Thursday, August 31, 2017

High Five!

At least I know it's not just me. At work everyone was talking about how fast the Summer had gone. On the radio someone remarked that it's like we skipped straight from June to August. Where did July go?! It blows my mind that it's August already (and by the time I finish this post it may even be September! I can't even...) Of course even the past five years have flown by! My little girl turned 5 years old. It's crazy! My baby is FIVE?!

This is a post about June and July and I swear they were over in under a minute. It's like someone has their finger on the fast forward button... Time is speeding up. It goes by more quickly every year. Maybe it's not our imagination. Maybe time really IS speeding up! Maybe the Earth is spinning just a little bit faster. Or maybe it's because we're just so busy, constantly spinning ourselves and we feel like we can never keep up. When I was a kid I remember when a lazy Summer day felt like it lasted forever. I miss that. But it's different when you're a kid. No responsibilities. All the time in the world to relax, daydream, play... Maybe I'll win a lottery and get to feel that way again! But for now I'm pretty frazzled!

I love Michelle's artwork and I'm touched when she makes me cards/love notes for no particular occasion. One day she gave me this card and it blew me away when I read what she said inside: "When there is an empty feeling inside me you make me happier. You brighten up the whole world and you brighten up me and that's what makes me me." (I corrected the spelling but the words were her own. I thought it was pretty deep from a FOUR YEAR OLD! So sweet. It brought tears to my eyes. Michelle brightens up my world too!)

My little butterfly! Yes one day she just randomly decided she wanted to dress up like a butterfly -- because why not?! The wings we picked up at the gift shop on one of our many trips to the Butterfly Conservatory. The dress is a Mariposa Barbie Fairy outfit. And Michelle added the Princess tiara.

Michelle has a vivid imagination and is always role playing that she's someone or other. She usually includes me in her game as well. Often we'll be characters from her fave movies (Poppy and Branch from "Trolls" etc) or she'll pretend to be a Princess, Fairy, butterfly, or all three! She loves to dance around, singing her own made up songs. She expects me to watch her and applaud. If I'm in the middle of housework etc, she'll take a moment to go "Ahem!" after her performance if I didn't applaud automatically. She definitely loves being the center of attention and as an only child she gets to be!

A family portrait of my girls and me. It doesn't always happen. And we're all looking/smiling! Sort of. Michelle has a silly, mischievous grin. Even Ali is looking at the camera. She doesn't always join us for a picture, even with coaxing.

There's no place like home and I'm always happy and relieved to be back home with my girls, especially after being out of town for days working etc.

Grandma and Grandpa's house is our second home and we're there quite often these days. One of our favourite things in the nice weather is sitting on the swing in the backyard and having ice cream. It's one of our summer rituals. I like to relax on the swing for a bit before work on nightshift or after work on dayshift. It is a treat just to take a breather for a bit. And ice cream is ALWAYS a treat!

Michelle loves running around and playing in Grandma's big backyard. I love this picture with the sun behind her making her hair glow gold.

I play ball and hide and seek with her but sometimes I'm so exhausted I just sit and watch her while she runs around. Her energy is boundless. I don't think I EVER had that much energy! Not even as a child. I'm glad when Michelle runs around and gets it out of her system so that she'll settle down and sleep well at night. (It doesn't always work but it's worth a shot! Sometimes nothing will settle her down. She's like a force of nature, an endless ball of energy and enthusiasm. I get tired just looking at her!)

Running around the yard apparently wasn't sufficient to wear her out that day. Michelle then wanted to go to the park. I was exhausted and just wanted to relax on the backyard swing but I didn't want to disappoint her so I dragged myself to the park (pulling her in the wagon. Which is even more exhausting for me!)

It was worth it. Michelle was thrilled. This is a great shot with her smiling and swinging, the sunshine in her hair.) She got up pretty high. I always have to give her a starting push but then she keeps herself going pretty well. "I'm flying Mama!"

It's safe to say that Michelle and I are girly girls. We both love dressing up and there always seems to be a special occasion to dress up for. In June it was Shannon and Reggie's birthday. Michelle was psyched. She loves visiting with her cousins at Auntie May's anyway and a big family party with the whole gang is even better!

We dropped by Grandma's house first and took Grandma shopping before heading over for the party. This is a selfie on the porch.

Selfie: Trying on dresses with my girl! Michelle loves shopping almost as much as I do. It's fun having a buddy to shop with now. It's quite different from when she was a baby and I had to worry about her screaming in the stroller so I had to run around and grab what I needed before she had a meltdown. It's much easier now. Michelle seems so grown up in so many ways. Sometimes it's like she's a teenager already! I can't believe the expressions she comes up with: she'll roll her eyes and say "Tell me about it!" or "Oh COME ON!"

We went in the change room with several dresses for each of us. Michelle lets me know which outfits work -- "That looks FABULOUS Mama!" and which ones don't -- "Maybe not THAT one Mama..." And she LOVES trying dresses on herself. She pretty much loved all of them. I can't resist spoiling her. It's hard to say no to my little doll. Especially when it's on sale! #WinnersFabFind!

At Auntie May's for the big double birthday party! It still blows my mind that Shannon and Reggie share the SAME BIRTHDAY ten years apart! What are the odds?! Life is just strange that way. I don't think the kids lose anything by sharing a birthday. They still get to have separate parties with their friends and then the big combined party with the family.

Michelle always likes to bring a stuffie buddy with her everywhere (in the car, to school, wherever) but she keeps changing her mind which one is her favourite stuffie. At this point it was her colourful (pink, purple and turquoise) penguin from Grandma. Other times it's a stuffed cat/bear/whatever one she randomly chooses that day/week. Unfortunately she insists on holding them in photos as well... Sometimes even right in front of her face!

It's always fun playing with the photo filters on Shannon's i-phone. This one was kind of bizarre but suited Michelle -- a crown made of mini-Michelle's -- perfect for my little Princess! I wasn't that crazy about it on me. It only allows one selfie princess at a time.

Michelle got a kick out of seeing tons of tiny Michelles shaped into a crown. I look hideous here. I guess I was in the middle of trying to say something but it just winds up looking like a sneer or something. I should have tried to crop me out of it entirely but I LOVE it of Michelle! The filter seems to add a little makeup to the face as well. Michelle looks quite glamorous!
"Mama I look GORGEOUS!"
Laughing "Yes you do, baby!"

I always like to get pictures outside in natural light when it's possible though obviously the sun was a little too bright for Michelle here and she's almost squinting.

May has such a lovely garden in the backyard it makes a great backdrop for photos. We should have turned a different way so there wouldn't be a glare. We managed another pose where we're not squinting. I prefer not to wear sunglasses in photos if it can be avoided, especially when we're all dressed up. As you can see, she's still got her penguin in her arms...
"Can we get a photo WITHOUT the penguin, Michelle?"
"Ok then..."

Michelle had a ball playing with her cousin and cousins-in-law in the playroom in the basement. And yes she still had her penguin with her.

The kids were playing nicely and I was relieved not to hear any screaming. Sometimes I almost forgot about them for a few minutes but whenever I went to check they were so good. It was surprising because usually when you have a group of kids running amok at least one of them is guaranteed to get hurt. Half the time it's Michelle but we got lucky that day.
Getting a group shot of just our family (the Pincivero clan) is challenging enough. When my brother in law's family is there as well, it's a REALLY large group and nearly impossible to get everyone looking and smiling! I make the effort though because I think it's cool to have a photo of the whole group. Even if most of them are rolling their eyes at me and grumbling about having to go pose for the photo. I tell them they don't have a choice so indulge me and get it over with!

I absolutely love this photo of Shannon and Reggie! Even though Shannon looks a little weary she looks SO BEAUTIFUL and Reggie looks adorable. It's that whole party-winding-down, post-cake, it's been a-fun-day-but-a-long-day feeling. Reggie may pester Shannon now and then (as little brothers tend to do!) but you can feel the love between them. They are quite different considering they were born the same day. Reggie is full of energy and outgoing. Shannon is more quiet and reserved. Then again the age difference and boy vs girl probably accounts for that as well.

Another Princess shot of Michelle from Shannon's i-phone app filter thing, with a diamond tiara, eyeliner and lipgoss!

I love this picture of Michelle even though it's a little scary -- a glimpse of her as a teenager! She looks so grown up and glamorous!

Michelle was quite fond of  this photo of herself. I can just imagine what a Diva she will be as a teenager when she already loves dressing up/makeup/posing for selfies! She'll be unstoppable. 4 years going on 14...

It's typical that she gets to be the Princess and I am just her lowly servant! Again, the app only allows for ONE princess...

On a rainy day when we couldn't have our ice cream on the swing in the backyard, we settled for having ice cream cones on Grandma's porch...

I actually love thunderstorms and enjoy watching the rain from the enclosed porch. Michelle always waves and smiles at everyone who passes by but we didn't see too many people walking out in the rain.

I bought a box of cones and some Neopolitan ice cream to keep at Grandma's house for our visits. Grandma usually just has Maple Walnut or Dark Chocolate. We go through it pretty quickly once Summer hits! Something about Summer just makes me crave ice cream, burgers and hot dogs, potato salad and corn on the cob! Craving them all now as I type this!

Michelle was asking to go to the beach even in the middle of Winter, so now that the weather was actually warming up we were anxious to go.

"What do you want to do today?" I asked Michelle.
"Go to the BEACH!" she exclaimed.
"Me too!" I agreed.

We put on our swimsuits and sunscreen, packed up our towels and sand toys and made our first trip to Port Dover Beach. I told her the water would be way too cold (and likely polluted!) to go in but we could play in the sand at least...

We almost had the beach to ourselves. There were just a few other stragglers. It was so nice to see the palm trees again! We planted ourselves right underneath one. It's one of my favourite places sitting on the beach, listening to the water and the seagulls, watching Michelle play. There's nothing like it.

Michelle loves the beach too -- running around, playing in the sand, chasing (and feeding) the seagulls. She wanted to go in the water until she saw how cold it was.

Building a sandcastle is a little easier with our castle pails. I help Michelle build the castle and then she likes to stomp on it. We were both collecting pails of water. I told her to be careful not to get water in her face (the water is questionable at the best of times and at the start of the season after a lot of storms you just don't know.) At one point she was carrying a pail of water and splashed me in the eye. It wasn't ideal. There were some people brave (crazy?) enough to swim in the water and they survived.

I told Michelle to stay at the edge of the water and not go too deep. With the wind the waves were pretty high and at one point she got splashed.

There's never a time we go to the beach that Michelle doesn't get soaked and COVERED head to toe in sand! (Which is later in the car, at home, everywhere she goes.) I've just gotten used to having sand everywhere and it's OK because it reminds me of the beach. One day I really should vacuum out my car though. I have enough sand on the floor to MAKE a beach and that's from last Summer! Michelle loves playing in the sand and I thought about getting her a little sandbox for the yard but it's just as easy to take her to the park or the beach to play in the Summer.

Michelle is very social (the opposite of me!) Everywhere we go she talks to other kids and makes friends.

Michelle is always asking me "Can I go talk to that girl/boy/lady/dog?" And I'm always somewhat reluctant.
"Do you have to? It makes me uncomfortable..."
It's in her nature to be outgoing but I'm more shy and reserved so I sort of cringe and feel awkward when she wants to introduce herself to strangers. Sometimes it's not appropriate (when they're much older than her etc.) I wouldn't do it in a million years! Michelle is fearless! Usually kids are very receptive to her and she makes another new friend!

This photo of Michelle chasing seagulls on the beach GIVES ME LIFE! People can make fun of me all they want for taking too many photos but I will never apologize for my obsession with capturing the moment. To me, this is magic. To able to freeze the action -- to have forever this instant where Michelle is running, her hair in the wind and seagulls in flight -- is awesome. It is why I'm a photoholic. And I will never stop taking pictures. To me it's as natural as breathing. It's an imperative. It's a celebration of life. To capture the magic and the beauty of these moments is EVERYTHING!

Nothing knocks you out more than a day at the beach, playing in the sun. Many times when we're heading home, Michelle will fall asleep.

I have recurring back and shoulder injuries that are constantly aggravated -- sometimes by randomly twisting a certain way (even sneezing etc!) bending over or lifting something. Probably the worst is lifting Michelle out of the car but I keep doing it when she falls asleep. So on the way home from the beach Michelle fell asleep and (dope that I am!) I carried her in the house. As soon as I picked her up I felt the twinge in my back and the pain got worse as the night wore on. Dang. All because I didn't have the heart to disturb her. The sacrifices I make for my girl! I am so OWNED.

The next day my back was worse, on top of that my eyes were red. Whether it was just a coincidence or whether it was getting splashed in the eye with lake water I wasn't sure but I seemed to have an eye infection. Awesome. Between my sore back and sore eyes, I wasn't in any shape to go anywhere. I should have been staying home but I'd promised Michelle that we'd go to "Donkey Day" and beast of burden that I am, I muddled through, for her sake. The pain of dealing with her pouty lip and disappointment would be worse than my physical discomfort.

Michelle was so excited I didn't want to disappoint her. When there are so many weekends where I work I like to do fun things with her on the weekends where I'm off. But between long hours at work and taking Michelle out I felt completely drained, broken and falling apart! Never getting any sleep and being under constant stress doesn't help either! I needed a massage and a good ten hours' sleep but it didn't seem like I had a snowball's chance in Hell of getting either! LOL

On the wagon ride at the Donkey Sanctuary! I'd never been there before. They're not generally open to the public but once a year they have a special Donkey Day where you can go and visit them and they have fun things for the kids. I'd made the mistake of promising Michelle I'd take her and I never like to break a promise even though if I had any sense I would have said "Look. I know I told you we'd go but now Mama is in pain and beyond exhausted and needs to rest." I just took some painkillers and hoped for the best...

I did manage to enjoy myself despite my discomfort. The truth is I will endure just about anything in the name of photography! Give me a photo op and I am SO THERE! Michelle didn't even complain about all the pictures because she knew she owed me big time!
"Poor Mama is feeling terrible and I still dragged my a$$ to Donkey Day! Who's a hero?!" And I have the photographic evidence to prove it.
Michelle wearing her cat ears (or they could be donkey ears!) and standing on the fence near one of the donkeys. We were a little disappointed that you weren't allowed to ride or feed the donkeys but you could see them, pet them and brush them.

They were adorable. Poor donkeys don't always get respect. They're often the subject of ridicule. I feel for them. Eeyore is my spirit animal. Yes I can fully relate to the weary donkey on Winnie the Pooh with the rain cloud over his head and his tail always falling off.

The Donkey Sanctuary is a refuge for donkeys (and mules) that were neglected or abused and couldn't be cared for by their owners anymore. We loved them!

Trying to take a selfie with my old fashioned camera is a bit of a challenge and there isn't always a place to set the camera for the self-timer. (Oh to have a flat surface nearby every photo op! LOL #PhotoholicProblems!)

A kind stranger offered to take our picture. I was hoping to get the donkey in the background looking as well but I guess that was too much to hope for! (You just see his ears and his back behind us.)

Everywhere we go Michelle manages to find stuffies and things that she wants. I wound up getting her a couple of little stuffed donkeys at a gift booth. Yes she's a tad spoiled! If something only costs a couple of bucks how can I say no?!

Michelle wanted her face painted. The girl was about to go on her break but kindly agreed to paint Michelle's face first. She wanted a cat nose and whiskers to go with her ears. I can't resist an adorable photo op so I was all for it!

Michelle spotted the bouncy castle and was anxious to head there. I'll never forget her first time in one, a Sponge Bob bouncy castle with Reggie at a Canada Day celebration when she was a toddler. We waited in line for half an hour only to have Michelle want to get out after 30 seconds because she thought the fan noise was too loud. She's still not a fan of loud speakers, fans, dryers or toilets and covers her ears in public bathrooms. Ironically she can scream louder than just about everything. Her excited squeals must register at 194 decibels! (I'm being facetious. That is actually the loudest sound possible -- literally the largest pressure variation an undistorted sound wave can have in Earth's atmosphere... But Michelle's scream is probably like, 193...)

Obviously Michelle outgrew her aversion to loud bouncy castle fans because she LOVES being in them now. Unfortunately they only let the kids stay in there a couple of minutes before kicking them out for the next batch of kids and you had to wait in line again each time. I let her go a few times but then my patience was wearing thin. Sitting on the grass wasn't much better than standing as far as my back pain went...

This was the worst idea ever! Kids can paint their hand and leave their handprint on the donkey and enter a contest to name her. Michelle made up the name "Silly" for the silly multi-coloured donkey. The problem was they didn't have soap and water nearby. All they had was a bucket of (very dirty paint-filled!) water and some paper towels. We could not get the blue paint off Michelle's hand and it was quite frustrating. At least it wasn't red paint (or she definitely would have been caught red-handed. Lame pun, I know!)

Michelle knew she had no choice but to pose for pictures (because after all she dragged me out with my bad back and bad eyes to go to Donkey Day for Pete's sake!) but she did start losing patience with my photo obsession.

Michelle clearly did NOT want to pose for this photo as evidenced by her surly expression. However, even with her frowning, I LOVE this picture! It makes me laugh. I love that the camera is low (I set it on my purse on the ground) and we're sitting on a hill with the barn behind us. It's just a funny perspective and reminds me of like a country band album cover or something.

Michelle was NOT amused. I think part of it was also that she wanted to spend the whole day in the bouncy castle but I insisted we walk around and actually SEE THE DONKEYS! And get photos of course.

Another photo op and I was all over it!
"Oh look Michelle! A fire truck! Isn't that cool?!"

Michelle got to sit in the driver's seat. She was excited about that. One of the firefighters was kind enough to snap a photo for us. Michelle even got a little souvenir firefighter's hat! Of course then Mama was stuck carrying it the rest of the day.

I did it! I actually managed to get a selfie with Michelle AND the donkey looking! Michelle is even smiling!

It is a little awkward and I don't like selfies because to me it's just too close (I need a selfie stick but I don't think they work with old cameras like mine!) and I look hideous but it's cute of Michelle and the donkey so I'm happy.

A passerby suggested taking a photo for us so I was grateful then it would be a more normal distance.

"Make sure you get the donkey in please!" I asked like a nerd, because, you know, it's all about the donkeys!
Grateful when I can rely on the kindness of strangers... (in my best Blanche DuBois southern accent...)

The photo turned out great! Michelle looks adorable here petting a donkey. I don't even mind me here though my face is a little red (at least it matches my eyes!)

The donkey reminds me of Eeyore. I guess they all have that somewhat gloomy downcast expression. You do occasionally catch them smiling/laughing but I guess it's not often. "Hee Haw!"

Michelle wanted to feed the donkey grass but the staff told her it's not allowed. They don't look vicious but I guess they do have strong teeth and might accidentally bite you?

People around us were debating whether this was a horse or a donkey. I was pretty sure he was somewhere in between. I love Michelle's smile here as she brushes the mule. A woman nearby was worried about Michelle getting hurt falling off the fence but I would have caught her. I trusted her to hold on. Plus it made for really cute photos -- PRIORITIES! LOL

The donkeys and mules were so adorable I almost forgot about the pain in my back. Extra Strength Tylenols may have helped too...

Of course I couldn't resist posing in front of some pretty flowers as well.

Michelle and I were almost dressed in matching tops -- both in navy with a floral pattern. Yes, nerd that I am I like to dress us alike whenever possible (as I've mentioned before.) If I could find matching dresses in both sizes I'd be ALL OVER THAT! In these pictures Michelle's cat whiskers are starting to look more like a mustache but she's still cute!
"Mama do we HAVE TO get another picture?"
"Can we go back to the bouncy castle after?"
So we both win.

Sometimes I set up the self timer and it's a total dud -- it comes out blurry or we have a stupid expression or God knows what. You have to just go on faith because you're not behind the camera to see what it's actually taking. But sometimes you get lucky.

I absolutely LOVE this picture! The sunlight was coming through the barn boards in a soft glow -- Such a flattering light. You can't even tell how red my eyes were. You can't tell that I was too hot and in pain. You can't tell that I would have rather been home in bed. I love this photo because it's why I take so many photos: The photo is your better life. No matter what may really be going on inside or behind the scenes, you smile and the camera clicks and life seems perfect for a moment.

Michelle looks so sweet here too. This photo made my day although I did love the whole day and was grateful for the experience with Michelle. Even though I would pay for it later... (My back pain and eyes got worse.)

The wagon ride back to the car. It was an exhausting day with a lot of walking. I was REALLY going to need a rest after this.
"Thank you for taking me to Donkey Day Mama!" Michelle exclaimed, "I LOVED IT!"
I'm glad that my girl appreciates the things I do for her. Sometimes being a single Mom feels like the weight of the world on your back and you do so much and you don't even know if it's just taken for granted. But she knew it was hard on me and she was thankful I made the effort.

We even made a pit stop while traveling on 6 to see the dinosaurs (because really, how do you drive by a bunch of dinosaurs and NOT STOP?! If you're a photoholic it's imperative.)

So we got a selfie with a dinosaur (because, you just HAVE TO!) I was happy to find a flat surface to set the camera on. It's actually a patio furniture store so there are a plethora of items to sit a camera on.

It was worth stopping for photos even though we wound up getting stuck in rush hour (which should be called SLOW HOUR because you don't move!) traffic on the way home. Michelle fell asleep. I unfortunately didn't have that option.

So Michelle was asleep in the car and because I'm a complete idiot, I carried her into the house AGAIN. I just didn't have the heart to wake her. And I figured my back already hurt. It can't be MORE hurt right? (Just like when you're already late you can't be MORE late, right?) Wrong. My back was not impressed. I messed it up even worse.

That night I couldn't sleep. I got up and cried. I was beyond exhausted and overwhelmed. I needed a break but there never was a break. (Which admittedly was partly my own fault!) Meanwhile I was supposed to work a 16 hour nightshift the next day. I looked in the mirror. My red eyes were even MORE red. I looked like a monster. And my back was killing and the Tylenol wasn't helping. When you're exhausted and you can't sleep because you're in pain it's just a whole world of suck. Sleep deprivation can drive you crazy.

The next day Michelle felt bad for me. She made me a Get Well card. "I hope you get betr." I love her creative spellings.

After dropping her off at school I had been planning to try to get a couple of hours' sleep before going to work but I decided I really should see a doctor. I didn't want to go too far so I went to a walk in clinic in town. I called first. I'd never been before so I wanted to check the hours. They didn't open until 10 a.m. so I showed up at 10 and was annoyed to find a long line up inside. What the?! Apparently the clinic was closed until 10 but the ADJOINING PHARMACY opened at 9 a.m. Lovely. So I waited in a LONG line up of interesting characters. Some of which may or may not have just gotten out of prison. I seemed to be the only one there who wasn't covered in piercings and tattoos. "These are the people in your neighbourhood..." But I had red monster eyes and was wincing in back pain so who am I to judge? No one.

One woman was a dead ringer for Mama June but had a voice like James Earl Jones. Only huskier. It was kind of unnerving. Every time I heard her speak I couldn't help but stare. I couldn't believe that voice was coming out of that person. It just didn't go. Luckily  I had my sunglasses on to hide my hideous freak red eyes so she couldn't see me looking. Another woman in the corner looked like a female version of Ozzy Osborne, only a bit rougher. Then there was the frazzled looking woman with her screaming, coughing toddler; the dirty looking cellphone loud talker guy in shorts; the greasy dude with questionable open sores... I sat there nervously, afraid I might actually wind up leaving with something worse than I came in with. I just took it all in behind my dark shades. I thought of the expression "A sight for sore eyes." These sights were making my sore eyes more sore. My crying fit and lack of sleep had NOT done my eye infection any favours. I'm sure this motley crew of characters would have jumped when they saw me if I took off my glasses. We were all a little rough in our own way. This could be why we were at the doctor.

Finally it was my turn. I told the doctor, Dr. Mohammed Mohammedi or something (you may think I'm exaggerating but his first name was a derivation of his last name. I'm not sure why his parents did that but I've seen it before. Like Bryan Bryenson or Wayne Wayne. I mean why? but I'm rambling and this blog is long enough without parenthetical ramblings), that I had sore red eyes and a bad back, was on the verge of a nervous breakdown etc. I swear he flinched when I took my sunglasses off. He gave me prescriptions for my troubles and told me to get some rest.
"Well, I'm supposed to be working a 16 hour nightshift tonight." I explained
He looked at me like I had 6 heads and at that point, maybe I did.

He suggested that wasn't the best idea. Technically I didn't need a doctor's note but I'd just waited an hour in a line up at this Gong Show of a walk-in clinic and figured I might as well have evidence that I wasn't just having a grand old time at home resting!

When I read the note, I laughed my head off, even through the pain. I kept it as a souvenir. And it was worth enduring the office, the pain, the red eyes and everything. Here's a photo of the note:

Maybe something was lost in translation? I guess he was trying to say that I was unfit for work and should take a couple of days off? Or maybe this is just the form letter he gives everyone and he leans toward hyperbole? Putting that I was COMPLETELY DISABLED but would have a miraculous recovery two days later was beyond absurd but was in keeping with the rest of the whole surreal experience. I kept the note in my purse to cheer me up anytime I felt down. The next time I visited at my sister's I showed her the note (because I don't think she believed me) and she laughed her head off. My niece even took a picture of it with her i-phone. You can't make this stuff up! I showed the note to my boss the next time I was in work and he didn't even crack a smile. He just said I only needed a note if I was off more than 2 days.

At least the eye drops eventually cleared up my eyes and the painkillers, massage chair and not straining myself helped my back. I told Michelle no more carrying her in from the car (I'd have to wake her up if she fell asleep) or piggybacks for a long time until I had a chance to heal.

Shiftwork is tough on your system, period. Working 12 hour shifts and commuting 2-4 hours on top of it, usually on little to no sleep, is KILLER! It's no wonder I walk around like a zombie most of the time feeling drained and stressed.

After a crazy busy weekend working I was beyond exhausted. I had to work Father's Day but I was going to make an appearance at my sister's place after work to celebrate with the family. I looked and felt like a giant bag of Hell. 

Of course Michelle doesn't have a dad so for her sake I call it "Grampa Day" and she made a card for Grampa. Her drawing of Grampa looks exactly like him!

My brothers weren't able to make it but May held the Father's Day celebration at her house and I was happy that dinner was delayed so I arrived just in time! (Even after a hellish drive on the highway and the exit I needed to take being closed off for construction -- SO ANNOYING! I hate when that happens! I swear there seems to be construction EVERYWHERE these days and it never seems to be done! They just close roads indefinitely and it's never finished! But I digress...) Shane was kind enough to barbecue a delicious dinner, even on his day as a dad. Shane has a passion for cooking and loves doing it. That makes one of us!

I always get the group shots. This time I tried to get one with the Father's Day cookie cake and Cuties, their cat jumped in front of the camera right as the flash went. It was too funny not to include this cat photobomb picture! Hilarious! I just wish Michelle hadn't been blocked because otherwise everyone has such a nice natural smile (laugh!) in this picture. Even my dad, who rarely cracks a smile for photos (he usually looks miserable and/or bewildered in pictures lately).

The stormy sky was INCREDIBLE -- gold and orange and pink over grey -- so we had to snap a couple of pictures of it. Michelle and I even posed with it.

I like this photo of me because it's distant enough away that you can't see how tired and weary I look after a long day working on no sleep. Some of the photos of me where it was closer up were absolutely hideous so I didn't include them here! LOL "You look OK from afar but far from OK!"

It's tough when you have to work unusual hours and days, even on holidays sometimes but I try to always make some time for family. Michelle enjoyed her day at Auntie May's even without me there but she was very happy to see me in the evening when I arrived.

This Kitty filter is TOO CUTE FOR WORDS! I can't take it! The massive doe eyes, the nose, the fluffy ears! AWWWW! Michelle made a perfect little kitten. I wish I could get a stuffed kitten that looked exactly like her in this photo!

My mother was adorable as a cat too. And May and Shannon. Everyone looked pretty freaking adorbs as cats. Because how could you not?

Then again my feline face wasn't quite as cute as the rest. In my defense I was pulling a face in one shot and even when I wasn't making a face, I looked pretty weary having just come off a 14 hour day on no sleep. I wasn't exactly bright eyed and busy tailed. I was more like a scraggly alley cat that's been left outside in the rain for three nights.

And then there's my Mom as a butterfly. There's something vaguely frightening about this image. Like a bizarre drug induced nightmare or a children's show from the 70s and yet, somehow it suits her. Somehow my Mom's face as this warped little pink and purple butterfly FITS. My sister agreed with me. My Mom just laughed and got a kick out of it. It was a video too. Her little dance made it even creepier. I guess these are the sorts of things they post as ephemeral videos on Snapchat (which is where these filters come from.) I'm vehemently against self-destructing videos however. To me, you hold on to the moment. I like PHOTOS that I can KEEP FOREVER. Not VIDEOS that FADE AWAY forever and they're gone. But I know a lot of people like it. I'm just not very "modern."  I don't have these new-fangled (yes I said new-fangled. I am officially from the 1940s!) gadgets and websites.

I love this photo because it sums up how I feel most of the time -- pretty mixed up!

My eyes continued to be a problem. Just when I thought they were clearing up they became even more red again and the drops weren't helping. I went to my family doctor this time rather than a walk in. I didn't wear makeup because I was trying to give my eyes a break. I kept my sunglasses on. When I went into her office she asked if I minded if she had a student sit in with us. I said I didn't mind.

I told her about ongoing issues with my eyes. I admitted that I had continued to wear makeup whenever I was going out. She asked if I thought the makeup made my eyes less red. "No," I replied, "the makeup makes ME less UGLY!" She laughed and said "You're not ugly." "Thank you but yes I am." I told her how I was picked on as a pre-teen and called ugly but years later people were asking if I was a model -- not because I'd transformed into a swan, just an ugly duck with eyeliner. Without makeup I just always feel like that awkward 12 year old ugly duckling. (Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline. In my case, it's definitely Maybelline!) Needless to say I don't often (read EVER!) leave the house without makeup unless it's absolutely necessary. And then I try to keep my shades on to hide my naked eyes. To prevent screaming and panic in the streets...

Ironically it seems makeup was my main problem. The eyeliner, it turns out, was CAUSING my infections. Apparently there are two kinds of pink eye (or conjunctivitis) -- a bacterial infection and an allergic reaction -- either way your eyes become red and inflamed for 10 days. It hadn't occurred to me that my blue eyeliner was causing it. I'd been wearing blue eyeliner for about a year but when my old one ran out I tried a different brand without realizing I'd be allergic to it. I threw it out after the infection (I replaced all my makeup as you're supposed to do) but then bought another one and got another infection. Turns out I'm allergic to something in the blue dye (and since I found out the blue colouring is made from CRUSHED BEETLES?! GROSS! It's not so appealing anymore anyway. Just note if you happen to see the words cochineal or carmine in the ingredients...THERE ARE BEETLES IN IT so decide whether you want beetlejuice -- literally! -- on your eyes, in your mouth or wherever.) So no more blue for me. Just plain old black. On top of the allergies, stress and lack of sleep weren't helping my eyes either. I was a sight with sore eyes.

And then, because the sore red eyes weren't enough, my ears were a little sore too and I had a ringing/buzzing noise in them so I was guessing I had an ear infection or something and went to the doctor to have her check out my ears. Turns out my ears were fine I was just a combination of super stressed/overtired/possibly dehydrated/having a breakdown etc.

She also checked out Michelle's ears because she'd complained of them hurting one day but they were fine too. Michelle mostly just wanted to see the doctor to get a lollipop afterwards like she did last time (and she did get one!)
"Mama I like the doctor!"

Since anti-biotics wouldn't help with allergic conjunctivitis, I was just sort of stuck with it for a week or so and wound up experimenting with home remedies -- green tea bags, turmeric, hot water compresses and avoiding makeup as much as possible etc.

Eventually (whether through my efforts or just on their own) my eyes became less red. And no more blue eyeliner for me! I loved the look of it but it's not worth the risk of sore red eyes again. And I don't even remember what the brand was that I WASN'T allergic to. It might have been Avon. I'm just not going to risk it anymore. No more blue for me. I also prefer to keep my face INSECT FREE! No "carmine" or "carminic acid" if I can avoid it!

I always want to make Michelle happy, even when it's hard on me. A perfect example is the Teddy Bear Picnic. The school was having a "Teddy Bear Picnic" where parents could come (teddy bears in tow!) and share a picnic lunch with their kids. Cute, right? Except I was on nightshift. So I basically had to work 12 hours on almost no sleep then drive 2 hours to get Michelle to school then head back home to get 1 hour of sleep and get up to attend her school for the picnic. Not so cute. I was feeling (and looking pretty rough!) It was going to kill me but I couldn't disappoint her. I didn't want to be the one Mom who wasn't there so she sat alone while everyone else had their parents. 

I already felt bad I had to miss being a chaperone at the Butterfly Conservatory class trip (even the volunteer space was limited and I'd already been to other class trips so I couldn't have gone anyway and plus I'd taken her to the Butterfly Conservatory NUMEROUS times so it wouldn't hurt for her to go this once without me.) Anyway, feeling like a zombie, trooper that I am I packed up some bears and a picnic lunch and headed to the school. Then of course it rained. Just to make the experience that much more difficult. So there we all were, parents, kids and bears cramped like sardines on the floor in the classroom. We had more bears than anyone. I narrowed it down to 5 (of the approximately 200 bears we possess.) Even though it was far from an ideal situation, I still couldn't resist getting some photos of the experience.

Grilled cheese sandwiches, cheese and crackers and cupcakes. Hardly a gourmet lunch but it was Michelle's choice. I was cursing myself for bringing cupcakes. They were so messy. I was trying to limit the amount of chocolate crumbs everywhere. It was sort of a losing battle. I barely had room to sit cross-legged without bumping into people. It was kind of crazy. In my sleep deprived state my patience was wearing pretty thin and I was miserable but I forced a smile for Michelle's sake. It wasn't quite the Hallmark moment I'd pictured (sitting in the sunlight on a blanket snapping pictures of my girl smiling with her bears) but I got through it. I'm a good sport when I need to be. The really hard part was that I had to drive another two hours after and work another 12 hour nightshift that night on about 1 hour's sleep and I was ready to drop. It almost made me cry just thinking about it.

The sun did come out after the picnic was over (of course!) I got another snap of us (and a couple of the bears!) outside. The grass still would have been too wet to set up but it would have been much nicer to have the picnic outside. Of course it's Murphy's Law if something can go wrong, it will.

I would have given anything to go back to bed and catch at least an hour's sleep but I had to load up the car and head to drop off Michelle at Grandma's and head to work. I get tired just thinking about it!

Michelle LOVES puddles. She always wants to jump in them. Sometimes I actually let her. If Michelle is wearing her boots and we're on our way home and I know that she can change anyway, I let her splash away. (When we're on our way out somewhere or she's not dressed for it, the answer is no. And then she pouts. I have to draw the line somewhere.)

Michelle was thrilled to jump in the huge puddle outside of the school. Several other kids gathered. They even built a bridge. Some kids weren't wearing boots and weren't allowed to dive in. She was glad to be one of the lucky ones. She was soaked when we got home. I also discovered that her pink Minnie Mouse rain boots were losing their soles so we had to go shopping for new rain boots.

Michelle loves the indoor playground so she was psyched to go to a birthday party for one of her classmates/friends. It was in the morning so we were still able to make plans for the afternoon -- going to Ribfest with Auntie May! It was going to be a fun-filled (but thoroughly exhausting day). Luckily Michelle's energy never seems to run out.

Michelle got pretty good at swinging on the rope at the playground. She used to fall right away but with practice (and developing arm strength) she was able to swing all the way across.

I set the timer so I could get in at least one shot to show that I was there. Other parents just dropped off their kids and left but I stuck around to watch Michelle play, take photos etc. I told her friend's mom I would send her the pictures as well. Some people don't bother to take pictures at all (even of their own kids). Of course I'm a photoholic so I can't resist!

Michelle had a ball running around and playing with her friends, on top of having Mermaid cupcakes (they were adorable and delicious!) in the party room.

I was planning to have Michelle's party at home but I could understand why people plan parties out somewhere (to not have that many kids running amok in their house!) I was getting nervous about it. I'd handed out the invitations early because I wanted to catch parents before school ended. A few RSVPd right away that they were coming. Some I never heard from period. I don't get that! How do you not RSVP that you can't make it?! (I knew with it being Summer that a lot of people would have plans but I gave a month's notice so they could have let me know.)

I loved this rainbow dress when I saw it. SO COLOURFUL! Michelle has a LOT of dresses. She loves dressing up and I can't resist dressing her up for every occasion. Especially a party. She always refers to it as "going to the ball."

I love her smile here. She wanted to run and play most of the time and didn't want to pose for photos but once I had her cornered in the party room I didn't give her a choice.

I tried to get a group shot of all the kids but everyone started going different directions and it never happened. It's much harder to do when it's not your own family and you can't really order them around! I was going to have my hands full at Michelle's party! A couple of moms told me I was "very brave" to have a party at home. Brave or crazy. Jury's still out.

I LOVE this picture. It's just TOO FABULOUS! The outfit, the expression, the star glasses! Perfect! I laughed my head off at this.

When Michelle and one of her best friends from school tried on their glasses from their party loot bags it was so adorable I insisted on snapping a photo of them. I asked if I could get a smile and then they came up with this. Awesome! My girl is a Diva. No question! It's all about the flashy glasses! Elton John would be proud!

We left the party and we were off to Auntie May's to go to Ribfest. This would be the busiest (and most fun!) day ever! Michelle was THRILLED!

I wasn't even planning to get ribs (I wound up getting a pulled pork sandwich that was pretty delicious!) I was mostly there just for the rides and the photo ops! We headed to the Midway, got our tickets (which we went through in no time!) and went on the rides. I didn't know how Michelle would be. As a baby she got nervous on the carousel. But she's obviously outgrown that! She LOVED the rides. She wasn't nervous at all! Michelle and Reggie liked the dragon coaster best and wanted to ride it several times.

There were so many great action shots of the kids on the dragon rollercoaster. May and Shannon were snapping away as well. Shannon sent me some of the pictures from her i-phone. This is one of my favourites. They both look so happy. Michelle laughing her head off and Reggie smiling with his hands in the air.

I've always loved rollercoasters but it's been a while since I've been on one. In my 20s I used to get Season's Passes to Canada's Wonderland. My favourite ride was the bat. They probably have 10 new rollercoasters that I haven't tried. It's different now with Michelle. I would be limited to the kids' ones. I thought about going to Wonderland this year but decided against it because of the drive and the line-ups. Maybe when she's a little older and tall enough to go on the bigger coasters with me!

I loved the Ferris Wheel! The view was spectacular! Auntie May was a little nervous and gripping the pole but Michelle was fearless! She obviously has no fear of heights! She was smiling and laughing and loving every minute of it. I can see her riding the big coasters with me someday and maybe Drop Zone etc.

It's ironic that although in many ways I'm nervous/overly cautious etc I ABSOLUTELY LOVE rides, rollercoasters -- the adrenaline, the speed, the rush, the feeling of suspension when you're in the air and come down fast. Everyone is different. Some people are terrified of heights and won't go on rides (but they probably aren't afraid of insects like I am or have a social phobia like I do. Fight or flight is a basic instinct but we all have different triggers and/or thresholds for fear... With me it's a matter of context -- I like adrenaline when it's FUN. Not when it's not fun (like needles etc!)

And then we went in the Funhouse! I was psyched. Yes a fun house is fun, hence the name! Most importantly, Fun House mirrors seemed like a perfect photo op!

I love this picture of Michelle and I in the mirror because it looks like there are two of her (though I can't imagine how I'd survive if Michelle were TWINS! Dealing with just ONE of her is exhausting enough! LOL)

With Michelle's rainbow dress and the toys/Midway games and rides in the background it's just an explosion of colour! Other than my black and white top (which I love and which was a gift from May on my birthday!) If I'd had a matching rainbow dress however I would have worn it!

I wasn't a big fan of the concave mirror that made us look short and stout but I loved the convex mirror that elongated us and made our legs look long and thin! I'll take it!

Sometimes I think they have elongating mirrors (and flattering lighting) in dressing rooms to make the clothes look better. Occasionally I'll try things on and they look great in the store change room but then I'll go to put them on at home, look in a regular mirror and go "What the?! What WAS I thinking?!" That's false advertising!

Then again perhaps we should make it mandatory that they have elongating mirrors EVERYWHERE: In public washrooms, in homes and businesses. If elongating mirrors were all that existed then we'd all look better and could feel better about ourselves!

Shannon snapped this photo of Michelle and I going down a slide. I was happy with it because I'm always getting pictures of Michelle on slides at the park, the indoor playground etc, but I've NEVER had a photo of me on a slide with her. And sometimes I do go on the slide! I like to have fun too! I'm glad that Michelle is smiling here. I love the colourful carnival painting on the wall as well.

I can't stress enough how much I love photographs and how they capture the best moments. Looking at them I get to relive it all...

Michelle wanted to drive her very own bumper car. It was adorable. She did pretty well considering she doesn't drive. After the ride was over the operator (who was a bit of a jerk I might add. And by that I mean a complete a-hole!) said that she was too small to ride on her own and didn't meet the height requirement and blah blah blah. She was very close to the height requirement and I reminded him of the obvious that SHE'D ALREADY DONE IT HERSELF and did just fine and that the time to voice a concern would be BEFORE the ride begins not AFTER it's over. But he wouldn't listen to reason and I just walked away before I lost it on him. D-bag. It's a BUMPER CAR anyway, dude. Chillax!

The ferris wheel was my fave. We went several times. I was cursing myself for not having purchased the bigger package of tickets since I blew through the small roll in no time and it wound up costing me a fortune by the time all was said and done. I should have just gotten a day pass or wrist band or something. Initially I thought, OK maybe we'll go on a ride or two but we kept going back. It was so much fun. I hadn't been on a ride in a long time and I really missed it. I loved being up high and looking at everything below. I have a number of fears but heights is not one of them!

Michelle and Reggie kept wanting to go back on the dragon coaster. Everywhere we went they were asking "Can we got back to the dragon coaster?!"

Of course I couldn't blame them. I almost wished I could go on it too but it was just for kids plus I liked taking pictures more. I also didn't want to use up any more tickets than necessary.

Between Shannon and I we caught some really great action shots of Michelle and Reggie on the ride. They were obviously having a blast -- smiling, laughing, screaming, hands in the air. Good times. Yes I definitely miss going on rollercoasters.

I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this photo! The wind in their hair, smiles a mile wide, happy, free and fearless. And it was worth spending a million dollars on ride coupons/tickets to give the kids the time of their lives. Poor May had to get tickets for THREE of them so it was even worse for her. Sometimes we sat the rides out just to save tickets and let the kids have fun.

I didn't bother going on the carousel when everyone else went. May sat out our last trip on the Ferris Wheel and I went with the three kids.

Eventually we were ready to call it a day. It had been fun but exhausting.

And how do you not get a photo with a clown on stilts? You have to. No question. I love that the clown (who was rather androgynous and I'm not sure whether they were male or female...) made Michelle raise her hands in this photo as well.

I loved getting pictures of the Midway rides and games. Everything was so colourful. Michelle's rainbow dress really stood out as well. She got a few compliments on it. A random stranger also came up and gave her a stuffed puppy so she was happy about that. I was happy I didn't have to waste money on games to win her a stuffie. (I'm never much good at the games and probably wouldn't have won anything anyway.)

Clowns can be creepy sometimes -- Donald Trump, the clown from Stephen King's "It" etc. But this female clown appeared sweet and harmless so the kids got their faces painted and got balloons. Michelle wanted a heart and flowers on her face. Reggie wanted to be Pikachu from Pokemon (I think that's what it is anyway!) The clown wasn't sure how to draw that but Reggie had a hat to show her so she copied it. Michelle wanted to flower balloon and Reggie wanted a balloon hat. As if they weren't colourful enough! I was happy for more colourful photo ops.

I was proud of Halton Police for honouring Gay Pride month (in June) by painting a rainbow police logo on one of their cruisers! It was a cool way to show their support. Many organizations were showing their support by raising rainbow flags for June.

Michelle posed next to the colourful logo in her rainbow dress which was perfect! I hadn't really thought about it but dressing her in the rainbow dress was perfect for June #PrideMonth as well!

You just never know who you might run into! We stopped for ice cream and ran into Uncle Chris and Christina! They'd popped by to pick up some ribs. Unfortunately Chris bumped into Reggie and he lost his ice cream. It turned out to be fortuitous though because while we stood there waiting for Auntie May to return with a new ice cream for Reggie, a photographer from the newspaper, the Oakville Beaver, asked if he could take a photo of Michelle for the paper.
"Sure!" I joked, "Feel free to put it on the cover!"

He took about a hundred snaps of Michelle eating her ice cream. I could hear the camera going. (Being a photoholic I was in awe. I would LOVE to be a photographer and be paid to take photos!) I was hoping one would be really good and end up in the paper. Of course it wasn't up to the photographer which snaps they used.

Well it wasn't the cover (I was on the cover of the Guelph Tribune once when I helped set a Guinness World Record for the longest concert back in 2006 at Manhattans' bar in Guelph and it was one of the most exciting days of my life!) but Michelle did get her photo in the paper on the Ribfest page and it used her name. Michelle asked me "Am I famous now?!"
"Kind of!" I said.
She was so excited.
My dad delivers the paper so he was able to snag a couple of souvenir copies for me. It's such a cute paper. I was glad we were in the right place at the right time. It was the same when I got my photo taken. It wasn't even one of my slotted times to perform but one of the songwriters needed a bathroom break so I got up and played one of my songs, just as the photographer for the newspaper came in! It was a huge photo on the front page and it made my day/week/life! I'll never forget the feeling when I saw it on the newsstand!

Shopping with my girl and trying on pretty dresses is one of my most favourite things. Michelle loves it too. Unfortunately she usually loves the dresses and my sales resistance is pretty low especially when it comes to Michelle, so she ends up with more dresses (because a girly girl simply CAN'T have too many dresses! LOL)

I love that Michelle enjoys dressing up. I'd be a little disappointed if she refused to wear dresses. I went through a tomboy stage as a kid where I flat out refused to wear dresses but it didn't last long. These days comfort usually wins out but I do love to dress up now and then when the situation calls for it (for parties etc.)

After shopping we went for ice cream. Another one of my fave things (especially in the Summer!)

Another day, another pretty dress!

Michelle enjoys dressing up for school though I'm always a little worried she'll skin her knee. (As she often does and of course it's worse when she's in a dress and there's nothing covering her legs.)

She wanted to bring the new stuffed doggie she got from a nice lady at Ribfest who won it and didn't want it. She brought a stuffed animal to school EVERY SINGLE DAY since September. I don't know at what age she'll stop (or if the school will demand that she stop) but I'm going to let her do it as long as she wants. I'm glad that my girl is loving and affectionate and likes to have someone to hug at all times!

My happy girl running amok after school. We were both excited about the Summer weather and happy to be outside. She wanted to hang around outside the school for a while and I was happy to comply because I knew she wouldn't be there much longer and then she wouldn't see her friends over the Summer.

I did talk to a couple of parents outside the school who confirmed their kids would be at Michelle's birthday party in late July and I exchanged numbers with her best friend's Mom so that they could get together for a play date sometime. It seemed kind of surreal to me that school was almost over. I remember in January worrying how I was going to manage working full time and getting Michelle back and forth to school and Grandma's house. It hasn't been easy (EXHAUSTING 16 hour days that nearly killed me!) but I've survived.

Then Michelle wanted to go to the park afterwards. I told her she should change into pants first but she insisted on going in her dress. (She did have shorts on underneath.)

Michelle is proud of how well she can swing on her own though she always wants a starting push from me.

Michelle is so outgoing and friendly she literally makes a new friend everywhere we go! I'm sort of the opposite -- I tend to be more shy and reclusive and avoid talking to anyone unless they approach me. I'm glad that Michelle is an extrovert so she won't struggle the way I did as a child (and even through adulthood!) in social situations. I envy her confidence.

Michelle and her new little friend. She will just go up to anyone and talk to them. I have to remind her when it's an adult that it's not safe to talk to strangers.

I like watching Michelle play at the park. It gives me a few moments to just sit and relax while she plays. Most of the time there is so little time to myself.

Some days I'll drop her off at school, get home and mow the lawn, pull weeds, put away laundry, get groceries, grab a shower and try to get as much done as possible before I have to pick her up after school. Then I'll take her to the park, get home and make dinner, play with her, do laundry, get her bath ready, read her a story. I only usually have one show at a time (#Survivor #Bachelorette #BachelorInParadise #DancingWithTheStars). I like to watch and live tweet my shows when I can. Twitter is my one attempt at a social life of sorts and I'm up to 10K followers now!

I was happy to get Michelle's workbooks and drawings from school. I always love her work. It was interesting to see her work getting more detailed -- from stick hands and feet to fingers and toes.

And the most exciting development was watching Michelle learn to read and WRITE BY HERSELF! Full sentences. Her spelling is a little off but usually a very good guess. Kids' drawings are the cutest and funniest things ever and I could just look at and read them forever. I try not to laugh out loud in front of her so I don't insult her. I always praise her work but it usually is hilarious!

My Mom was always after Michelle not to draw stick arms/fingers but I can relate to not wanting to draw hands. They are difficult to draw and were never my favourite. I prefer facial portraits. Here Michelle actually drew arms, hands and fingers. I like how she even has toes here although why she's in bare feet outside I'm not sure! I'm assuming that she's the shorter one in the dress and I'm the taller one with the long legs and brown hair in a ponytail. I wear my hair in a ponytail about 99% of the time! It's just the easiest thing. I stopped caring about my hair years ago which is good since I only have about half as much as I used to before having Michelle. Post-partum alopecia -- the hormones make you lose your hair and you may never get it back. Oh well. She was worth it!
This bear is ADORABLE! Sometimes Michelle really impresses me with her work. Sometimes her drawings at school seem a bit hasty and thrown together (like she didn't have enough time to finish it or the teacher made her do it and she wasn't in the mood.) When it's HER idea to draw something she puts a lot of effort into it -- drawing and meticulously colouring it in -- which can take a long time with marker. Michelle often asks if I'm going to put her pictures in a frame. I put some of her artwork in frames in the bedroom and she was thrilled so now she always wants me to display more of her work but I explain that I can't put EVERYTHING on the wall. Some things we can display on the fridge gallery though. And I always save her artwork. I have to get around to labelling and organizing it all again one day. I'm WAY behind now. Especially with all her school work.


And then the day arrived: THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL! As much as I wouldn't miss waking her up in the morning "Just a few more minutes, Mama!" and getting her to school on time, packing lunches etc. I would miss having a few hours in the day to myself to get stuff done. I booked an oil change to get it over with because I knew now that she was out of school I would have to drag her everywhere with me. That's the problem with being a single Mom -- it's all you. You're alone to watch your kids and still somehow manage to do everything else you need to do for the house, the car etc. And there's no one to leave her with so she's tagging along to whatever errand or appointment you may have. I can't stand waiting an hour while the car gets an oil change so I didn't want to subject her to it.

They usually try to up-sell or get me to pay for extra things. I was prepared to fight if I had to. Hell to the no! I wasn't wasting any extra time waiting for the car to get serviced. I already resented having to waste my last school day on stupid errands. Luckily this time the dealership just gave me the oil change and sent me on my way. (I have to keep bringing the car for scheduled maintenance up to 100,000 kms to keep the warranty valid. But it's a nuisance. 6,000 kms go by in no time. Especially with all the commuting I do!

Michelle was happy to wear a dress on her last day of school. It was kind of bittersweet. She was excited about Summer break but would miss seeing her friends. Luckily her closest friends were all coming to her birthday party in July.

Last day of school selfie: Had to be done! It was such a strange feeling saying goodbye to everyone. One of Michelle's teachers was going to be working in a home decor shop over the Summer and we said we may pop by to visit her.

Michelle wanted to stick around the playground and play with her friends and I couldn't say no on the last day, even though I was exhausted. I waited while she played and laughed and hugged her friends goodbye.

She would still get to see them at her party and maybe even more play dates sometime.

A last farewell to her teachers. They were very nice and very encouraging. I was always happy to hear how well Michelle was doing and I was proud to read on her report card that not only was she doing well academically with reading and writing but that socially she was very kind and caring with others and always willing to help. The social aspect is almost the most important -- being able to work with others, to share and co-exist peacefully. To be tolerant even of people who may not be very nice to you.

I'm so proud of my little girl. How bright and creative she is, how happy and kind and sweet she is. I'm so grateful. Sure she is an endless ball of energy and can be exhausting but she is an amazing person and I'd like to think I can take some of the credit for the person she's becoming. (Her teachers give me the credit which I appreciate! I've made a lot of sacrifices for her. I love her more than anything!)

People look forward to statutory holidays and having time off. In my strange job (and being a single Mom as well) there really isn't such a thing as a holiday. I might work any or every day of the year. So July 1st weekend I had to go in to work nightshift. I wasn't off to a very good start. I was exhausted on too little sleep and just before I was going to leave the house I found the freezer was leaking and I had to mop the floor and chisel ice out of it and I was already running behind and everything was going wrong. Traffic was terrible. My nerves were shot. It's tough commuting for two hours before your work day (or night) even begins. I feel depleted. Then there's the 12 hour shift to get through and another hour (or 2 commuting after.) It's a LONG LONG DAY (or night!) Even though I was going to be working I made sure to dress Michelle and I in red Canada shirts and got a picture at Grandma's before I headed out.

My Mom didn't have a Canada shirt but she dressed in red at least and posed for a couple of pics. The weather wasn't great so we sat on the porch rather than on the garden swing. I was (admittedly somewhat selfishly) wishing it would continue to rain since I didn't get to enjoy Canada Day anyway but the rain cleared up so people would have still been able to attend their fireworks celebrations. Yay.

This year marked the 150th Anniversary or birthday of Canada and the Confederation. I've never been more grateful to be Canadian, especially with Donald Trump (aka the Anti-Christ) as President in the U.S.! I keep thinking he's got to be impeached soon but somehow he's escaped it so far. Hoping Mueller will put an end to him with his #RussiaGate investigation. Every day Trump does something new, idiotic and even more deplorable than the day before. My heart goes out to sensible Americans who want him out. His approval rating (low 30%s now?) is the lowest of any President ever. Yeah, he's THAT bad. But enough about him! #ProudToBeCanadian!

There aren't a lot of Lamborghinis on the road (with a price tag of $200,000+ not too many people can afford them!) so when I see one I'm psyched, as if I'm seeing a celebrity. This one stopped at a Tim Hortons near Grandma's house so when the guy went into the Tim's I told the opportunity to (photoholic nerd that I am!) grab a selfie with it. I explained to Michelle how rare and cool these cars are. She wasn't quite as enthused but she posed for the photos anyway.

I loved my little Mazda Miata convertible years ago. That was as close as I got to having a cool/sporty car of my dreams. Now as a Mom I'm in the much more practical Hyundai Elantra. But I can still dream about Lambos and Ferraris. And hey, if I win the lottery, maybe I'll get one!

Another trip to the mall with Grandma. Michelle had a ball trying on dresses, riding on escalators ("Can we go AGAIN Mama?!" I had to keep going up and down with her. She loved it. Anything to make her happy.) riding in a Clifford (the Big Red Dog) and then Diva that she is, sitting at the makeup table in the Bay. (I didn't actually let her get a makeover but she would have LOVED it!) I'm always happy for a photo op.

Michelle loved the lit up mirror. She'd probably like to have a vanity like that to sit and do her makeup. (She has some kids' makeup, lip glosses etc that she plays with sometimes.)
And then for some reason there was a skeleton in a lab coat. So we rolled with it and Michelle hugged him for a picture!

Some kids might be a little wary of a skeleton but Michelle is a bit of a goth, loves Halloween and monsters etc so she wasn't afraid of Mr. Bones at all. She even told me one day that there's no reason to be afraid of skeletons or ghosts because all of us have a skeleton and a ghost (soul/spirit) inside. A rather wise (albeit morbid) observation for a 4 (going on 5, going on 15) year old!

Ice cream cones on Grandma's backyard garden swing. Nothing beats it. As tough as it is working so much at least we get to see Grandma and Grandpa often which is good for them and for Michelle. And I always like having at least a few minutes to relax in the yard, enjoying the fresh air, sitting on the swing and having a cold delicious treat!

Pooh! Michelle has hundreds of her own stuffed animals but Grandma also has a large collection at her house. One day Michelle decided to carry around the huge Winnie the Pooh, almost as big as she is!

I love this photo of her smiling and hugging the big silly old bear. I remember watching Winnie the Pooh as a child. We have a couple of Winnie the Pooh DVDs. Just the sound of the music and watching the cartoons takes me back to my youth and is sweet and soothing. Also, Eeyore is my spirit animal. Michelle is absolutely a Tigger! Bouncing off the walls with all the energy in the world. While I drag myself along like a donkey who lost his tale and a dark cloud hovering above his head. Sigh. It's hard to be enthusiastic when you're exhausted 99% of the time.

Though it's unavoidable, I feel guilty when I have to work and leave Michelle so much so I try to make it up to her by doing fun things with her on my days off. Taking her to fun places, basically spoiling her to death. I don't think she realizes how lucky she is. I didn't get to go anywhere when I was a kid. We never went on vacation. We rarely went on day trips, amusement parks or anything. Our only outing was usually shopping and then my Mom wouldn't buy us anything we asked for (not even an ice cream or a drink!)

We had never been to Legoland and it was grey day threatening rain, so I decided to go for a new indoor adventre, even though it was going to be a LONG DRIVE likely in BAD TRAFFIC (and I get enough of that on the days I work!) I was willing to brave it for Michelle's sake. She was very excited. I wasn't sure what to expect but I figured she'd have a ball and there would be plenty of photo ops for me as well!

It was so colourful -- a photographer's DREAM! When you first go in they have a Lego Factory where you pretend to make Lego -- turning cranks, adding colour etc. Michelle had fun with that and I got a couple of photos.

I was excited to learn that there were rides in Legoland. Michelle said that she knew and told me that (not sure how she knew unless Reggie told her.) The rides were fun. The first one was like a video game where you ride around in a car and shoot at monster targets. At the end you can purchase a photo of yourselves. Ours wasn't great.

The mini Lego Toronto was SPECTACULAR! So beautiful. It really boggles my mind what they can do with Lego. It was beautiful. I set the camera on a ledge and got a shot of us by the CN Tower (because really, how could I not?!)

There was also a Niagara Falls. We posed in front of everything. The details are astounding. Even at Auntie May's looking at their little Lego village, with all the buildings (a movie theatre etc) and all the details is amazing. Michelle has some Lego too but nowhere near the collection that Uncle Shane and Reggie have!

Another shot this time on the other side of the CN Tower. I'm always happy when I spot a flat surface to sit the camera on but then I have to be quick so we don't get photobombed by passersby. I get some funny looks with my old school camera and self-timer but I don't care! I gotta be me! Holding the camera for a selfie is always too close. You need to set the camera at a distance to get everything in. Especially when you're trying to fit a whole city into the photo!

There was a playground with a slide and everything but only kids could go in and Michelle was missing for a while. I started having an anxiety attack and checked with a security guard how many exits there were from the structure so that I could watch it like a hawk. There was just the one so I kept looking. It was crowded. There were a lot of kids and a lot of adults standing around including some rough looking males. I started to panic a little. A Mom nearby overheard me talking and was sympathetic. "What is she wearing?" she asked "I'll have my son go in and look for her." "Thank you so much!" I said "She's wearing pants with multi-coloured sparkle dots." The security guy said that should be easy to spot. I couldn't remember what top she was wearing. Just then she came out. I was SO relieved.
"Ok honey please don't go in there again it's too hard on Mama!"

And then we stopped for lunch. This Lego pizza slice was the cutest thing ever so I had to get a picture with it! We ate real pizza, not made of Lego, and cupcakes. It was small but just enough to hold us over.

Michelle was anxious to explore and go on rides so we didn't take too long with our lunch. The kids' lunch came with an adorable Lego lunchbox which of course I couldn't resist. Michelle said she was going to keep her secret treasures in it.
"Lego treasures?" I asked.
"It's a SECRET!" she said.

There was also a 4D movie which was pretty cool and we got to feel a cool wind and got splashed on in a couple of scenes.

There was a wizard ride where you fly around and you pedal like a bike. The harder you pedal, the higher you fly. We flew higher than anyone. It was fun and quite a workout!

Then we went into a Lego building workshop where they were making an octopus. We'd missed the beginning but it was only a couple of steps and we were caught up in no time. I was bummed at the end that you didn't even get to KEEP your octopus! But you could buy the kit in the gift shop on your way out so of course I'd have to do that now that we were attached to the cute Lego octopus. And she'd already built it once so it should be even easier the second time.

We went on the shooting ride/game a couple of times but weren't able to get a better photo. I would have taken it if it were free but it was kind of expensive. I opted instead to purchase the photo they took of us at the start in front of a green screen with the falling Lego. That was cute. I got a 5x7 and keychain of it as well as a digital copy. A bit cheesy yes but I love stuff like that. Then we picked up a few things in the gift shop and we were off. I was pleased with our adventure in Legoland. I couldn't believe they fit all that -- rides and all -- inside of a mall!
Across from Legoland was a Build a Bear Workshop. Michelle spotted it and I was doomed. So we go in and OF COURSE she has to pick out a bear. She chose a pretty turquoise and pink bear with cupcakes on her feet. Michelle got to choose a heart, a voice (she chose one that said "I love you") and got to decide on the stuffing. She opted for a soft cuddly rather than a firm bear. At first I thought "Oh well $20 for a bear isn't so bad" but by the time you chose your accessories you're screwed! Michelle picked out a skirt and a purse for her bear. So it was quite an expensive bear by the end. Still it was worth it to see that smile. Michelle loved her bear and hugged her all the way home.

Michelle fell asleep during the long drive back home. I wish I'd had that option. Instead, I had to endure gridlock. Two hours of rush hour traffic through Toronto. I sympathized with people that had to do that every day Monday-Friday

We'd seen all the "Despicable Me" movies (the original, "Despicable Me 2" and "Minions") so of course we had to see "Despicable Me 3" when it came out. The critics didn't seem impressed but I tried to keep an open mind. I wound up liking it better than "Minions" anyway (which was a bit disappointing) but not as much as 1 & 2. There were some funny parts that got a good laugh from the audience.

Of course I ALWAYS get a picture with the movie poster and if you hadn't noticed (you can't really see my shirt but...) we were BOTH wearing Minions t-shirts! Both wearing GREY MINION t-shirts to be exact! Because as I've mentioned before I'm a huge nerd & I love dressing us in matching themed outfits. I gotta be me!

Michelle loved her new bear. She named her Olivia and took her everywhere. It was a nice day so we decided to go to the beach. Even Olivia had her shades on. I told Michelle Olivia would have to wait in the car though. We didn't want to get sand in her fur. Though no doubt there would be sand in her clothes, the car, the house, everywhere she went. Michelle literally ROLLS in the sand. It's a problem. But I still love the beach. It's my happy place and I can't get there enough. As you can see we were wearing MATCHING TURQUOISE SEAHORSE SHIRTS from Justice! So I was in my glory. When Michelle is older she will find me mortifyingly (spellcheck says that's not a word but I say it should be!) embarrassing no doubt but for now she lets me dress us alike. To me, it's just too cute for words. She's my little mini-me. Only one person noticed and/or commented on our outfits when we were at one of the shops on the beach. "Isn't that cute?!" she said.

Sun, sand, smiles. What more do you need? The beach is our happy place. Michelle loves to play and I love to relax and take photos.... So it's win-win.

A lot of other people had the same idea. Now that we were into July the beach was pretty crowded. And they charge $20 to park in the beach parking lot (when it's free the rest of the time) but it's worth it not to have to walk too far with all your stuff. I'm always loaded down with sand toys, towels, clothes, snacks and drinks and my purse.

Even in the crowd we managed to claim a little spot under the palm trees (which is my fave place to be! Looking up at the palms I pretend I'm somewhere tropical!)


As photo ops go, your hand in a shark's mouth is right up there! Michelle wanted to go in all the little shops at the beach and we came across this gem. A few of the shops are too rich for my blood (like $100 for a t-shirt) but it's fun to window shop. I got a picture of myself with the shark as well but it wasn't nearly as cute!

Michelle usually manages to find some little trinket or souvenir for me to buy her. Like rubber duckies of various types. She has about 50 of them -- leopard duck, mermaid duck, elephant duck. She has so many toys in the bath there's hardly room for her! She was taking showers for a while but tired of that and preferred baths so she could play. She's still a kid. Might as well enjoy it while she can!

I love bikinis. Even though they don't always love me. My weight fluctuates. I've been counting calories and working out for years but with my insane work schedule it's not always easy. I haven't been working out. I sometimes take in too many calories (because you can't starve yourself for a 16 hour day.) As soon as I eat something (no matter what it is) my stomach seems to bloat. So on beach days, when I'm wearing a bikini. I skip breakie. I call it my bikini fast.

The thing is it seems that more and more women of all shapes and sizes are wearing bikinis lately and they don't seem too worry if their stomachs are bloated or have rolls having down. And I think "Good for them!" they seem comfortable with themselves and I wish I was but I feel this internal pressure to look a certain way. I know the media is partly to blame. Recently I heard that Jennifer Aniston told the press to stop saying she's pregnant every time she has a bit of a bulge because (like me!) her stomach bloats when she eats something. I also heard that Sofia Vergara said "It's all about angles. And sucking your tummy in and not breathing!"

Celebrities feel pressured to look perfect and you can sometimes when the camera clicks and your makeup is done and the photo is airbrushed. But sometimes you're just a human being and you had a cheeseburger or you have gas and some papparazzo snaps a picture of you at the beach and then throws you on the cover saying you're pregnant. I'm not a celebrity but even I worry/feel somewhat self-conscious and I wish I could feel as comfortable and non-chalant as the woman I see, far heavier than me, that are just relaxing and not fasting for the beach!

Michelle LOVES playing in the sand. She wanted to be buried and turned into a mermaid as I'd done before. It takes a long time and a lot of sand but it is pretty cute in the end. Then she likes wiggling herself free. I managed to capture her smile as she escaped her sand tail.

We mostly just play in the sand. I told Michelle it's probably not the best idea to swim there because the water may be polluted and is never warm enough anyway. So we just go in to our knees. Though other people swim in it and I used to I'm much more worried about pollution/getting an ear infection etc after all the nonsense I've been through over the past several months -- pneumonia in the winter, eye infections and God knows what. They used to post information about water quality but they don't do that for Lake Erie anymore. They just say "Swim at your own risk."

I love to have a carefree day on the beach once in a while because most of my days are pretty stressful. Days when I'm exhausted and cranky, on my period, with diarrhea, in a terrible mood, driving in awful traffic, going to work a long and stressful nightshift, driving home in thick fog and can't wait to crawl into bed and then getting very little sleep and going through it all again. There are days I'm so drained it feels like there's just nothing left. I'm just depleted. And I break down and cry. And I wish I could have a break, a vacation from my life but there's no way out because it's all me. I have to earn a living, take care of Michelle and the house and everything else without help. And sometimes it's just overwhelming. So these moments sitting on the beach, listening to the waves, watching Michelle laugh and play nourish my soul. I need that now and then.

It's crazy the things that I have to do sometimes. There's just no time. Sometimes I'm out of town for days, back home for not even a day and I'm off again. One day I had just gotten home and Michelle had fallen asleep in the car. So I carried her in. I knew it was my only opportunity and the grass was out of control so I ran and mowed the lawn while she slept. The sky was black and it looked like it was going to rain so I literally RAN with the lawnmower as fast as I could. I must have looked like an idiot. I hope no one was watching. But I don't have a husband to mow the lawn. It's just me and even though I'm barely home a minute if I don't mow the lawn it will look like hell and I'm still a responsible homeowner so I can't leave it like that! I got it done in record time before the rain hit. Mowing the lawn burns 200 calories so that was a good workout as well. I think run-mowing burns even more!

My life is nuts though. I wasn't even home one night and had to leave again to head to my mom's to work dayshifts. From nightshifts to dayshifts with barely a day off in between. It's like jet lag switching back and forth between shifts. It's been proven shiftwork takes years off your life. Seven years if you did it your whole life. That's the same as smoking. But what can I do? This is my job and I'm grateful to have it but it's killing me. Sometimes I'm so tired I can barely stand and I feel like I'm going to throw up. And I get so burned out I feel like I'm going to have a breakdown. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. It's inhumane. It will make you crazy. I'm well on my way! When I finally get to rest my head on the pillow it's such a relief but sometimes even then I can't sleep. My mind doesn't shut down. I spin. I worry. I make lists of everything I have to do and it seems endless.

Then one night at my Mom's we watched "Ballerina" on DVD. Michelle and I had seen it at the theatre. It was a heartwarming story about a girl who dreams of being a ballerina at the Paris opera. And she gets to live her dream. When it was over Michelle fell asleep but I couldn't sleep. I lay there and cried. I thought about all of my lost dreams. As a girl I had wanted to be a ballerina too. I never got to take lessons. I thought about other dreams -- being an artist, writer, singer. I got to live out some of them, a little. I'm grateful for that. But it seems like another life now. A world away from where I am. And there's no room for dreams or art or music when I'm just working all the time and driving all the time and trying to raise a daughter and run a house and do everything myself. Exhausted. Running on empty. I cried and cried and eventually fell asleep.

The stress was affecting my health. I had bowel issues (of course I suffer from IBS and have divertica so my bowel issues are ongoing but some days are worse than others. Some days I can't even get off the toilet. It's like my insides are churning and burning. I had eye infections that kept recurring. Sore red eyes (which stress and lack of sleep didn't help.) Then I even had a bladder infection. It just seemed like one thing after another. On top of mental issues -- like breaking down crying from sheer exhaustion. I knew everything would seem better if I got some rest but I never seemed to get enough.

They say "There's no place like home" and "Home Sweet Home" but it's never more true than when you're away from home a lot. I was always so happy and relieved to be home even though it was never for very long and I couldn't exactly relax even when I was home because I had so much to get caught up on -- laundry etc.

Michelle mentioned too that she wished we could just stay at home. I told her that if I won the lottery I wouldn't have to work and we could just stay home and go fun places and travel. Of course the odds of winning the lottery aren't very high.

She still had fun at Grandma's house though and my Mom liked having us around. I often take my Mom shopping which she loves too and Michelle usually insists on coming along.

Michelle wanted to go to the park. Even my Mom came with us this time. Michelle had a ball on the swing. She got a kick out of even Grandma and Mama swinging with her.

"I can go higher than you Mama!"
I didn't have the heart to tell her there was no way she could get as high as I could. I didn't want her to endanger herself so I held back my full swing potential!

I was exhausted and had no desire in going to the store with my Mom or the park with Michelle but I complied to make them happy because it's just what I do. Of course taking photos makes me happy so at least I get to do that although sometimes my Mom tries to stop me. "You take too many pictures," she says. "That's not possible," I argue.

Someday when Michelle is older and giving me a hard time and not appreciating the sacrifices I've made for her I can show her these pictures -- how many things I did for her, places I took her, how I always made sure she was happy, regardless of how I was feeling or what I was going through. So in a way these photos are evidence! LOL My Mom tells me Michelle will never remember everything I did for her and I say "Oh yes I will! I have the photos to show her!" But hopefully she'll be a loving, grateful teenager and never give me a hard time. Sure. Could happen!

One of Michelle's friends/classmates couldn't make it to the party but Michelle was happy to run into her a the park. I knew that a lot of people would be going away on vacation etc in late August but I was glad that at least half the kids she invited (including her best friends) were able to make it. I was surprised that several parents didn't even bother to RSVP. Not a word. Nada. My niece said one of her friends thought you only RSVP if you're GOING to the party. I said no the whole point is you reply either way so that they know how many to expect. My sister said she's actually had people not bother to RSVP and still show up with their kid the day of the party! So everyone's a little different. Some people are clueless. Repondez s'il vous plait! I was actually relieved that all 18 kids couldn't make it though because I was stressed out enough about having 9 kids in my house!

Another day, another trip to our favourite beach! Michelle loved her swimsuit. She has a few cute tankinis. I wore another bikini. So no breakfast for me!

I never tire of Port Dover Beach. The palm trees do it for me every time. I'm always surprised when I see people taking photos and selfies and they don't even get the palm trees in the picture. I'm almost tempted to yell "What are you doing?! You're missing the best part of the beach! It's all about composition! How do you take a selfie at Port Dover Beach and NOT get the palm trees in the shot?! It's the best part!" Amateurs. But to each his own. If you want to settle for sand and water which could be at literally any beach anywhere, be my guest.

The restaurant on the beach has wood beams jutting out and they just happen to be a perfect shelf to set the camera on for the self-timer! Sometimes people will offer to take our picture but usually I can rely on the timer. I'm so used to doing it it's become second nature. The hardest part is usually getting Michelle to look at the camera as I count down from 10. Or getting photobombed by people passing by.

I love this Diva pose! "Ta-DAAAA!" Sometimes Michelle gets frustrated with me taking photos and other times she's all for it.

She had fun playing in the sand and then we went for ice cream (I usually put my shirt back on to hide the belly bloat! LOL I'm usually starving after going without breakfast. The things I do for fashion. I should just eat to my heart's content and let it all hang out. Maybe one day when I'm a little less self-conscious. (If I'm being honest, that day will likely never come. I've been a control freak/neurotic and insecure about my appearance for the past four decades so I don't see that changing. I just wish I could be as carefree as others seem to be. Then again, I don't drink either. Other people may have some help with their relaxed, carefree attitude!)

A shot with the lighthouse in the background and I love her smile here as she runs on the beach. It looks like she's even giving a thumbs up. The water looks pretty dirty. Some days it looks turquoise and other days it's pretty brown and murky. Michelle never presses the issue about swimming. She doesn't like dirty water or seaweed either and she's content to mostly play on the sand.

Michelle does have fun running into the water and getting her feet wet. That's usually enough to cool us off without diving right in.

I grabbed a few action shots of Michelle running along the shoreline. I have to be careful and hold the camera in the air when she gets a little too splash-happy! I love to get a good photo though. These shots of her smiling and laughing in the water are some of my faves. My baby girl was about to turn 5 years old and I still couldn't quite believe it. So I will continue to take a gazillion pictures because then I get to keep my little girl, as a little girl forever.
This is another great moment! Michelle didn't always stick to my "only go in up to your knees" rule. Sometimes she splashed so much she got soaked from head to toe. I still don't think it's as dangerous as going right in swimming. Other kids were running in and swimming and their parents didn't seem to be worrying. Even with all my cautiousness and germaphobe tendencies I manage to get sick all the time so maybe I'm going about it all wrong. Maybe if I just didn't give a crap and dove into the germs headfirst I'd develop an immunity... I've had a few people chastise me for overusing hand sanitizer which can be dangerous but I can't seem to stop. I'm a little OCD. What can I say? We all have our quirks.

Michelle makes a friend. Always. I remember that line from "Sixteen Candles" where Molly Ringwald's character (who I could THOROUGHLY relate to!) says "He's here one day and he meets someone. I'm here my whole life and I'm like a disease!" Of course it's easier for Michelle to make friends because she actually APPROACHES people and befriends them. She went up to play with this little girl and was so good with her that the girl's Mom told me she'd like to hire Michelle as a babysitter. Kind and patient and very mature for her age. She walked in to the water, holding the girl's hand. Telling her not to go too deep into the water and to be careful, helping her carry buckets of water. I'm proud of how smart and talented Michelle is but I'm even more proud of how kind she is. Especially when even strangers notice it. I wish I was more like her. I'm just not a social person. In a million years I wouldn't approach someone like that. If there's anything to astrology (and I definitely think there is) it could be because Michelle is an outgoing Leo and I'm an introverted Taurus but there are many other factors -- nature and nurture -- that determine someone's personality and introversion/extroversion.

I'd already had a recurring eye infection and finally figured out that it was an allergy to my makeup. Now I had something else wrong with my eye. It felt like there was a lump on it and it hurt. It was like my veins were bulging out. It was probably stress and lack of sleep but it was one more thing to worry about and there always seemed to be something.

I picked up a book stress. The title -- "Overload" just described how I felt. I didn't realize that it was a religious book until I started reading it. Basically the author, a pastor named Joyce Meyer was suggesting to give it to God and not let things get to you. God will take care of you if you just have faith in him. As I read it (mostly on the toilet where I was spending a lot of time unfortunately since my bowel issues were acting up as well) I did start to relax a little and realize that I hadn't been praying and talking to God. I kept feeling like I was alone to deal with everything but the truth is I'm never alone. God is there. And I tried not to let things get to me. Just like when I wore the "Be Kind" t-shirt I wrote about in my last post. I didn't swear at drivers on my 2 hour commute. I didn't sweat the small stuff. I tried to hold back and take a deep breath. But some days it's harder than others. When I'm on no sleep or PMS-ing etc it's much more difficult.

As if I hadn't been through enough annoying health issues one night I was on nightshift when a new one reared its head, or rather its tooth. I suddenly got a terrible toothache in my rear left molar.
"What now?!" I thought. I'd already fired my dentist (the fly by night weirdos I'd made the mistake of trying because they were local.) My schedule was so busy I didn't have time to waste on dental appointments anyway. I googled toothache to see what it could be. A cavity was  the most obvious but why would it start hurting all of a sudden at work? I'd been told before that I grind my teeth so it could be that. My jaw and ear were sort of hurting too. I read some really disturbing things. There was TMJ -- temporomandibular join disorder that causes pain in your jaw. Then I made the mistake of stumbling across "trigeminal neuralgia" or "suicide disease" which causes intense facial pain that can drive you mad -- even to the point of suicide. (Note to self -- DON'T GOOGLE MEDICAL ISSUES IT WILL LEAD YOU DOWN A RABBIT HOLE OF HORROR THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT!) Hopefully it was just a mundane old cavity. Or it could be an abscess. Or I might need a root canal. I mostly just hoped it would magically go away and I wouldn't have to worry about it. Of course I don't have that kind of luck.

I barely slept and the next day it hurt worse. I cried. I would have to get an emergency appointment with a dentist. I called my old dentist near my Mom's. They were closed for the day. I went through the phone book and wasn't having any luck. Then finally I tried a dental office at the mall and they squeezed me in.

They were very nice. They cleaned the area. The scaling hurt like a MO-FO in that sensitive area. The dentist, who reminded me a little of Jeff Goldblum, told me that there wasn't a cavity. He couldn't tell if it was the root but he thought it was an abscess. He gave me a prescription for anti-biotics and gave me a syringe to clean the area. I also had to rinse with salt water. He said if it was an abscess that that should take care of the infection and I should be out of pain. If not they'd have to investigate further and I may need a root canal. I was REALLY hoping not. Thank goodness it was an abscess and the anti-biotics seemed to eventually clear it up. Unfortunately I somehow developed a bladder infection WHILE on anti-biotics (a long drive and not being able to get to the bathroom and holding it in too long probably didn't help!) So I was sort of screwed. Eventually I cleared that up by drinking a lot of water and cranberry juice. I was sick of annoying health issues on top of everything else I had to deal with and I was stressed about Michelle's birthday parties coming up. I was going to be hosting two parties -- one for the kids and one for family. I'm no Martha Stewart. Entertaining isn't my thing and I'd never hosted a party with a bunch of kids so I was sort of terrified. The stress of the parties coming up on top of everything else and never getting sleep were overwhelming.

At my follow-up appointment with the dentist I asked him. "Why now?" Why would I get an abscess now. The gap in my gums behind my tooth can accumulate food/tartar and become infected. I knew that but I had my wisdom teeth out 20 years ago and never had a problem so why now? The dentist started to tell me a story. "You know in my 20s I used to run. I could run long distances. I ran marathons. Then recently I was at the cottage and went for a run and was out of breath and my legs hurt and I just couldn't do it. You know why?" "Because you're old?" I said, trying to be as facetious as he was being with me. I know he was trying to suggest that because I'm old things fall apart more easily but these are my GUMS and TEETH I'm talking about. I'm not trying to run or lift weights like when I was younger I'm just EATING and DRINKING and LIVING MY LIFE so why would this happen now as opposed to say, a year ago or 10 years ago or anytime in the last 20 years?! I guess the point is that more crap does go wrong as you get older. It's depressing but your body just isn't made the way it used to be. Now it's falling apart and anything can go -- your back, your gums. The things you used to get away with catch up with you. Maybe I'd had too much junk food and sugar and gone too long (like 16 hour shifts) without brushing my teeth.

It just seemed endless though. I no sooner had the tooth business and the bladder sorted and I had severe bowel issues again.

And sometimes it seems like I just can't catch a break. We planned a fun day at the beach with Auntie May. Michelle wanted to bring her floatie lion. Even though we'd been to the beach a few times we hadn't actually gone IN the water. My Mom kept going on that she didn't know if she'd get swimming this summer. So we picked a day to head to Gulliver's Lake to swim. The forecast was showing sun until the night before when they started calling for rain. Super.

Heading to May's it was pouring rain. If there had been any sign of it clearing up we might have risked going but there was no hope. So we just hung out at May's -- which was still fun -- but we'd all been looking forward to going to the lake. Figures. Eeyore and the rain cloud over my head again.

There's always poutine! In lieu of swimming Shane picked us up poutines. I have to admit when you need cheering up greasy fries covered in cheese and gravy help! At least for a junk food junkie like me! We got chocolate chills from Tim Hortons as well. I'd never had one. They were delicious but VERY filling/fattening. I think I'll stick to my small iced capps made with white milk (150 calories!)

Then when it was too late to go to the beach, the rain stopped. Of course. We got a group photo outside anyway. Michelle was disappointed about missing out on going to the lake but I promised we'd try again another day and she still had a blast playing with Reggie. I always have fun talking and laughing with May. Unfortunately May wasn't feeling great. She'd been having health issues as well and was tired and dizzy a lot of the time. She'd gone to the doctor for tests.

Silly snaps on Shannon's i-phone are always good for a laugh. Some of them are really cute too. While Reggie and Michelle played downstairs Shannon and I played with her phone. I love that Shannon shares my passion for photography. She's an artist too so it goes hand in hand with that.

This tiger filter was adorable. I love the little round ears and noses.

Some of the other filters made me laugh my head off and I could use a laugh! Nothing reduces stress like laughter!

This one was nice with the black and white and then pink flowers. Honestly if I had this app I'd be playing with it all the time but I can't even use my old i-phone for photos anymore. Ever since the white screen of death incident and reading that Apple deliberately made upgrades to render i-phone 4 obsolete, I just use it for emergencies -- to call and text. I don't do anything fancy. I stopped taking pictures and I don't use instagram. Maybe one day I'll get a new phone but I can't see it at this point. So far the only cellphones I've had have been given to me. I really don't want to have to buy them. Especially when they're so expensive. I need a new computer as well but I've been putting that off for years -- even though it keeps freezing and is SO frustrating. I just don't use it that much. I just go on Twitter to check in/catch up when I have a minute and to live tweet my TV shows.

Time kept flying (even when I wasn't having fun!) and before I knew it, Michelle's birthday was coming up. There was so much to do. I had to tidy the house, prepare games for the party, get snacks, balloons, make the cakes. I was suddenly regretting that I'd decided to have the party at home. Why didn't I book something at an outside place? I just thought it would be too expensive and I might as well have it at home. But I was worried the kids might run amok and destroy the house LOL. A few Moms commented how "brave" I was for doing a party at home and that made me even more nervous! I kept thinking "Dear God, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!" I wanted Michelle to have a great 5th birthday. The pressure was on. Michelle came with me (well of course she did! I have to take her everywhere with me) to get balloons...

It's Murphy's Law that nothing can go smoothly. So I get home with the balloons and the Poppy balloon (so, the most important one because it's a TROLLS themed party) is already deflated. The balloons are guaranteed for 24 hours (and I've had some last several MONTHS!) so I knew they'd replace it but I was so annoyed I'd just gotten home and I was tired and hungry and ready to make dinner and in no mood to head back to the store to replace a faulty balloon. I called them and they said to come back. They wound up giving me two Poppys -- the original one re-inflated and a new one. I figured of the 2 maybe one would be OK. It turned out the first one had a slow leak and kept deflating but the new one was OK. We also had a rainbow balloon and we still had a flower and unicorn from May's party. Balloons - check. Happy Birthday sign -- check. Party games -- check (Michelle helped me design a "Pin the Hair on the Troll" game and I had wrapped layers upon layers for the "Pass the gift" game.) Now I just had to do the cakes...

The cake was a bit of a nightmare but then I do this to myself. On previous birthdays I made Michelle a Princess castle cake (which took hours and gave me carpal tunnel) and a SpongeBob cake (which was also frustrating and disappointing.) As difficult as they were at least I just had to follow the template/pattern. This year I was doing a Poppy (from the movie "Trolls") cake only there wasn't a Poppy cake pan so I had to improvise. I got a cupcake shaped pan and turned it upside down but I would still have to wing it with the drawing/design. Of course I'm an artist right so no problem? Well it wasn't easy. Squeezing little globs of icing isn't quite the same as drawing with pencil or painting with a brush. It was taking hours. Still I was proud of myself that it wasn't too bad considering. Then Michelle came into the kitchen, saw the cake and was decidedly underwhelmed.
"It's not as good as I expected," she said, "but it's OK."
The words were like daggers through my heart.
"What you expected? I didn't even have a template to go on! I had to just make it up myself. I thought I did OK considering."

She went back to play, not realizing how deeply she'd hurt me. I sat on the floor and cried. There I was knocking myself out for her and she didn't even appreciate it. So ungrateful. So callous. Michelle, who was usually so kind to everyone, even strangers, couldn't even give a kind word to her mother who sacrificed so much for her (yeah I was wallowing in melodramatic self-pity. Bear in mind the sleep deprivation and everything else. Don't judge until you've squeezed a troll cake in my shoes... Or something like that.)

Eventually Michelle returns to find me crying and I tell her that you shouldn't insult someone, that you should find something nice to say, even if you hate it so that you don't hurt their feelings. Especially if they're working hard to make something for you. Well now Michelle was in tears. She felt guilty for hurting me. So she's crying, I'm crying. Eventually we both calmed down and hugged it out. She told me she didn't mean it the way it sounded. She loved the cake and thought it was cute. It was just different than she expected.

The second cake was even worse than the first because I ran out of pink icing and had to use the colours I had left. I figured I'd use the proper pink one for the kids and save the wonky skullish one for my family many of whom wouldn't even know who Poppy was anyway!

Michelle had also asked me to make her a birthday card. I usually buy her cards but she was always making cards for me so I figured I could return the favour. I drew Poppy and Branch on it. I wanted to make Michelle's birthday special -- maybe not picture perfect enough to be featured on Pinterest, but something that she and her friends would enjoy. It was a lot of work but I would do anything for my girl. I just wanted to know that she appreciated it.

Sometimes it does feel like I'm taken for granted but then Michelle will hug me and tell me she loves me or write me love notes and tell me that "I'm the best," and it helps.
After seeing "Trolls" it was Michelle's favourite movie for a long time and she wanted to watch it constantly. She also wanted to role play all the time that she was Poppy and I was Branch. The Branch character suited me because he's a little grumpy and a neurotic anti-social worrier. Michelle is like Poppy -- the lively, enthusiastic, positive, outgoing Princess troll. And we balance each other out. In the end you can't be positive or negative all the time -- you need a balance. There is a time to be careful and a time to be carefree. It's finding the balance that's important.
After a rough week, I needed a break and we decided to go to the movies to see "The Emoji Movie."

When I first heard about Sony winning the bid for a movie about emoticons I thought it was silly. I couldn't imagine making a film out of it but it wound up being really cute and clever. Michelle and I both loved it and it was a nice distraction from all the stress I'd been through lately. I had some emoji wrapping paper so I set it up as a backdrop behind us for photos. Michelle had an emoji balloon, with heart eyes of course, so we got it in the picture too.

There's nothing like a movie to help you forget your own problems. For those two hours in the dark you are transported to another world.

While watching the movie, I wasn't worried about work or health problems or the parties coming up. I wasn't worrying about anything. I was caught up in the cute, colourful and funny scenes in front of me. Escapism. I don't drink or do drugs. I have junk food and movies!

I remember when my furnace broke down in the winter and I was on the verge of a breakdown, we went to the movies and I got to forget about it for a while. Then I got to have a repair man come and charge me $400 to fix it. You never know what life will throw at you. Sometimes you have to have a breather and just stop thinking about it for a while. Movies are great for that.

And then it was party day! Michelle was excited and anxious to see her friends. I was excited too but mostly terrified about the whole thing. I really wanted it to go well. I couldn't wait until it was over so I could just relax. It would be such a relief to have it done so I could stop worrying!

We dressed up and got some pictures of course (I insist on it! I take pictures even when there's no occasion never mind when it's her birthday party!) The kids started to trickle in. Some of the Moms hung around to help/socialize and I started to relax a little more. This wasn't so bad...
Trying to get a group photo of a bunch of kids and to get them all looking and smiling is close to impossible. So I had to settle for this (which is still very cute!) The kids were mostly good. One of the boys (I won't name names!) was a little mischievous running amok, grabbing fistfuls of cheesies and jellybeans, leaving a trail of toys in his wake etc but he was adorable so you forgive him.

I was glad that my games were a hit. The kids loved unwrapping the layers in "Pass the gift" and everyone got a present. I had bought a bunch of small gifts -- balls, colouring books etc -- for them to open. There was a bit of jealousy "I wish I'd gotten that!" but luckily the kids had learned in school -- "You get what you get and you don't get upset!" (I loved that when Michelle told me about it. I'd never heard that mantra before but it's a good one.) Finally all the layers were unwrapped and everyone had something. If they were truly unhappy with their prize I had a bag of extras that they could swap out/trade with.

The cheesie and jellybean eating was almost constant and then when the pizza arrived he barely touched it. He took all the pepperoni off and stuck it in the grass. I joked that I didn't know I had pepperoni growing in my lawn. Then later he complained he had a tummy ache. Too much candy will do that to you.

I couldn't get angry with him though because he had given Michelle a Christmas present -- a book about a dog named Biscuit and it was the first book she read ENTIRELY by herself! Which was amazing. It was just the right level for her at that time and I was so grateful for the gesture.

I love this colourful scene with all the kids sitting around on the blanket (a Poppy blanket I might add! Yes everything had to be Troll-themed!)

The photos are bursting with colour! I was happy that I'd picked up this temporary pop up gazebo on sale. It was perfect for the party. I was also very grateful for a beautiful day because if it had rained I would have had to have everyone inside the whole time and it would have been a bit cramped/overwhelming.

The next game, Pin the hair on the Troll was also a big hit. The kids loved it and it was hilarious. I got the idea online and made the cutouts. Michelle wanted to help so she designed several hairstyles as well. I had various troll hairstyles, an Elvis one etc so everyone could choose their own when it was their turn. Then I had a scarf to blindfold them and used tape (rather than pins) to stick the hair on. I had prizes for the best hair placements. Michelle was disappointed she didn't get a prize but hers, as you can see, was a little off. Plus I reminded her that she was going to be getting LOTS of nice presents so she didn't have to worry about the little prizes I was giving out. Some of the kids did amazingly well (I almost thought they were peeking.) Mind you, some of them were sort of cheating, feeling the paper so that may have given them an edge over the competition.
Some were a little worse than others but that just made it funnier!

Michelle was happy when people chose the hairstyles that she had designed (this was one of them. They were rather inventive.) She's always loved drawing but lately she's been doing more elaborate hairstyles and outfits. She's added fashion designer to her list of potential careers (it's changing all the time. I'm just happy that Doctor is still on the table! It's somewhat more practical than say artist/Princess/superhero...)
The cloud hair was my idea/design. I thought it was funny. The cloud character was one of my favourites from the movie and I thought this would be a cute way to work him into the game. Michelle's friend did amazingly well with the cloud hair as you can see it's basically PERFECTLY PLACED! She won first prize and then there were a couple of honorable mentions. I didn't want there to be any hurt feelings or kids feeling left out so I made sure everyone got a little present/prize and that they were happy with.
And then there was the pinata... I considered not getting one. The idea of blindfolded kids swinging a stick sounded like a recipe for disaster. Then I found out that with modern pinatas you can just pull strings and one of the strings will open the bottom to let the candy out.

There was a troll pinata that was just a circle with a picture of the characters on it but I wasn't crazy about it. This Poppy head one was much cuter and cheaper at Bulk Barn. Unfortunately I didn't realize you have to FILL IT WITH CANDY YOURSELF! I'd never bought a pinata before so I thought they just came pre-filled. Anyway Michelle and I had fun picking out candies to fill it -- some chocolate coins and kisses and other hard candies. I wanted to have a variety. It wound up making the pinata pretty heavy. I was glad to have the gazebo to hang it from. The gazebo was pretty easy/quick to set up and was perfect for the party.

I worried that if the ribbons were a random luck of the draw thing that the first one might open it and then no one else would get to play but I guess it has a mechanism that won't let it open until ALL the ribbons are pulled (or we just got lucky and it worked out that way?) With each ribbon I kind of winced in expectation of all the candy dropping out but it held out until the last ribbon. And then it was anarchy with kids grabbing for candy. I'd kept all the plastic bags from the candy at Bulk Barn and labelled them so each child would have their own bag to fill with candy.

After my organized games were done the kids had fun just running around playing tag. I probably didn't have to be so OCD about organizing games. The kids would have just had just as much fun running amok on their own but I was trying to plan out the time (counting down those two hours until it was over and I could relax!)

The time actually flew by. By the time they were done with the games the pizza arrived and we ate and then we headed in for presents and cake. Thankfully the day went off mostly without a hitch!
When the kids came in it was a challenge getting them all to pose for a photo. (As you can see by a couple of exasperated expressions. One in particular had a tummy ache from consuming an inordinate amount of jelly beans but he had been warned it wasn't the best idea!)

Thankfully though the majority were more cooperative, enthusiastic and smiling! I wasn't taking no for an answer. Sorry but if you're at a party in my house YOU'RE POSING FOR PHOTOS! LOL
One of the Moms was kind enough to snap a photo of me with the kids. The Moms were very nice and helpful. One remarked how tidy and extremely organized my house was (I'm OCD so this was a HUGE compliment to me! LOL I like to have everything in its place. Michelle has a LOT of little toys so setting them all up in an orderly fashion like a toy store display is NOT EASY!) We have a lot of things so when they're not organized it's a HUGE MESS. I had quite a time getting the house clean and tidy before the party. I LOVE when it's tidy but it's a lot of work (and doesn't stay that way for long! I ask Michelle to tidy up after playing but it rarely happens.)

Michelle was happy with her presents. She got some really great things and considering how many toys she has it was a sheer miracle that there weren't many duplicates (just one!)

Michelle was a very gifted girl! I let her open some of her presents from me ahead of time, some the morning of her kids' party and the rest on her real birthday. I figured I might as well space them out so she could enjoy a few at a time. One year I had her open all of her presents from me at the family party and it was just too much. So we have our own little party together with Mama's presents. There's enough going on at the party with gifts from everyone else.

One of the Moms snapped pictures of me carrying the Poppy cake to Michelle (which was nice because even a photoholic has limits and I can't hold a cake, sing and take pictures! As much as I might want to!) No one really seems to be looking here but it's OK.

I was glad that Michelle liked her cake (even though she was slightly critical when I first iced it -- much to my chagrin!) The kids recognized it as Poppy so I'm taking it as a win! It was also delicious. I did a rainbow bit cake for the kids' party and a chocolate cake for the family party.

At least a couple of kids made the effort to look and/or smile for the pictures. You can't have everything.

I still can't believe my little girl has turned 5 years old. The last several years have flown by and I know I sound like a broken record but it feels like she was my baby just yesterday. I'm so glad I have so many pictures to remember each stage because it does go so fast. One of these days I'll even print and organize them into proper photo albums. For now this blog is as close as I get to an album!
I was worried about getting through the 2 hours with a bunch of kids but it too flew by. We hadn't even done the cake yet and parents were showing up to pick up their kids. They stayed a bit later to have their cake and get their Trolls loot bags.

Michelle was so happy to see her friends from school. She had been missing them. Her best friend's Mom assured me that they could get together for a play date sometime soon. Michelle really wanted to see her again. They hugged goodbye.

I got a picture of Michelle and I with her presents from her friends and then I let her open some from me. (As if she didn't have enough already!)

I can't even describe the relief that I felt that the party was over and that it had gone so well. I had been extremely nervous and stressed about it. On top of all the other stress I had to deal with between work, no sleep, health issues, etc. Now I could breathe a sign of relief! Of course I still had a lot of cleaning up to do and another party to host the next day but at least that was just my family so I wasn't nearly as worried. This had been my first kid's party and I survived!

Michelle was excited to open her presents from me. She gets pretty spoiled. Anything she asks for she pretty much gets but I figure she's not a kid for long and I might as well enjoy this stage where she loves toys and they don't break the bank.

She had recently asked for Monopoly and I already had the kids' version for her which I got when it was on sale. She was thrilled. She wanted to play it right away. It was a nice simplified version so it didn't take 3 hours to play it like the adult version!

Michelle holding her Monopoly money! She was happy that she won. They just have single dollar bills to make it more child-friendly and the real estate -- rather than Boardwalk and Park Place etc -- just consists of places like "Pizza place" "Pet Store" etc. It was pretty cute. She loved it and I had fun too!

Of course I let her win. It's just something I do. I like to make Michelle happy in any way I can. She gets so excited when she wins.

At some point I should probably stop letting her win so that she'll have more realistic expectations of herself and not expect to win ALL the time but I just figure why not make her happy whenever I can?! She has the rest of her life to be disappointed. Why not let childhood be a time of invincibility and magic? 

When I went outside to clean up I found this ENORMOUS insect living on my gazebo. I wasn't sure what it was. It looked like if a fly mated with a grasshopper but it was HUGE! I was horrified and fascinated by it all at once. I wondered if it might be a cicada -- I've never seen one before, usually I just hear them -- that characteristic buzzing from bushes in the Summer. But this one wasn't humming at all.

I googled it and it seemed I was right, this was a cicada. I read that the females don't sing. They just wait for their prince to come. I read that some cicadas live underground for SEVENTEEN YEARS (?!) before they surface. I felt quite honoured to actually see one and have it on my gazebo. She stayed there all night. The next morning I went out to put up some more balloons and she WAS STILL THERE! I told my Mom about it on the phone. She told my sister about it and everyone was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately it flew away before they arrived. I guess it wasn't a social butterfly, but an anti-social cicada...


I decided to let Michelle open some presents upstairs so I could get pictures in my (or shouldI say OUR because she's still co-sleeping with me..) room. I LOVE this shot of her with her presents. Her hands clasped together in excitement.

I love this dress too. She picked it out herself. It's a dress fit for a princess! She even wore a tiara for a bit. This is one of my fave dresses. I adore the frilly lilac flowers. Michelle was thrilled to wear it. She always acts like she's a Princess going to a ball. Again, I figure why not let her enjoy that while she can. She'll have plenty of time to wear jeans and sweatpants when she's older. Might as well glam it up while she's a young girl!

She made this tiara herself. It was a craft kit to make your own headband/tiaras. Michelle loves doing crafts. It was perfect with her mauve dress. Of course being hard plastic it wasn't very comfortable so she didn't keep it on for long. I managed to get a few photos with it anyway.

I love all the colours -- her mauve dress, the turquoise comforter, the pink presents. I love colour. One of these days I would like to paint again -- walls and canvases! I just have to find (or rather MAKE) the time. Maybe when Michelle is back in school (which unfortunately will be all too soon! TIME IS FLYING BY! I keep saying it because it keeps blowing my mind!)

Michelle does get spoiled but at least she's appreciative of her presents and makes a fuss over each one. Some kids have almost no reaction but she's animated and excited and grateful so it certainly makes me want to get things for her.

The truth is that I've always loved toys ("I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid!") even long before I had children. I collected Barbies and stuffed animals etc. So now that I have a child, my sales resistance is less than zero!

Michelle had asked me for this Playdoh Dentist tooth guy "Doctor Drill and Fill" (you make teeth out of white playdoh and then drill them etc. Good times!) AGES AGO and I was trying to hold out to give it to her after her first trip to the dentist. But then I've had so much drama with dentists (bad experience with a fly by night local office that I would NEVER take her to and then my abscess issues and a new mall dentist after an emergency appointment) so I never got around to making an appointment for her. At least she did have a "dental screening" at school and had no cavities. Anyway she was thrilled with her Doctor Drill and Fill. It almost looks like she's opening her mouth for a check-up!

Michelle had asked me for this Fingerlings monkey a while back as well. She admired it in Toys R Us and I let on like I wasn't getting it but AS IF I could resist getting an adorable monkey that clings to your finger! Frankly I wish I could get her a real finger monkey (marmoset -- Google it and if your cheeks don't hurt from smiling and you don't exclaim "AWWWWWW!" then there is something seriously wrong with you!) but I hear they can become violent and destructive once they reach adulthood. And that's not cute. Plus some monkeys throw their feces and that's just messed up. So plastic monkey it is! Adorbs! And it's even purple to match her dress. I mean that's just good planning! (Actually it was just lucky. I didn't know until the last minute what dress Michelle would choose to wear...)

This is as close as I get to fancy, seriously. Martha Stewart, I AIN'T! LOL but I found these adorable little floral toothpicks at the Dollar Store so "Voila!" -- Pretty grapes and cheese!

I can see why people pair wine and cheese because when I took a bite of cheese with the grapes it is perfection! Of course I like my grapes BEFORE they go bad! I'm not a fan of alcohol. Yes I know it's "grown up" and "sophisticated" to appreciate fine wines. But I'm honest and it's all a bit "Emperor's New Clothes" to me. No I don't detect a hint of woodiness. It tastes like fermented (aka rotten) grapes, which is what it is.

My dad's bewildered face under the rainbow is everything! LOL Michelle picked out the rainbow and cloud balloons. They have stood the test of time (at this writing -- going on September -- they are still inflated! I've had to give them a couple of puffs -- I have a straw that fits in the hole to re-inflate them) but other than that it's mostly helium and they're still floating! These mylar balloons can last a long time -- months or years. Even after the helium is gone you can blow them up again with air which I did for the unicorn balloon from Auntie May's birthday back in May.

A HUGE stuffed fishy from Grandma! Grandma also gave Michelle a vintage Cabbage Patch Doll which she's been saving since back in the day. My Mom was reluctant to part with it. (Update: my Mom later asked that Michelle keep it at Grandma's house to play with...And to keep the box. So, truth be told this is Grandma's doll that she is pretending is a gift for Michelle...Actually Michelle has yet to play with it anyway. Michelle does like some dolls but prefers Barbies and Monster High dolls to baby dolls. She also says she doesn't want to have babies because they're "too much work." Clever girl.)

The walking kitty from Grandma was a hit. Michelle was thrilled with it. She said it looked a bit like Ali, our grey tabby. She has a lot of pets that walk or bark or poop or God knows what. As far as real pets go a cat is more than enough for us right now. Maybe a kitten someday. I've explained why we can never have a dog -- too high maintenance and I travel too much -- but Michelle LOVES them and makes a fuss every time she sees a dog. I love all animals but admittedly am much more of a cat person. Cats are perfection. (Except when you have to clean out the litter box. That's my least fave chore.)

The whole family under the gazebo. I was so thrilled to get this in time for the party. It was only $50 on sale. I had to call around a couple of stores to find it though. You just pop it open/stretch it out and "Voila!" instant gazebo. Then you can fold it back up when you're done. Which I did after the 2 parties were over. My poor sister and Shane have had MANY so-called permanent gazebos that were destroyed by the wind. It is great to have for shelter on a sunny day but best not to leave out in a storm...
I kept the empty pinata head hanging as a prop, almost like a Chinese lantern because I thought it was cute. I was a little bummed that the Cicada wasn't there to join the party.

It was an odd day. Everyone was a little out of sorts. My sister hadn't been feeling well, I was a little stressed/exhausted. Shannon seemed tired. It was just an off day. It happens. I was glad that Michelle still had a good birthday. I was frankly more than partied out after hosting parties two days in a row! Do birthdays HAVE to be an annual thing?! I suddenly realized why some people don't have birthday parties for their kids. It's a LOT of work/stress/aggravation. (But I think I would always do one out of guilt. It's just what I grew up with. You can't NOT have a party for your kid!)

A family photo with the cake! As I expected most of my family didn't even know who Poppy was and weren't concerned that my cake looked more like a Calavera, Dia de los Muertos sugar skull than the bubbly pink troll princess from the movie "Trolls." The important thing was that I made the effort working with what I had and managed to improvise TWO cakes for my girl, hurting my wrist and exhausting my patience in the process! The things I do for my girl! I wouldn't for anyone else that's for sure! Used to be when I made a cake it was just a cake mix and regular icing and you'd be lucky if I messily scrawled your name on it and or stuck candles in it! Or I'd just do a store bought or ice cream cake. Again, I have the photos to show Michelle when she's older. "See how much I loved you?! I got carpal tunnel making your cake every year!" Squeezing those dang little blobs of icing hundreds of times until I go stark staring mad!

And then, eating the cake. "I want the EYE!" Michelle exclaims, because she's ruthless like that. She doesn't need to have her cake and eat it too. She just wants to eat it! I also had some cupcakes that I'd made with leftover cake/icing. I wound up having quite a bit of cake. Between that and pizza and Chinese food (because I ordered in for both parties and I couldn't have pizza twice in a row...Well I could actually eat pizza EVERY DAY if I'm being honest but the vote was for Chinese anyway!) I gained 5 lbs. I also had a few jelly beans too. And by a few I mean almost enough to fill a jar... (Small confession -- I had another game planned where kids could guess how many jelly beans were in a jar but then I couldn't be bothered counting them and they looked so pretty I decided to keep the jar so I just put some in a bowl for the kids to have and kept the jar myself. Unfortunately I wound up eating half of it... #DietFail Good thing I don't like the black ones at least (jelly beans, that is.)

Aaaaaaand SUGAR RUSH. Yes Michelle was bouncing off the walls. She normally is anyway but you add some sugar to the mix and she's WIRED! So she was shrieking with glee at a deafening level. Reggie was making faces which made her laugh even more.

No more cake for you! I was just glad she liked her cake and was so happy with her two parties. I was incredibly grateful and relieved both parties were over and I could take a (much needed!) rest...

All's well that ends well! June and July had their rough moments as most months do but we also had some great times and that's what you have to focus on. I was extremely grateful (after all the work and stress) that Michelle's birthday parties went well and that she was happy. It's not always easy for me but I do everything in my power to make Michelle happy. She's worth the sacrifices.

High five! I still can't believe My little girl is FIVE YEARS OLD NOW! It has flown by and it has been (despite moments of hell on Earth) mostly wonderful... Sometimes I don't know how I'll get through (the day, the week, the year...) but somehow I do. And the rough days just make you appreciate the good days even more -- Abscess makes the heart grow fonder! LOL And the reality is that time flies whether you're having fun or not. I'm sure another 5 years from now I'll be saying I can't believe she's 10 years old already (assuming Trump is impeached and doesn't blow the world up before then!) You can't stop time. Unless you take a gazillion pictures which I will continue to do!

Michelle is starting school in a few days?! Senior kindergarten! But I'll save that for the next blog...