! Next thing we knew it was May's birthday. I agreed to host it at my place for a change because it was the least I could do when she has almost everything at her place! It's nice to have company at my house once in a while. It was quite a challenge getting the house clean and tidy though. When I'm not entertaining I don't always worry about the house being "presentable." It was a Herculean task getting it presentable for the party! I love when the house is clean and tidy and everything is in its place but it's a lot of work getting it that way and I wish I could just twitch my nose and it would be done. It's also an uphill battle to keep it tidy since every time Michelle plays she leaves a trail of toys in her wake. I try to explain to her that she needs to pick up after herself and not create more work for Mama (who is already worked to death without help!)

Michelle picked out this sparkly gold sequined and peach flower dress and the matching head band. She also came with me to pick out balloons for the party. May asked Michelle if the rainbow unicorn made her think of Auntie May. Michelle responded with stunned silence (the truth was she just wanted the unicorn for herself. I was pretty sure May would let her keep it!) I picked out some flower balloons as well. I was hoping for one that said "May" on it but I guess that was too much to hope for. I was glad to find flowers at least...

A group shot before all of the guests had arrived. I wasn't sure that everyone would actually fit in my tiny kitchen/dining room.

Thankfully it was a beautiful day so we could all congregate in the backyard where there's a lot more room (which is what we did once my brothers and their entourage arrived...) We are a very big gang when everyone is there! A lot of people to fit in my little house!
I got a couple of extra lawn chairs trying to have a place for everyone to sit. I didn't get to sit very much between getting snacks and drinks for everyone and getting things ready for dinner. At least I didn't have to cook (I usually order in!) Chris offered to BBQ so I got burgers and hot dogs to put on the barbecue (Chris brought his own small portable one.) I love BBQ food in the Summer! It's my fave. I'm a little nervous of using a BBQ myself so I don't have one but I was grateful to Chris for bringing his and making dinner for us!

Michelle and her panda having a ball at the party. Yes she had her stuffed panda bear with her outside. She only put him down occasionally to play catch. Michelle loves having the whole family around. She was all smiles and giggles. I love this picture of her grinning ear to ear.

I made sure to cover her in sunscreen so my little ginger girl wouldn't burn being outside for hours. And I always make her wear sunglasses. I'm always surprised when I drop off and pick up Michelle from school that most people (like 95%) don't put sunglasses on their kids, even though the parents are wearing sunglasses themselves. Don't they know it's important to protect their kids' eyes?! I'm just more anal than the average bear but then I was the ginger kid who was left outside to rot and got severe blistering sunburns... (Mom plays it off like they hadn't INVENTED sunscreen yet. Sure, Mom. Still they invented SHADE!) I tend to be on the overly cautious side so she doesn't suffer the same fate.

When the kids were playing downstairs for a long time I was almost afraid to check on them and see what they were up to. I had visions of toys all pulled off the shelves and all over the floor and just sheer anarchy. I was pleasantly surprised to find most things undisturbed though they were sitting on beach toys for some inexplicable reason. They wanted to watch the movie "Trolls." Kayla and Evie hadn't seen it yet. Reggie saw it at school but missed the end of it and Michelle loves it and will watch it over and over. I pretty much pick up every new animated film when they come out because that's basically all we watch. Trolls became her new favourite in May and she watched it a million times!

Somehow we did manage to fit all of us in the dining room for a group shot with the cake but it wasn't easy! I ran in at the last minute, as always. At least most of us are looking and/or smiling (Evie is lying on the table for some reason and Kayla and James are preoccupied/looking away but hey you can't have everything.) At least my dad isn't hidden in the background but he always looks somewhat bewildered when the camera clicks. My dad DOES smile. But unfortunately NOT for the camera.

When there's a new kids' movie playing, especially Disney, we're usually there. We went to see "Born in China." I worried because it was a documentary that it may not be able to hold Michelle's interest but the animals were so adorable and funny that she loved it as much as I did. It was incredible to be drawn into their world, especially on the big screen and in 3D. It was heartbreaking at one point (one of the mother animals doesn't make it...Always the mother that bites it in Disney isn't it?!) The cinematography was breathtaking. It was a nice change from the usual animated films we go to. It was hard to stifle my tears though. It was pretty emotional. I hate falling apart in public. If I'm at home  I just let loose and wail but in the theatre I try to be subtle about it. It was a beautiful film and a good reminder for us. Nature is so fragile and beautiful. We have to protect it. We are all in this world together. It isn't only the animals that are in danger if we don't keep climate change in check. We're all in this planet together and depend on each other for survival.  

When I find matching shirts on sale (in Michelle's size and mine -- it isn't often!) I have to buy them because I'm a total nerd and I love dressing Michelle and I in matching outfits! One day at Justice I found matching shirts that said "Be kind" on them so I got them but I didn't stop to think what I was getting myself into. Because this wasn't just fashion, it seemed like a mandate: Be kind. Like I would have to be on my best behaviour while sporting such a shirt. Of course I SHOULD always be kind. I'm supposed to be a Christian. If I'm being honest though, when I'm exhausted (so, 99% of the time!) my patience wears a little thin and I'm no Florence Nightingale. (Then again, who is? Not too many people I encounter!) The reality is, more often than not, I'm reactionary -- I treat others as they treat me -- so kindness is tendered in kindness and rudeness, well I can be abrupt and sarcastic too! And i must confess when I'm tired AND PMS-ing I can get pretty dang irritable. Of course as a Christian you're supposed to "love your enemies, pray for your persecutors" "turn the other cheek." Yeah, that doesn't fly when I'm having a bad day.

I think the shirts were inspired by the live action Cinderella where "Have Courage and Be Kind," was the catchphrase/advice her mother gave her before she passed away. It's a beautiful motto Cinderella admirably lives by showing superhuman patience and kindness to her cruel selfish stepmother and stepsisters. Eventually, she gets her happy ending and gets to be a Princess and live the life she deserves but her life seemed pretty bleak up until then. It wasn't bad enough the poor girl loses both her parents but then she gets bullied by her idiot stepfamily! It was amazing that Cinderella could remain kind to those who were so mean to her (mind you it is a fairytale!) So you could say Cinderella was an example of a REALLY good Christian. A saint really. Unbelievably kind and always turning the other cheek. I'm not quite there. Not by a long shot. I probably would have told the stepsisters & stepmom to go F%^$  themselves and get their lazy, ugly butts out of my parents' house...But that's just me. Hey, even Jesus lost his temper once (when sleazy salesmen were turning his father's house into a "den of thieves.") I wonder if Jesus would have lost his temper in traffic... Jesus take the wheel...

Be kind: a simple philosophy but it can be difficult to execute, especially when you're a perfectionist and no one is perfect. It's tough being a control freak when there are so many things beyond your control -- life, the weather, other people etc. Other people are the trickiest. As much as I might like it if everyone followed my rules/script, they seldom do. More often than not they do the opposite to what I'd like. I'm not generally a patient person. I can admit that. And when I have to commute four hours a day my already limited patience is more than tested. Yes. Driving is probably the worst. The "Be kind" t-shirt held me accountable for one day at least. I felt the need to live up to the message. I couldn't very well be yelling obscenities at other drivers and flipping the bird while wearing a shirt that said "Be kind," could I? What if they saw my shirt and called me on it? (Yes one of my rules is that if your shirt has a statement on it, it should be one that you live by! Otherwise you're just living a lie. That's bad fashion and bad karma!) If I was being honest I should usually be wearing a shirt sporting Grumpy Cat or Happy Bunny. But for now it was "Be Kind" day. So I made an effort to be nice, to be patient, to let things go. I managed to catch myself before launching into my angry driver tirades...

Somehow the car is the most difficult place to be kind. Even a priest admitted in his homily once that he starts to lose a little patience when he gets behind the wheel. He joked that we sit in church talking about loving one another then we go out to the parking lot and it's every man for himself. (In fairness it is notoriously difficult getting out of a crowded church parking lot after mass!) We all get frustrated to some degree. There's something about driving that changes us. It's primal. It's like a survival mechanism. You enter this moving metal compartment and navigate your way through all the other people in all the other vehicles and you become territorial. You become hyper-sensitive to threats. You become unkind. For me, I get angry with anyone who is doing the wrong thing -- going too fast or too slow, not looking, not signaling, not moving right to let faster traffic pass, etc. And sadly bad drivers seem to be the RULE rather than the exception. It's gotten to the point where I'm shocked and pleasantly surprised when someone actually does the RIGHT thing! In those rare moments I do express gratitude and wish them well. (I always give a thank you wave if they let me in. Sometimes I even blow a kiss!) But everyone else is just a jerk. 
These days it seems that just about everyone is in a hurry/distracted/in their own world/discourteous etc. When I'm solo in my car I'll drop the F bombs, call them a brain dead d*%khead, give them the finger etc. Sometimes I'm subtle and just give them the finger by pushing up my glasses or scratching my face with my middle finger. When they nearly kill me however I have been known to honk, roll down the window and let the expletives fly asking whether they're F-ing stupid or insane? Or both. Of course when Michelle is in the car I censor myself. I don't use profanities but I'm still not very nice when someone makes a bonehead move. "Are you waiting for a particular SHADE of green, MORON?" when someone doesn't proceed at a green light. "Signal your intentions, LOSER!" when someone is sitting there in the middle of an exit, blocking you from getting around them, giving no indication whether they're going left or right and they can't possibly go straight. "GEEZ! Watch what you're doing, IDIOT!" or "Nice move, PSYCHO!" when someone swerves into our lane nearly killing us. (Texting maybe?) Or "Do the math MORON! There's nowhere for you to go! It's like TETRIS dude!" when someone is driving aggressively trying to pass but there are no gaps and it's bumper to bumper and he's going to kill someone revving the gas and slamming on the brakes changing lanes for nothing. Don't get me wrong. I look for gaps and I take them when they're there. I can weave and pass like nobody's business when it's possible. But when it isn't possible I have the sense to stay in my own congested lane rather than swapping it out for another equally congested lane. Sometimes there's just nowhere for you to go. The world is overcrowded and most of them are on the highway when you need to go somewhere... Or in line when you need to buy something. Or ahead of you wherever you happen to be. That's just Murphy's Law.

So, with Michelle in the backseat and my "kind" shirt on I set off to Grandma's house an hour away and hoped for the best. It was tough. Every time someone annoyed me I felt a twinge in my gut and had to bite my tongue to keep from lashing out in anger. Trying to restrain myself from saying something snarky to bad drivers proved even more painful than restraining myself from taking a photo when I see something cute. It's a knee jerk response. Very hard to override! But I made a conscious effort. It was a pretty silent drive. Nothing but the radio. "Kill them with kindness" came on the radio and I thought "If only!" I remembered the saying "If you can't say something nice, say nothing." Of course if I lived by that I would never speak when I drove! But when I'm alone in the car and driving long distances, blowing off steam by expressing my exasperation keeps my head from exploding. 

When you're dealing with stress I think you have to vent. To someone else (if they're willing to listen!) and to yourself (when you're alone in the car.) Saying nothing was a struggle but after a while it became easier. The knot in my stomach loosened. I did roll my eyes a little but aside from that I refrained from reacting to all the annoying things that everyone around me did wrong. Cutting me off, driving too slow, failing to signal, crossing the line, etc. Eventually I was a pro at it. Deep cleansing breaths. LET IT GO. Why did I have to let it affect me anyway? Who cares? What difference does it make? So I'm delayed a few minutes? So what? Chillax dude! Then something amazing happened. The less I worried about people doing things wrong, the more people started DOING THINGS RIGHT! It was like magic! People were letting me in when I needed to merge. People were moving right to let me pass. People were staying in their own lanes. Lights turned green just as I got there. I suddenly realized that by being kind I was giving out a positive energy, going with the flow and as a result THE UNIVERSE WAS MORE KIND TO ME! Now, on some level, I knew this already. And as a Christian (albeit a not very good one!) I should be living by this: "What would Jesus do?" I  love Jesus. The problem is that he sets the bar pretty high. I have a hard time "Loving my enemies" and "turning the other cheek." It's in my nature to defend myself when attacked. Of course even if you're not a Christian, the fact is that it just makes more sense to be kind. When you go with the flow of the universe, things go your way. Resistance is futile. What you resist persists. By complaining/resisting what is, you actually help to perpetuate it. You feed its negative energy. It's a vicious circle.
Being positive is the better, healthier way to be. It benefits everyone, yourself most of all. What you put out, you attract. Negative draws negative. All of my complaining just attracted more things to complain about. Now my new (albeit forced and Be Kind t-shirt-mandated) positive energy was drawing positive results. It was beautiful. Of course I wish I could always be that way! How much more calm, at peace and happy I would be if I could just relax, breathe, be positive and attract positive energy! Unfortunately the reality is that when I'm sleep deprived, running on empty and commuting four hours a day, my patience is non-existent. Survival mode kicks in. It's fight or flight. I'm irritable AF! If I'm PMS-ing on top of it (which is every 3 weeks, lucky me!) it's even worse! If I was well-rested and having a great day it would be a lot easier to be nice. I could be Mother Teresa! (Well not quite.) When I'm barely surviving however, running on less than empty, everything feels like a threat and I will fight back. Everyone who cuts me off, who drives too slow, who tailgates etc is just adding to the stress and I take it personally. When I'm heading home to bed after a 16 hour day anyone who keeps me from my bed for one extra minute is my mortal enemy! Of course they have no idea that I'm working a 16 hour day on no sleep. They don't know (or care) how long/difficult/stressful/crazy/impossible my day is. They have their own issues/stories/struggles which are possibly worse than mine. You think you have it bad but you never know what kind of day/life the other person may be having. They may have it far worse. Even if they're in a really expensive car. This is why we should be kind and cut people slack -- because we are all human. We're all in this together and have to get along somehow. But sometimes it's easier said than done. Some people just walk around angry all the time, at life, at each other. It's an awful way to live and it hurts the hater most of all.

Of course being kind doesn't just mean to other people. It is just as important to be kind to ourselves. We need to cut ourselves a little slack. We can be very hard on ourselves. Self-critical, beating ourselves up, stressing ourselves out with "shoulds," often trying to be and do everything (women are especially guilty of this I believe! At the risk of generalizing, I would say men usually have an easier time cutting themselves slack and not trying to do too much!) I tend to be pretty self critical. I'm not always very kind to myself. A lot of us also (men and women) don't take care of ourselves. We need to eat healthy foods, get enough rest, exercise etc (and not poison ourselves with toxic substances) or we're going to feel like crap. Feeling terrible on the outside makes you feel bad inside as well. Again, it's easier said than done! I'm thankful that at least I don't smoke/drink/do drugs but I still have my own, less severe, addictions -- sugar, caffeine. Insomnia is an ongoing problem for me especially because I work shiftwork and am constantly changing from days to nights. It's hard to flip from one schedule to its opposite. And sometimes (on nightshifts when Michelle is in school) I only have a 3 hour window to grab sleep as it is. It's simply not enough to function. Sometimes even when I'm tired I just lay there and can't sleep because my mind is too active and doesn't come with an off button. I worry, make endless to do lists, etc. Even when I'm so tired I could collapse I still lay there and lay there, staring at the clock. Sometimes I finally get up and read/watch TV/go on Twitter. That usually doesn't help to relax me either! 

Michelle does better than I do with being kind. Then again she doesn't have stress to deal with. Her life is basically endless joy. Still, I'm glad she is such a sweet and caring person. She said something recently that blew me away. We were sitting on my Mom's porch eating ice cream (we usually sit on the swing in the backyard but it was raining so we chose the enclosed porch instead.) Michelle was smiling and waving at everyone who passed by walking their dogs. Most of them smiled and waved back. Michelle declared: "Mama, I'm nice to everyone because I want to go to Heaven." "That's wonderful sweetheart," I said, knowing that I don't quite live up to that most of the time. "I'm even nice to the people that are mean to me." (Kids at school that are mean with her.) "That's amazing, baby." Just then a pleasant looking guy walked by with a massive grey dog (possibly a wolfhound?) and Michelle enthusiastically waved and smiled again. He smiled ear to ear and waved back. "You just have to be careful sweetheart," I warned her. "You really shouldn't be too friendly with strangers. When it's someone you don't know you should avoid them because they could be bad." "But Mama," she reasoned, "If I'm still nice to them, maybe they could change?" I got a tear in my eye. It was so sweet, my little angel, wanting to believe the best in people, but I felt I had to warn her.
"That's sweet baby, but no. You don't take the risk. A bad guy could hurt you. You just stay away from them." I thought back to some of the "bad guys" that I had loved and thought I could change/save. Her father had been one of them. I wouldn't go near a guy like that now. Too much at stake. I wouldn't endanger Michelle and allow a bad guy into her life. However I'm still very glad I fell for a bad boy and got an angel out of it. I'm grateful for that. But no more bad boys for me!

So, be kind to others as much as you can. Something to aspire to. But also be kind to yourself and don't endanger yourself. You have to set boundaries. I am glad that Michelle is kind-hearted and loves people but I also want to protect her, to teach her that you can't be completely open-hearted and trusting, that in the interest of self-preservation you have to be at least somewhat cautious and you have to stand up for yourself (and others) if someone is unkind.

If only everyone could be kind. We could live in peace and harmony and love each other, recognizing we are all part of the same (very large and dysfunctional!) family -- humanKIND. What a beautiful world it would be...But as they say "BE the change you want to see in the world." So I could start by not yelling/swearing at other drivers. To be more forgiving, patient, courteous. Even when I'm not wearing my "Be kind" shirt...