Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Before the Fall...

...and then August was gone. Within seconds. Poof! Summer was over. Blink and you'd have missed it. We were into September. As I write this post (in September and likely October before I'm done) I can hardly believe it but then life is speeding by and Summer was certainly no exception.

Part of it is just being so busy. My work schedule is nuts to say the least. My hours were doubled at the start of the year. Financially it was a godsend but physically and mentally it was extremely taxing! Back in January I didn't know how I'd survive it with my commute and everything -- back and forth to my Mom's and work and school, driving all over hell's half acre on top of the long shifts I work. Somehow though, I made it to September. And it went so quickly. Even the tough days. Time doesn't just fly when you're having fun. Life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs and going WAY too fast.

Since I'd been working so much and we were barely home (and on the days when I was off I usually had planned an excursion for us) I realized Michelle hadn't ridden her bike in a while.

Of course you never forget how to ride a bike, especially when you have training wheels. Michelle was excited to ride her bike until we had gone around the block and she started saying her legs were too tired to go on. I wasn't buying it. This from a girl who is in perpetual motion, who runs around the yard non-stop, who's like a friggin Energizer bunny on cocaine! I told her she had no choice but to keep going anyway since we were almost home, it would take longer to walk than ride and I wasn't about to carry or drag her bike back with us. We made it back home. I may try taking the training wheels off next year but definitely not yet when she has a hard enough time WITH the training wheels.

One of Michelle's birthday presents (from me) was a children's Scrabble game. One day when we were home I asked what she wanted to do and she wanted to play Scrabble. She loved it. I let her win because that's what I do! It's obviously a much simpler version of the game since it's made for kids. It's funny because both her father and I loved playing Scrabble. He was one of the only boyfriends I had that could actually beat me in a war of words (and he was quite proud of himself when he did! Especially since I have a B.A. Specialist in English and graduated with honours.) Scrabble was actually part of the reason I even dated her father at all. While other guys I met online were trying to get me into bed, he said he wanted to "beat me at Scrabble!" Which was cute and I accepted the challenge. (Ironically aside from board games he obviously got me into bed as well! And I'm very grateful he did or Michelle wouldn't exist! LOL. Appeal to my mind and the body follows!) It does seem that Michelle inherited our love of words. She loves reading/writing and word games. She does word searches as well at Grandma's house.

Although my hectic work schedule was unavoidable I felt bad leaving her so much and tried to have as much quality time with Michelle as possible. I tried to make it up to her by taking her fun places on my days off. I usually let her choose where she wanted to go. At one point Michelle complained about us driving so much. She was getting fed up with the commute back and forth to Grandma's. That instantly ruled out one of the fun adventures I'd been planning -- Canada's Wonderland -- because it's a VERY long drive. Also a VERY long wait in line at each of the rides. I told her if she couldn't tolerate a long drive then we wouldn't be going. In a way I was relieved because it's expensive and a lot of waiting that tries my patience as well. I miss Wonderland but the fact is I wouldn't even be able to go on my favourite rollercoasters (the scary ones!) with Michelle. Maybe I'll wait till she's old enough (or tall enough!) to go on the really fun coasters!
For now we set our sights a little lower. And it doesn't take much to please Michelle. She was thrilled just to go to McDonalds' Play Place. She makes friends everywhere she goes. She had a ball running around with the kids and playing hide and seek and going on the slides with them. At one point she was playing with one boy when another older boy came and she started playing with him instead. The first boy in a fit of jealousy yelled at Michelle "I don't like you anymore!" I looked at her face. For a second I was afraid she'd get upset but then she just made a face, shrugged her shoulders and went on. I was proud of her. I told her it's a good attitude to have if someone is rude to you just shrug it off. Don't let it get to you. Kids were coming and going but I let Michelle play to her heart's content. Then we got our food to go afterwards.

Ever since her birthday Michelle was going on about how she wanted to get together with her best friend for a play date. So we arranged a play date and Michelle went over to her friend's house. She had a ball! Her friend has two sisters, two dogs and a KITTEN to play with so needless to say, Michelle was thrilled.

Being a control freak it is always a little hard leaving Michelle (other than school and the odd birthday party I have NEVER left her with anyone.) It was only for a few hours and she had a great time. Her friend's Mom said she was a doll and she's welcome any time. At one point she called to ask if I minded her taking the kids for ice cream. I said no of course not. Right after there was a terrible thunderstorm. I started to panic. Of course I drive in thunderstorms all the time but when it's someone else driving with her... They were fine, naturally. I was relieved when I could pick her up though. It was pouring rain when I got out of the car. Of course it was.

Photoholic that I am I had to get some pictures of Michelle and the kitten when I came to pick her up. This shot is my favourite! I LOVE THIS PHOTO!!!

It's so cute it makes my cheeks hurt! I got the kitten to look by making a kissing noise. That kitten is just too adorable for words! I love Michelle's sweet Mona Lisa half smile too! And their blue eyes! Honestly I could stare at this photo all day! LOL It's my happy place. If there is anything on the planet cuter than kittens and kids then I don't know what!

Michelle didn't want to leave so I figured I'd take advantage and snap some pictures while I was there anyway. I'm so glad that I did. This is gold, baby!

As I've probably mentioned on occasion, I can be a bit of a gloomy Gus. Eeyore is my spirit animal. People at work were teasing me about how I always have a little storm cloud over my head (like in the cartoons where the dark cloud hovers over just one poor schlep and the skies are clear for everyone else.) Not just figuratively. Literally it seems like the sun will be shining until I step outside and it starts to rain on me (this has happened often enough that it's hard not to take it personally.) So one day I was heading out on my lunch break from work and they had been calling for rain so I figured there was a pretty good chance of getting soaked. Even knowing this I didn't have the foresight to bring my raincoat or an umbrella. I went outside and it was a bit overcast but OK. I made it to the car without getting rained on so that was a plus.

Normally I have my windows up and the A/C on when it's 30 degrees and humid but there was a bit of a cool breeze so I just kept the window down. I was at a red light near the mall when all of a sudden I was getting drenched inexplicably! Like it was raining INSIDE THE CAR! "WTF?!" I'm pretty exhausted and half asleep most of the time on dayshift (like a zombie on no sleep) so it took me a second to register what was happening. I rolled the window up and yelled "WTF?!" only to see this complete a-hole in a white pickup truck next to me giving me a greasy smile. "You f-ing CREEP!" I said and let him pull ahead when the light turned green so I could take down his license plate. The door to the back was down and the truck was full of construction gear. I guess he was a contractor. I still managed to get the plate. Not that much could be done anyway about a drive by H2O shooting.

I guess I should be thankful he just shot me with a water gun and not a real gun (because sometimes that happens!) So yeah, it wasn't life-threatening but it was annoying AF. My whole left side from head to waist was wet. I was MAD. I dried off my glasses and tried to dry out my hair a bit with napkins I had in the glove compartment. It must have been a water machine gun because it was a LOT of water just in those couple of seconds. I don't know what on Earth this creep was trying to prove but I was NOT impressed. I guess if I was a laid-back, easy-going gal I might have laughed and said "Thanks for cooling me off!" (If it isn't already ABUNDANTLY CLEAR -- I AM NOT A LAID-BACK, EASY-GOING GAL!)

Oddly when I told my Mom the story later, instead of having any sympathy for me she asked "Was he cute?"
"WHAT?! No he wasn't CUTE! He looked like an uglier version of Mike Holmes from Holmes on Homes. Like a big old light haired beady eyed freak! And that slimeball smile was GROSS! Anyway how is that RELEVANT?! If anyone shot me with a water gun unexpectedly I'd be mad! Even if he looked like Ryan Gosling!" (Though in fairness, if it was Ryan Gosling I MAY have forgiven him! LOL)
"Well maybe he was just trying to get your attention," my Mom suggested.
"If that's his pick-up technique -- 'Hey you look hot, cool off!' -- it's an EPIC FAIL because I did NOT find it charming or funny and I mostly just wanted to punch him in the face! Stupid a-hole!"
To me it made no sense. I couldn't see it being road rage because I hadn't cut anyone off or anything. And why did he smile at me? The whole thing was just creepy and weird. In retrospect, considering he had construction supplies and looked like Holmes on Homes maybe it WAS! But I doubt he'd behave so abominably. I might have gotten his photo or autograph though...
Anyway after that bizarre incident I was paranoid and kept
my car window rolled up! Especially if there was a car in the left lane beside me at a red light. After spending some time in the mall I was mostly dry. Ironically when I stepped outside to head back to work, it STARTED TO RAIN. Of course it did. "Are you f-ing KIDDING ME?! I JUST DRIED OFF from my drive by watering and now you RAIN ON ME?! Nice." (Yes I talk to the sky because why not? I have to vent to someone.) I wound up telling them my tale of woe at work. When I got back to my desk my boss had put an Oreo blizzard on it for me. Ice cream to cure a bad day? It works! Faith in humanity restored. But you can see how I'm not making it up: That rain cloud over my head can even be INSIDE the car! What are the odds?! This sh$# could only happen to me.

Michelle and her cousin Evie have birthdays around the same time. Every year in early August we all get together for a big family beach day/birthday party at Wasaga Beach. I always look forward to it, even though it's a bit of a drive. The second we got there the clouds were dark and it was starting to rain. I got a few drops on me. "No, please not today!" and the heavens were merciful for once. It was beautiful the rest of the day.

Everyone was so relaxed they didn't want to get up to pose for the obligatory group shot but I wouldn't take no for an answer as you can see!
And the rule of the self-timer is, you take a second shot just in case the first one didn't turn out.

There's rarely a perfect shot where everyone is looking and smiling but I settle for what I can get. They may grumble about it and not feel like posing but I love these big group shots. The Pincivero clan is a big gang and I love it. Michelle and I are a tiny family but it's nice to have this larger network to get together with.

I love this shot of Michelle and her cousin Kayla. They are about the same size even though Kayla is years older. Uncle Mikey often gives us a bag of clothes Kayla has outgrown. This time he also gave us a few toys -- little toy computers/games that Kayla is getting too old for. Michelle was happy with them.

Michelle had a ball playing with her cousins. After the beach we headed back to Uncle Mike's for a BBQ. Michelle had a blast playing in the backyard too with their swingset and a new TRAMPOLINE!

Yes I couldn't resist trying out the trampoline myself. The last time I tried one was years ago and was kind of disastrous since I was sharing it with a few people who were heavier than me and consequently catapulted me around like a child's toy. I had wanted to try it on my own but Michelle insisted on coming with me so I was limited in how hard/high I could jump because I didn't want to send her flying (even with the net there.) Here we're actually holding hands and jumping very lightly together. I was surprised how much of a workout it was jumping! It hurt my chest too... A sport bra would have come in handy.

Uncle Mike couldn't make it to Michelle's birthday so he gave her her present at Evie's party. She adored the huge grey kitty beanie boo.

Michelle has a very large collection of stuffies, including many stuffed cats of all colours, but she doesn't have too many that are this size! It was very cute. I wondered if she'd want to bring it everywhere with her like she often does with her new stuffies (in the car etc.) It would be a bit of a challenge since it was almost as big as she was.

Evie wound up getting a large stuffed dog as well. Michelle and I are mostly cat people (though Michelle loves dogs as well I explained why we can never have one. They're just WAY too high maintenance and we're not home enough.)

I love this shot of the girls in their little playhouse/slide. So cute.

Michelle doesn't see her cousins Evie and Kayla too often (usually just a few times a year. She often mixes up their names -- calling Evie Kayla and vice versa.) Michelle is notoriously bad with names. Worse than me. I remember when she started kindergarten and she didn't even know her best friend's name that she played with every day for weeks!

As expected, Michelle wanted to carry her new massive beanie boo kitty around with her. It was a challenge at bedtime because the cat took up almost as much room as another person and the bed is crowded enough as it is. Yes I am STILL co-sleeping with Michelle. I was hoping as she became increasingly independent in other ways that it would lead to her wanting her own room but no such luck. I'm not going to force the issue. She can leave when she's ready. I had terrible night terrors as a child and I was left to fend for myself. I always want her to feel safe and loved.

There were changes happening at work in August. It was a change for the better because we moved to a new building while the old one (which was falling apart and EXTREMELY NOISY with construction going on) was being renovated. Still, even a change for the better can be stressful when you're a creature of habit. The first shift in our new digs, with new phones and computers I felt a bit like a fish out of water trying to get used to things being different. Before long though I was happy with a new room and WITH A VIEW (huge windows instead of the tiny dungeon-like windows we had before.) Without saying where I work (because even though I reveal so much about my life I have to keep some things private here) I spend a lot of time there, with long shifts, so having it be a nicer atmosphere helps. My long commute became a bit shorter as well which is nice. (But I still drive A LOT and usually on no sleep. It's not easy. It's actually excruciating much of the time!)

Another day, another trip to Play Place. It's free, she loves it and it's an excuse to eat at McDonalds. When I was a kid my Mom NEVER took us to McDonalds. I was always so jealous of other kids who got to go. So now I go whenever I feel like it and it's a treat for Michelle too. Once again Michelle had an absolute blast running and playing on the slides. And again of course she made new friends. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be social and to talk to strangers and turn them into friends everywhere you go. But I just can't relate to it. I was a shy kid. I'm a shy adult. Being social just isn't my thing. I would NEVER randomly approach a stranger. So unless someone happens to approach me, we will never meet.

Ironically I have over 10,000 followers on Twitter now! It's different online. I can say anything when it's just words on a screen. Actual face to face human interaction is scarier.

One day we went to Toys R Us to spend the gift card Michelle got for her birthday. She had fun picking out things to buy with her own money. Of course she admired the $300 pink car again and I reminded her that until/unless we win the lottery -- not a chance.

My girl can be quite a Diva. Sometimes she doesn't want her photo taken. Other times she's striking poses like there's no tomorrow. She started parading around the yard doing a catwalk strut and flipping her hair. I can't imagine when she's a teenager. I AM DOOMED! I love this shot of her flipping her hair though!

Michelle loves to dance around the yard and perform for me. I found this ribbon wand at the dollar store and she loved it. I got several pictures of her dancing around with it.

She wants to take ballet lessons. It was one of my dreams as a child. I definitely want to put her in dance it's just going to be tough with my hectic schedule. As well as financially. I'll do what I can though. I don't want her to miss out the way I did.

One day we were home and I'd just mowed the lawn when I thought, why don't we run through the sprinkler? Michelle screamed with glee. Even the simple things can make her happy. Unfortunately I wound up having a bit of an accident. I always get photos of everything. I set the camera on a chair and accidentally knocked it on to the cement when I went to grab a towel. "OH NO!" it cracked open, made a noise and the screen went black. My heart sank. There are few (make that NO) possessions as dear to me as my Nikon! I take it with me everywhere. Even though the lens is scratched and I should replace it I'm attached to it and reluctant to let go. I started to panic. I figured I'd have to go buy a new camera (I can't be without a camera! Especially when we had plans to go to the lake with Auntie May the next day.) I managed to snap the camera back together, replaced the battery and said a little prayer that it would be OK. To my amazement it worked again! I kissed it and promised not to drop it on cement again. I've had bad luck with cameras. They usually only last 3 years before they break down or suffer some horrible fate (a stranger dropping my Canon on cement in Montreal, my old Nikon soaked by Sprite on a tour bus in the Dominican Republic, etc.)

Another one of Michelle's favourite activities is making crafts -- especially ones full of glitter, jewels, feathers -- the messier the better! I find it fun too although it is hard on my back sitting on the floor and the clean-up is never fun. Michelle is never as keen on cleaning up as she is in making the mess unfortunately! We made glitter bears, hearts and cats. I get most of the supplies from the dollar store. Usually I'm covered in glitter for the rest of the day and I keep finding it all over the place. Like sand, only prettier.

There had been a lot of rain. My brother told us that Burlington Beach (where we used to go swimming) was GONE. The water levels had risen and there was no sand left. When we went to Gulliver's Lake we found that it too had changed. The sand was gone and they had put a barrier around the lake. My sister told us there had been a drowning there a couple of weeks earlier which gave me the creeps. Of course drownings can happen anywhere. I'm always careful with Michelle. I watch her like a hawk and she has her life jacket and floatie lion to stay afloat.

Here we are with the rainbow unicorn that Michelle picked out and bought herself at Toys R Us with her gift card. She has a collection of unicorns (as well as bears, cats, you name it) but of course the rainbow unicorns are the best.

Here it looks like she's almost poking me in the eye with it. There's another pony in the background as well. Sometimes our cat Ali will sit on the stairs and pose with us but let's be honest, cats don't do what you want them to unless it's entirely their idea. So the stuffed animals are a better choice. Even when their rainbow horns poke you in the eye.

When Michelle was a baby I got so many pictures of her sleeping. 1. Because babies nap during the day (sometimes) and 2. because she looked like an angel and I couldn't resist an Anne Geddes moment! I hadn't taken a picture of her sleeping in a while but seeing her hugging her unicorn was too sweet for words. She is still my little angel. Of course she always will be, even when she's 30 years old. If I'm still alive by then! (The way I've been feeling lately I sometimes wonder if I'll last out the year never mind decades from now!) What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Unless of course, it kills you.
On the last day of school Michelle's teacher told us we could pop by and visit her at her Summer job at a home decor store. One day I asked Michelle what she wanted to do and she wanted to see her teacher so we went.

Michelle was so excited and happy to see her and the store was so beautiful! I wanted everything in it! I settled for a beautiful scent (which can be used as a perfume or a room spray) called Baltic Amber. I just LOVE IT! The store was so cool. Michelle was excited to see her teacher. As we were nearing the end of the Summer Michelle was actually looking forward to going back to school (which was good because if she was dreading it, it would have been even harder for me to deal with. I was depressed enough about Summer ending.)

Michelle was also excited to show her teacher the book that she'd finished. It was a book she'd started working on in school -- an ambitious comic style book about a superhero and villain "Bug Girl and the Amazing Flower Girl." She was so proud to show her teacher that she'd finished the whole book and that it had a happy ending -- the enemies wind up being friends.

I'm so proud of Michelle -- how clever and imaginative and talented she is; how sweet and loving and kind she is. Her teacher is proud of her too. Michelle was happy that she would have the same teachers again in September for Senior Kindergarten. That's just how they do it now -- you're two years in the same class for junior and senior kindergarten. Presumably you do different things each year...I think a lot of it is free play but I can't be sure because it was always like pulling teach to get Michelle to talk about what she did in school!

Out of the bag of Kayla's hand me downs from Uncle Mike, Michelle's favourite outfit was this Zoo Keeper's shirt. The perfect thing to wear to the zoo! I also had this dress with safari animals on it. (It's hard to make it out in the photos.)

I couldn't believe the Summer was almost over and we hadn't even been to the Zoo yet! But there were so many other things I wanted to do. I had a list of things to cross off. We managed to do most of them except Wonderland but then Michelle decided she didn't want any more long drives anyway.

We picked a day where it wasn't too hot and humid for a lot of walking and set off to the zoo. With a blue leopard in tow. (He waited in the car.)

Trying to get her goat! The baby goats were SO cute! And I couldn't resist getting a selfie of us with a couple of goats. One of them is even looking RIGHT at the camera! Bonus!

Taking pictures really is my happy place. I live for cute photo ops so I was absolutely in my glory at the zoo! I was happy that my camera had survived the incident. I wasn't even sure where to shop for a camera anymore if I had to replace it. I mean, I'm a little behind the times (and by a little I mean for example I still have an i-Phone 4. And like it's gone up to i-Phone 8 now. Actually there's even an i-Phone X for over $1K. So like the poor i-Phone 8 is already obsolete? Forced obsolescence at warp speed now! They even have facial recognition instead of a home button?! This is some Brave New World sh$% here. I'm resistant to technology. But I'm rambling....) Most people don't have old school "cameras" anymore. Their phone is their camera. I can't even take photos on my i-Phone 4 anymore (Apple deliberately upgraded to screw over dinosaurs like me. I started getting a white screen of death and basically can't take photos with it anymore. So I stopped Instagram too.) I don't plan to buy a new fangled phone. And I wouldn't want my phone to be my camera anyway. I take way too many photos. I like being able to get SD cards and fill them up and then get a new one.

Michelle and me and zebra makes 3. He's sort of looking from behind the fence. I propped the camera up on a fence across the way, set the timer and ran. Thankfully most people hear me counting, spot the camera and stay out of its path (sometimes people are clueless though and blunder right into the shot. They don't know. And I get it. Most people just do the cellphone selfie thing not the timer thing.)

Michelle loves the creature show. She's fearless. When they come around with the creatures for kids to check them out, Michelle is always right in there to touch the different animals/reptiles. I think this guy was called a "skink" which is weird and sounds made up. It looked like a lizard or something to me but whatever. I told Michelle not to touch her face after touching these animals because who knows what could be on them? (Some frogs sweat pure LSD. You just never know.) Thankfully they had antibacterial gel nearby to wash your hands with afterwards.

Tigers are so powerful and beautiful. I wanted to get closer but the zoo had it blocked off so you couldn't get too close. Luckily with my zoom lens I was right in there to see his (or her?) handsome face. To me cats, whether they're house cats or wild cats, are the most beautiful perfect creatures on earth.

I was hoping to get one where he looked right at me but I was glad to at least get one where he was awake. Cats, even the big ones, nap a lot of the day!
Michelle's favourite part of the day was feeding grass to the deer. She would have stayed there all day long if she had her way. I had to keep going to find long grass so she could stick it through the fence. I was happy to snap photos of her feeding them but eventually I did have to tear her away from them so we could see the rest of the zoo.
"More grass Mama!"
There were people feeding bags of seed but the deer seemed just as happy (or happier) with the grass. All the grass inside their cage had been eaten. The grass really IS greener on the other side of the fence in their case! LOL

Gracias for the grass wee lass!

The deer were so cute. Michelle feeding them was even cuter. She wanted to keep feeding them and I was happy to keep snapping photos of it. Other people were buying bags of feed to feed them but they seemed just as happy (or happier) with the grass so we went that route. Their enclosure was dirt covered so it looked like they'd grazed all the grass there.

Maybe I should have a deer to eat my lawn so I wouldn't have to mow it! (I'm sort of kidding!)

My wee monkey!

Yes I can't resist a cheesy photo op so I made Michelle pose with her face in the cutout. I wanted to get one with both of us but there wasn't really anywhere to place the camera for a self-timed shot. (They'd moved a nearby picnic table where I sat the camera last time.)

It's a bit of an awkward strained smile but it somehow suits the monkey face!

Michelle had fun playing in the playground as well. She ALWAYS winds up making new little friends.

Posing with a camel and he even looked at us at one point! Then it was back to the deer again... Oh deer! Michelle would have stayed there the rest of her life if I'd let her. At one point a deer was coughing the way the cat does when she eats grass and I started to think maybe we shouldn't be feeding them grass? No one stopped us though.

One last shot with the zebra and we were out of there. It was a fun but exhausting day walking around the zoo. I was glad that we got to go. It was one of the things I'd wanted to do through the Summer and we were so busy with other things we never got around to it. I was thankful it wasn't too hot of a day so it wasn't too unbearable walking around in the heat all day. Other days with the humidity we would have collapsed (we saved those days for the beach/pool!)

Another ritual/event we attend every year/season is visiting the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation Dream home. We usually dress up to go because when you're visiting a million dollar home you might as well dress for the occasion. Michelle and I wore blue dresses as you can see. Michelle loves dressing up so she was game and I like dressing up now and then. This blue floral dress was one I had ordered online -- I fell in love with it when I saw it. It was a little different in person but I was still happy with it.

Unfortunately we had to walk quite a long way from the designated parking area to the house. Grandma wasn't thrilled.

Michelle and me in front of our new house (hopefully! If and when we win it!) It was beautiful. Of course. They always are. We always go and get a ticket because how often do you get to see and possibly win a million dollar home. The money also goes to a good cause -- cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital. So it's win-win. Although, all these years buying tickets I have yet to win anything. My mom won a small prize once. I keep hoping my luck's got to change at some point. Though even if I won the house could I afford the taxes to live there?! (I'd probably have to sell it but it'd be nice to stay there for a little while at least!)

Gorgeous. I LOVED how it was decorated. Absolutely beautiful. Contemporary decor in muted colours -- greys and taupes. Stunning. They are always beautifully decorated and they come fully furnished if you win it -- what you see is what you get! There were a lot of other people going through but I managed to get a couple of self-timed shots without photo bombers. Most people were respectful and stayed out of the way!

Bedroom to die for! I loved the oversized headboard (even if it was a little like a padded cell! LOL Some days I almost feel like I belong in one anyway.) This bright white room bathed in light was such a happy place. I could imagine waking up smiling here. In my fantasies I would just relax in bed and have nothing to worry about (sure! Could happen! Maybe if I win the lottery AND the Dream Home Lottery!)

Yes. I could use a punching bag. This blue punching dummy was kind of creepy but in a way he's the perfect man -- he has a good head on his shoulders, lets you use and abuse him and doesn't complain! And he wouldn't be after one thing because he doesn't even have a bottom half! LOL (Truly though he does sort of give me the creeps so I might have to sell him on Kijiji or something...) Michelle started punching him until she got in trouble from one of the staff there. Oops.

My funny girl dancing around the bedroom. She loved the house too.
"Mama can we LIVE HERE?!"
"Sure baby. We just have to WIN it first!"
If only.
"There's so much room to dance around!"
Yes. So much room and so beautiful. It's hard to imagine being sad in that house. Until you look at your bills I guess. They say money can't buy happiness but I'd be happy if I NEVER HAD TO WORRY ABOUT MONEY AGAIN! Am I right?!
And then we headed back to Grandma's house where Michelle danced around the backyard.

She wants to take ballet lessons and I don't want to let her down because it was one of my dreams as a kid and I never got to do it. It will be tricky though trying to work in lessons with my insane work schedule, school and everything else. I will find a way though. Dreams are too important. And I think Michelle could be a great dancer. My little drama queen. She is so expressive in so many ways -- as an artist, writer, singer, dancer. I don't know where she gets it from... LOL Ok, yes it's in our blood. I love all those things too.

And then Michelle wore herself out and rested on my lap on the swing for a moment. I LOVE this picture! She looks so sweet and her eyes are as blue as her dress. I love my sweet angel. I'm so grateful for her. As chaotic as my life can be and is lately when I have a moment to be with her and just take a breath I am so happy. She is what keeps me going. It's not easy. It is worth it. I just wish I could give her the world. I do the best I can with what I have.
I had to work the day of the total eclipse. I called my Mom to make sure she didn't let Michelle outside because I was afraid she'd look at the sky and hurt her eyes. I know that being told NOT to do something sometimes just makes it that much more tempting, especially when you're a kid and you may not fully understand the dangers/consequences of your actions. My Mom made sure Michelle didn't go out that afternoon. I remember as a kid hearing about the eclipse and I was so tempted to look but I didn't.

Ironically, the President (supposed to be a grown man but acts like a child) didn't heed warnings not to look at the eclipse and there were even photos of him staring up at the eclipse WITHOUT the protective eye wear that he'd been given! I LOVED this headline from the Daily News: "Not Too Bright!" It was perfect! The sun may be bright but Trump is definitely NOT. An imbecile who impulsively tweets from a golden toilet. A selfish scam-artist, admitted sexual predator, White Supremacist The most embarrassing unpresidential President EVER.) Let's face it, Trump is like a big defiant child so you can't exactly tell him what to do or not to do. Hopefully they impeach him before he blows up the world. He and Kim Jong-un (another childish narcissist) have gotten into a battle of words -- #DotardTrump vs #RocketMan and threatening to nuke each other. Hoping that Mueller can sort out the whole #RussiaGate thing and get Trump out before he does too much more damage...

My favourite Summer destination is the beach. It is my happy place. Michelle loves it too. So we made another trip to Port Dover beach and parked ourselves under a palm tree. It's as close as I get to a tropical destination these days. I love relaxing on the warm sand. It's one of the few times I actually do get to just SIT AND RELAX while Michelle plays.

Michelle wanted to go in the water but I told her not to go further than her legs. It was too cold anyway and she doesn't like seaweed so she was happy just to stay near the shore.

She had wanted to bring her floatie lion but I forgot it so at least I had a good excuse not to let her go into the water. I'm always worried about it being polluted as well though there always seem to be brave souls out there swimming without worrying about it.

Leave it to Michelle to make a little friend. Any time she sees a child her age (or a bit younger or older) she asks if she can go up and talk to them. Most of the time they're very receptive. I'm still in awe of her bravery -- I could NEVER do it in a million years! She'll just go up to someone and say "Hi I'm Michelle! What's your name? Do you want to play?" It's too cute for words. I know part of it is just her nature -- she's a Leo, confident, a leader and a social butterfly. I am happy for her that she's able to do that and has no problem making friends. I tend to be the opposite -- somewhat anti-social, shy and reserved. I am usually friendly with someone once they approach me but I will never be the one to do the approaching! I tend to just keep to myself. It always makes me cringe a little when Michelle wants to go up to strangers (if someone walks by with a dog etc.)

And then Michelle was thrilled. She made friends with an older girl WITH A DOG!

Michelle would love to have a dog but she understands that logistically it's just an impossibility for us. We're not home enough. A cat is different. Cats are independent. Dogs are extremely dependent. They need a LOT of attention. They can't be left alone for a whole day.

Our cat Ali is pretty good. She's pretty self-sufficient but she's always glad to see us when we get back. She's OK with her litterbox and endless food and water bowls. The only thing is that occasionally she'll urinate on a mat in the basement and I have to throw it out. (I'm not sure if that's her retaliation for being left when I have to work etc.)

Michelle loves the sand. Though in some ways she's a Princess and loves to dress up, she can also be quite un-princess like and doesn't mind getting dirty. She will lay in the sand and have it all stuck to her (because I always cover her in sunblock!) It will be in her hair and everything. And then it's everywhere. The car. The house. I keep finding sand. I don't mind though. I love the beach. Might as well take some of it with us. I even have little bottles of souvenir sand from some of the beaches I've been to -- Samana, Dominican Republic and Daytona Beach, Florida.

Michelle wanted to be buried in the sand. When I bury her I usually turn her legs into a mermaid tail but her new friend wasn't quite as creative so she just created a mountain of sand over her legs. Michelle laughed and laughed as she got buried and then wiggled free of it.

I love this picture of her laughing in the sand. Even though it wasn't so funny trying to get all the sand out of her hair in the bath later that night...

I tried to tell Michelle we should only go to the indoor playground on a cold or rainy day because if it's nice out we could go to a park or something outside and enjoy the weather. But sometimes she really wanted to go to the indoor playground and I just wanted to make her happy. Other times it would rain and Michelle would be excited we'd have an excuse to go. She loves running around and playing and I like getting photos of her. I do stress out sometimes when she disappears from view.

She insisted on going down the slide face first at one point and I was worried she was going to face plant on the mat at the bottom, but she didn't. I love this picture of her with a big smile. The action shots can be tricky. I put the camera on action/sport mode but then you can't use a flash and it can turn out blurry. It's almost better to just keep it in portrait mode and use the flash. I'm happy when I'm able to get one good shot at least.

And of course I always have to get at least one picture with Michelle to show that I was there too...Just because it's what I do. I like to get souvenirs of everything, all our adventures together.

I like this photo in a spot with the giraffe looking over our shoulders. When it's so crowded it's really hard to set up the timer. Sometimes I have to wait until the end when they're about to close and the crowd thins out.

One day I was watering the plants and found this little guy hopping around. I had to get Michelle. She was excited and wanted to hold the frog. He was pretty hoppity but we managed to keep him still for a long enough to get a couple of photos anyway. She kept an eye on him while I mowed the lawn in the backyard as well so he didn't get run over.

Michelle, like me, loves animals, birds, frogs, snakes, mice. She's not really afraid of anything although she's not a fan of bugs. Except ladybugs and butterflies of course.

One day more recently there was a big dead frog beside my car. I was worried Michelle would see it. Then she did and I was worried she'd be upset but she was OK. She was glad that I hadn't run over it. It wasn't squished. It was a big bloated frog that apparently "croaked" in our driveway (or someone/something dumped him there. Not sure.) It bothered me that it was there. It almost seemed like a sign of something. I used to kiss my share of frogs when I was dating and they never turned into princes. Maybe this big dead frog was a sign not to even bother trying again. There are no princes. Only dead frogs.

It wasn't my favourite task disposing of it. Michelle wanted me to bury him! I said that I wasn't holding a funeral service for a frog I didn't even know. (I was 99% sure it wasn't the little one we'd met a month earlier.) Just a random big old fat frog. It made me think back to high school and how I avoided taking Biology because I refused to dissect a frog. Now I was scraping one off my driveway. (With a shovel, by the way.) Not my favourite thing. I know it's the circle of life and all -- I would just prefer if things wouldn't die on my driveway!

No there weren't ghosts in my Mom's backyard (as far as I know, although she does have some pets buried there...) The white splotches are just my camera lens covered in scratches.

Sometimes the light reflecting off the scratches comes across as white blobs in the photo. I try to position us so we're at least not whited out by the blobs. I really should look into getting a new camera but I'm attached to my Nikon and resistant to change. As I'm sure I've mentioned many times.

My girl and me. Sometimes Michelle says "I wish I had a daddy" and it's like a dagger through my heart but what can I do? I say to her, "I know, sweetheart but you have a Mama that loves you VERY much. And maybe someday if I meet a VERY nice man but he would have to be a really GOOD guy and there are a lot of bad guys out there."

I don't date and haven't dated since her father left me 4 months pregnant. I have nothing to do with men aside from receiving professions of love and marriage proposals from random admirers on Twitter. Since hitting 10K followers I have had quite a few claim to love me, offer to fly me around the world to see them etc. I take it all with a grain of salt. I figure they're scam artists/out to get something. One was impersonating a prominent military figure and I actually reported him to the REAL Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Some of it is bizarre but I just laugh it off. It would be hard to trust anyone never mind online where people can just say anything. Even if the perfect man fell into my lap somehow I think he'd have his work cut out for him earning my trust. I wasn't careful enough when I used to date but I'm extremely cautious now that I am a Mom. I would never let someone into our lives unless I was 100% sure of him (and realistically can you be 100% sure of ANYONE?)

The new IKEA catalog came out and my Mom wanted to go to the store. I hadn't been in a while so I was game. Michelle was excited to go see the "ball room" I told her about. I wasn't even sure how it worked. I'd never brought her there before. It was quite different than I expected. I thought I'd get to sit there near her and watch her play. Instead I had to fill out a form and sign her away for an hour to be left with strangers. They gave me a pager and would let me know when to pick her up. I couldn't even go into the room where she was. And I WASN'T EVEN ALLOWED TO TAKE PHOTOS?! That was killing me. Seeing Michelle laughing and playing and not being able to capture it in pictures? IKEA said because you can't take pictures of other children without the parents' permission. "But what if I promise not to get any other kids in the photos?!"

She also had to wear socks which I'd forgotten to bring so I had to buy a pair from a sock machine (like a gumball machine, but with socks. Yes. Apparently it's a thing!) It was a loonie for a pair of socks but I only had a toonie and the guy couldn't make change. He said I'd have to go to the snack bar but the line was a mile long. Luckily I ran into a guy from work who kindly gave me a loonie. Then I left Michelle in Playland (Plajland), reluctantly, and watching through the glass like a total control freak before finally walking away and shopping in the store. I couldn't really relax for worrying about her. Even though they had her in an enclosed area with some nice young female IKEA employees watching the kids. Even though no one else could go and get her because I had the pager numbered to match her shirt number (it was all very strange to me.) I was relieved when it was time to pick her up (I was actually there early and watching through the glass.)

Michelle didn't want to leave. Luckily they kick the kids out after an hour so she had no choice. She asked me if she could come back again sometime soon and I told her yes but I was thinking in my head "Not bloody likely! I have to abandon her there, leaving her with strangers and I don't even get to take pictures of her playing?! What's the fun in that?! Well it's fun for her but I mean come on!" LOL

September really snuck up on us! Spellcheck is saying snuck isn't a word but Spellcheck can suck it! LOL August disappeared as quickly as July did. Or faster. At least the warm weather continued into September so we could hold onto Summer for a little while longer.

We planned a day at the pool with Auntie May. Unfortunately the day that we picked wound up being very cool. (We couldn't seem to catch a break. Every time we made plans to go swimming either it would rain or be cold.) We decided to go anyway because at least the pool was heated. It was a very nice place.

Michelle loved it. It was such a treat to go into a warm pool after being used to cold lakes. Unfortunately it was FREEZING coming out afterwards. Michelle never wanted to leave. She would have stayed there all day if she could.

The pool had been newly renovated and was so nice and clean. It also wasn't crowded since it was September and it was a bit of a cool day. The cold air didn't seem to bother Michelle. Shannon was anxious to get warm and was cuddled up in her sweatshirt but the rest of us enjoyed the water as long as we could.

They had life jackets there for the little ones so I got one for Michelle and she loved it. She had a ball swimming and floating around.
"Look Mama! I'm SWIMMING!" I really would like to get her swimming lessons. I never had lessons as a child and I think it's an important skill. I learned to swim on my own and while I can swim and float I've never been a confident swimmer and I don't go into deep water. Just the thought of leaving Michelle with someone else in the water almost makes me throw up but I will try it at some point (I'll be nearby having a panic attack no doubt.)

After getting out of the pool we were all FREEZING! We wrapped ourselves up in towels and blankets to dry off and warm up. It was ironic after some of the hot days we'd had that we went swimming on one of the coldest but that's just Murphy's Law I guess. Trying to work things out with my work schedule and everything was a challenge. And soon the kids would be in school and it would be even harder to make plans.

I found matching cat shirts in our sizes that said #Twinning on them...so OF COURSE I had to get them! LOL Yes I'm a total nerd. I just find it adorable dressing us alike. It's still my goal to find matching dresses in our sizes but that could be trickier! If I could sew I'd probably try to make them myself! Maybe in a pink/floral fabric... (It's probably for the best that I don't sew. I'd never find the time anyway.)

I found these shirts at Justice. They were on sale for $9 so it was a no brainer. And I got her a little stuffed cat there as well. Because she didn't have enough stuffed cats. As if anyone could have!

I wanted to do something fun with Michelle before she had to start school and I heard there was going to be a local fair so we were all over it!

Michelle with her Mama and a llama! The selfie I was attempting was an epic fail and a couple of kind strangers offered to a) hold the llama still for a portrait and b) take our photo with him/her.

Michelle was thrilled. So was I. It's all about the photo ops for me. The cuter the better!

"Do llamas spit Mama?"
"I think sometimes....Or maybe that's camels?"
This one didn't spit. Then again he/she was wearing a muzzle...

My girl is very brave. This contraption led kids through a series of tunnels and bridges. She was nervous to cross the rickety wooden bridge 100 feet off the ground and I couldn't blame her but she was sort of stuck and had to get to the end to get out. She was slower than the other kids were getting across but she made it and was quite proud of herself after she did. She even wanted to go on it a second time!
Of course the best part of this "ride" was the long slide tunnel at the end. I was happy to capture a shot of Michelle smiling as she came out.
"I did it Mama!"
"I know! I saw! You were so brave!"

I was encouraging her along the way "You can do it honey!" I was afraid I'd have to go up there or someone would have to go rescue her but she faced her fear and got through it. Heights didn't scare her on ferris wheels and other rides but something about walking across a rickety wobbling wooden bridge in the sky is a bit nerve-wracking!
I got a lot of tickets so that Michelle could go on whatever rides she wanted and I could share some with her. The rides usually had a ruler and if you were tall enough you could go alone. Other rides I had to go with her. She was a little bummed when she didn't get to go on her own because it made her feel so grown up to go alone.

I had fun on the rides too. It wasn't exactly Canada's Wonderland but at least we didn't have to wait in hour long line-ups.

We went on a spinning ride, a rollercoaster and a ferris wheel. I of course couldn't resist getting photos.

The Fun House is always fun (hence the name!) I love this shot of us with two mes and 3 Michelles! She has a great smile here. They warn you before you go in to walk slowly with your hands in front of you because the maze of glass and mirrors is disorienting. Michelle did walk into the glass at one point like a bird into a window but she just shook it off. And she kept her hands in front of her after that.

After the maze you get to the staircase that leads to the fun house mirrors. I was bummed that ALL of these mirrors made us look short and stout. This fun house didn't have the elongating mirrors that the other one (from Ribfest) had. I was hoping for a selfie of a more slender me with mile long legs but it wasn't in the cards that day. And then we went down the slide to the exit.

Michelle was excited that there was a bouncy castle and she didn't want to leave. I thought the ride operator would kick the kids out after a few minutes but he just let them keep playing as long as they wanted because no one else was in line. She must have been in there half an hour. It was a lot of mileage from two coupons! She had a great time playing and made a couple of new friends. Other kids came and went. Michelle practically set up residence. As long as she was happy I was willing to stand and wait.

The Ferris Wheel was by far my favourite ride! If it wasn't so many coupons I would have gone on it several times rather than just two. Michelle loved it too. It was exhilarating being up so high and seeing the whole fair below. It was nice that it wasn't over too quickly either.

I got several selfies of us smiling as you can see. I love sharing these moments with Michelle and having them captured forever in pictures means I can enjoy reliving them again and again. That's why I take so many pictures and why I do this blog. I like to record our journey together and our adventures. We may not get to travel around the world (yet -- still waiting on that lottery win!) but we can have fun close to home. And I get to keep the smiley happy photos to counteract the moments that are not smiley or happy at all (a lot of those too. They're just not in photographs...)

An action shot as we were moving on the Ferris Wheel.

I love the breeze in our hair and Michelle's excited expression. I was so glad that I found out about the fair because Wonderland was the one thing I didn't get to cross off our list this Summer (we'd been to Port Dover Beach, Wasaga, Legoland, the zoo etc and I had wanted to try Wonderland for the first time with her until she said she couldn't stand any more long drives.)

I really had been looking forward to going on some amusement park rides with her so this was a nice substitute at least. I was just wishing I could go on a rollercoaster...

And then we did! They had a dragon rollercoaster and I went on with Michelle! I even managed to snap several selfies, camera in hand as we went around. I had the strap wrapped around my wrist so it wouldn't fall as we were jostled around. It was fun. Still not as scary as I like (my favourite coaster was always the Bat at Canada's Wonderland) but still a treat when I've gone so many years without being on one at all. I was glad I wasn't too big to go on it with her. At Ribfest she'd gone on a dragon coaster with Reggie several times but it was just for kids. This time I got to be a kid and enjoy it with her though I wasn't quite as animated as she and Reggie were in the photos.

If it wasn't for a little ghosting on my cheek from the scratched lens this would be a perfect shot.

I LOVE Michelle's face here! Her excited expression as we sped around the roller coaster track is priceless.

I was the only one taking selfies during the ride and people probably thought I was nuts but I can't resist a good photo op and this was definitely it! I almost wished I'd matched her expression but I don't like showing my teeth in photos.

Michelle was happy when she was tall enough to ride by herself. She did need my help to get up on the horse. I didn't mind sitting it out because it meant I could snap her picture as she came around. I couldn't help but laugh as she started posing like a Diva, smiling and waving at me each time she came around. Other people were smiling, laughing and waving at her as she passed.
"Isn't that cute?" someone said.
"That's my girl!" I said proudly.
Yes I've created a monster but in this instance, I love it!
It just never gets old! Even after I had the perfect shot I couldn't resist snapping another. And another. Because why not?

When the ride ended she was on the opposite side. I had to go around to find her. She was asking a female stranger to help her down when I came by. It sometimes worries me that she's so friendly with strangers. I told her that being friendly with strange kids her age is one thing but to be wary of adults. I told her you just never know, even if someone seems nice, you don't take a chance.

Another ride that Michelle could go on without me -- the teacups. This little girl's Mom approached me and asked if it would be OK if her daughter rode with Michelle. I said of course. They had a ball and were laughing their heads off together. I am glad that Michelle gets along so well with other kids. Shyness was something I always struggled with. It's definitely not a problem for her.

I found a spot to set the camera and get a shot of us. Michelle wanted to play some games and win a prize. I told her it's a waste of money because they set the games up so you can't win. I never win anyway. Michelle wanted to try so I let her play a game where you throw three balls at a target and she actually did it! She got a pink fidget spinner (which she didn't need since she already had fidget spinners but she was quite proud of herself.
"I won Mama! I'm better than you at games!"
"Yes baby, you're better than me at a lot of things!"

And then we stopped for ice cream. Because you have to. I was getting tired, hungry and thirsty so the ice cream was a nice pick me up. Michelle has a lot more energy than me so she wanted to stay and explore all that the fair had to offer. Her old Mama was running out of steam...

Next we went to the army exhibit where Michelle went through some boot camp exercises!

And then we met a dinosaur! Michelle was fearless and even put her hand right inside its mouth. It was a really cool costume and looked pretty real (aside from the extra pair of human legs at the back... It's all about suspension of disbelief, folks!)

I even managed to get a selfie of us with the T-Rex (is it a T-Rex? I think so. With those awkward little arms...)

Later Michelle got to sit in the driver's seat of an OPP cruiser which she thought was pretty cool.
"You definitely never want to be in the BACKSEAT of a cruiser!" I told her but she didn't really get the joke.

From pretend prehistoric reptiles to real life reptiles...Michelle is not afraid of snakes. (I never was either. I find them cute! I used to catch garter snakes in the forest when I was younger.) She was petting this one and asking questions about him.

"Does he bite?"
"Is he poisonous?"
"Is he friendly?"
 Of course these are the sorts of things to ask BEFORE you pet the snake!

And then from dinosaurs to dinosaur bones and of course you have to get a selfie with them!

I was really tired by this point and my feet were killing. I also hurt my back lifting Michelle up on my shoulders for a piggyback because we were late to the dog show and it was so crowded she couldn't see. After a few minutes I told her I wouldn't survive this for much longer and we left. I'm a cat person anyway.

I popped a Tylenol extra strength and hoped I wouldn't suffer too much from the piggyback. I'm constantly injuring (or rather aggravating old injuries in) my back and shoulders. Mostly from lifting Michelle. She is getting pretty heavy for me to still carry her. My Mom says I should just refuse to do it but I don't.

This wall was so colourful I had to get a picture with it, even though looking at it now it is on the creepy side. I'm not even sure what creeps me out the most but I think it's the mask. Masks are always sort of sinister looking to me... Masks and clowns...

We're so small next to the wall that you barely see us!
And then we found a booth where you could get your photo taken with a green screen and choose what backgrounds you wanted. You pay and then they email you the photos. When I didn't get the pictures after a couple of days I thought I'd been ripped off but then I received these gems. Michelle picked the princess castle and the Sponge Bob. I picked the tropical island of course.
It's awkward posing in front of the green screen and pretending it's something else. I had new respect for actors in movies that have to interact with things that aren't actually there. It's not easy! The picture of Michelle running toward Sponge Bob is the most awkward but it makes me laugh anyway. By the end of the day at the fair I was beyond exhausted and my back and feet killing. I couldn't wait to get home. Unfortunately we would have to wait...
I couldn't find the car. It sounds so stupid but I suffer from short term memory loss. Often I will forget where I parked and in a normal parking lot I just set off my car alarm and find the car. Unfortunately the parking lot was just a huge field of grass with hundreds of cars and the cars had changed since I'd parked there in the morning. It seemed like we were walking forever, nothing was looking familiar and there was no sign of the car! I started to panic. I was holding my keys up in the air hitting the panic button without a peep from my car. One of the parking attendants saw my panic stricken face and tried to help me look but she had no luck either. Then I heard a car alarm but it WASN'T MY CAR! It was a cruel joke. Like a mirage in the desert. Then I found a bronze Hyundai but my heart sank again when I realized it wasn't mine. I was almost going to just sit on the ground and cry when FINALLY we reached a further parking lot and I realized THAT was where I'd parked. I was so relieved when I got to my car that I hugged and kissed it! It was like a Seinfeld episode except it's not funny when it's happening to you! Michelle was relieved to find the car too. I told her I never want to go anywhere that we have to park on the grass again!

Another day, another set of matching t-shirts from Justice! Michelle loved them because of the emojis. I loved them for the palm trees. So it's win-win!

Michelle wanted to go to the indoor playground. I wanted to make her happy.

She was going to be starting school soon. Thankfully she was excited about it. I wasn't too excited. To me it was sad. I would miss Michelle and Summer had gone by WAY too fast. How could it be ending already?!

After a little practice now Michelle can make it all the way across the Tarzan swinging rope and without my help. She used to fall halfway or need me to help her. My girl is growing up! She was quite proud of herself as she made her way across back and forth. There's usually a line up of kids waiting for their turn.

There was a little girl there who wasn't able to reach the rope and wanted me to lift her. "Where are you parents?" I asked. More often than not the parents are camped out somewhere on their cellphones and not even watching the kids. I'm one of a dying breed of hoverers. Even I try to chill out at some point and just let Michelle be. But I still have to check in every few minutes to see where she is and make sure she's OK. People occasionally ask me if Michelle is my first.
"First, last and only. Yeah. Does it show?"
Sure enough, Michelle makes new friends again. I guess it's easier when you're a kid. You're running around playing, it's easier to find common ground.

For grown ups it's trickier. I do occasionally have people say "Hi," or tell me I have the best seat in the house when I managed to score one of the comfy corner leather seats.
"I know, right!"
Or someone will commiserate about the decibel level of multiple children screaming. But after a few words, what else do you say? And most of them are married so it's harder to relate to them. I always feel like I'm the only single parent in the world because EVERYONE else is coupled off. If there are single parents in my neighbourhood or the places we go they are well hidden!

Michelle pretending to pet the baby elephant is genius and adorable! I can't believe I never thought of it before.

Again we waited until the crowd thinned out so we could get this shot. In the midst of the chaos and kids running amok there would just be no way to set the timer and not get photobombed by random kids.

One night I had a nightmare that I was kidnapped by Vladimir Putin. Little did I know I'd be seeing him in a store later that day! One thing to look forward to in September is the Halloween store Spirit Halloween opening up so we decided to go after the playground. We found Trump and Putin. I'm not even sure which is creepier/scarier. I think it's a tie. Michelle was a little nervous around the animatronic monster displays. Even though some of them weren't even hooked up yet. They didn't have the werewolf that she liked from last year.

Michelle wanted to be a vampire again and she wound up picking a dress that was almost the same as her other vampire dress only purple instead of red. Still she was so cute I couldn't say no! I tried on a pumpkin sweatshirt and decided against it because it didn't seem practical (cold shoulders in the fall? Or if it was warm long sleeves would be too hot so it was neither here nor there. Although now that I see it in the photo it's kind of cute and I wish I had gotten it!)
Michelle posing with her dress, with a little curtsy. I wanted to get some more photos with monsters in the background but she was too creeped out.

"Michelle, YOU wanted to come here and now you're scared! You were less scared LAST year!"
"These things are a lot creepier than last year!"
There were certain aisles she would not even walk past. So maybe even my brave girl has her limits.

It's strange because I am not especially brave but I used to be a goth and I loved horror movies. Now I haven't seen one in so long. I'd love to see Stephen King's "It" apparently it has broken the record for the highest grossing horror movie (dethroning the Exorcist in the 70s!) but I don't have anyone to go with. And I don't really watch horror movies anymore now that I don't have a boyfriend to watch them with (aka protect me from the monsters that will come out after I've seen the movie! LOL)

It was the last day before school started. I was hoping to go to the beach one last time as we had done the year before but Michelle wanted to go to the water park. She argued that we'd been to the beach several times but we hadn't been to the water park yet. She had a point so we went. We might as well have one last Summer experience before school starts.

I was glad Michelle wasn't dreading going back to school or it would have been even harder for me. As it was she was excited to see her friends and her teachers again. It was me that was dreading it. Getting her up early and getting her to school on time was always stressful. Plus it meant longer days and more commuting for me with my work schedule. It also meant Fall was coming and that was just depressing AF!

The lazy river is my favourite part of the water park. Unfortunately it's also kind of nerve wracking because I have to leave our stuff while we're on the river. You can get a locker but it's a nuisance to keep going to the locker before and after everything you do. It's easier to just have it nearby. I never bring my whole wallet, just a bit of money, and I'm sure no one in their right mind would steal my old camera or phone. Still it always makes me feel vulnerable to have our stuff just left unattended as we float around.

The day we went it was crowded and we had to wait a long time for a tube. Michelle wanted her own tube as well instead of riding along with me like she used to.

Michelle loves running around in the splash pad/sprinkler area as well and I love snapping pictures of her as she plays.

There weren't many kids in the splash pad area so I got to snap Michelle with all the props and no photobombers!

This turtle is so cute. Michelle wound up posing with it quite a bit!

Michelle used to hate getting water on her head or in her face but she's more accepting of it now. She was even taking showers instead of baths at home for a while which made her feel grown up but then she realized it was more fun to sit in a bath and play with her toys so she went back to that.

Here she is bravely standing under the mushroom shower, getting soaked and laughing about it.

"I don't mind the water in my face anymore Mama!"
"That's great baby. You're getting more brave."

This was Michelle's idea and I love it! So cute! I guess considering how many photos I take she should be a pro at posing by now!

After the splash pad we went to the pool though it was a rude awakening after being in the heated pool with Auntie May! Being in a heated pool on a cool day is easier than being in a cold pool on a hot day. I couldn't get used to the water. My teeth were chattering the whole time. Usually after a while you get used to it and it seems warmer. No such luck there. I was anxious to go.
"Anytime you're ready to leave honey, just let me know. Like ANY TIME...Hey want to get an ice cream?"
And we were gone.

I wanted Michelle's last day off before school to be fun. She was happy with our trip to the water park.

The first day of school in Senior Kindergarten!
I was glad Michelle was excited about it because I definitely was not. I was dreading the whole routine: dragging her out of bed and getting her ready for school (dressed, hair brushed, sunscreen on, breakfast, vitamin, brushing her teeth), packing her lunch and getting her to school in a mad rush trying to beat the bell. It's stressful. Then I miss her. But of course there is barely time to miss her because school is only 6 hours and by the time you try to run some errands, do some housework, get caught up on things -- it's time to pick her up again. Or I'm working nightshift and only get a couple of hours sleep between dropping her off at school and picking her up to drop her off at Grandma's before heading in to work my 16 hour shift... Yeah my life is nuts.

At least Michelle was happy and that's all that matters. She was excited to dress up for the first day of school as well. My girl is a Princess. She love dressing up.

My sister gave me this little blackboard as a house warming gift and I love it, especially on the first day of school to commemorate the first day of Kindergarten and now SK! My girl is growing up. Before I know it, she'll be in grade 1. Then she'll be in grade 12. It goes so fast. And then maybe I can do a poster and put all the first day of school photos together on one page and watch her grow up from a little girl to the amazing young woman I know she's going to be...

Yes I'm tearing up. Yes I'm a sentimental fool. I cherish these moments. That's why I take so many photos. I have no choice. It's the only way I have to hold on.

After school Michelle wanted to hang around and play in the school yard for a bit before heading home.

Michelle was excited to see her best friend. They were hugging each other so much that her friend actually knocked Michelle over. Of course I was there with my camera ready.

They are in the same class together again which is nice.

After playing outside the school Michelle still wanted to go to the park and she made another little friend (as she usually does, everywhere we go.)

There's a park near Grandma's house as well and Michelle loves going there.

She can go pretty high on the swing after her starting push and is quite proud of herself.

Other kids just swing in a mundane way, expressionless. Michelle is always excited and happy and smiling and saying "Woo hoo!" It never gets old. I'm glad my girl is so enthusiastic and has a zest for life. I envy her that. I'm not quite there. In fact I can't remember the last time I said "Woo hoo!" about anything...

The park that day was actually a backup plan. We were supposed to be going to McDonalds Play Place but Michelle fell asleep in the car and there was a bit of an incident. After some tears we dusted her off and she was wanting to go back. I told her that ship had sailed for the day but that we could go to the park instead. It was a little cooler out but still liveable anyway. Might as well enjoy every moment outside that you can. Fall and Winter will come soon enough and we'll have no choice but to be cooped up indoors for months. Sigh.

I can almost feel my Seasonal Affective Disorder coming on...

Michelle in one of her cat ear headbands and holding a cat heart eye emoji from McDonalds. Of all the emojis I think the cat heart eyes has to be our favourite. The poop is funny but I kind of refuse to let Michelle carry poop around. Even if it is stuffed.

Speaking of stuffies, Michelle has MANY but she got a craft kit for her birthday to make one -- a "Fuzzeez" bunny. I knew what was going to happen and my fears were well founded -- I ended up making the damn bunny myself.

Michelle wanted me to "help" her -- and of course an adult has to help with the instructions and everything but she went from saying "I want to do it myself!" to "You do it, Mama." So I stuffed it and sprayed it and put the clips on the mold and put it in washer and dryer.

The Fuzzeez bunny did turn out pretty cute albeit pretty fragile. It's really just like dryer lint held together by water and a bit of dish detergent. So you can't really play with him as he's barely a half step up from cotton candy but I sat him on the shelf as a cute reminder that when your kid gets a craft kit for her birthday YOU are the one who is going to have to spend a few hours making the dang craft.

But it is cute. And at the end of the day if you get something cute out of it, it's worth it, right? (No. I think I'd rather just BUY a pre-made stuffed bunny and call it a day.)

And look how big his feet are?! What is with those feet?!

Picking Michelle up from school before I had to work nightshift. I get her a bit early to try to beat the traffic. She was annoyed that she had to miss some of her "free choice" play time. I tried to explain that Mama has to drive 2 hours in rush hour traffic and work a 16 hour nightshift on 2 hours' sleep so her violin solo couldn't really hold a candle to mine!

Her friend walked her out and gave her a hug goodbye before we left. I was afraid she'd knock Michelle over again and we didn't have time for that.

On Grandma's backyard swing. I'm always glad to have at least a few minutes to relax in the yard at Grandma's either before or after my shift when I'm working.

When I was pregnant with Michelle I used to sit on my own garden swing and read. I should get one again but I'd need help putting it together (it was a gift from my Mom before and my brothers helped to construct it.)

Michelle loves to swing but I like it too. In my hectic life it's nice to have at least a few moments to take a breath of fresh air and relax...

And when there was a hot day & I was off, we headed to the beach! Michelle may have started school but it was still technically Summer (until September 22nd, the first official day of Autumn!) and with some of the hottest days we'd had.

So we suited (and sunscreened) up and headed to our favourite (local) beach -- Port Dover!

Michelle even brought her stuffed fish for the occasion (though Fishy had to wait in the car. Stuffies and sand really don't mix.)

Sitting under the palm trees, it just never gets old. It always amazes me when people take photos at the beach and DON'T get the palm trees in the shot! Or maybe other people aren't like me. Maybe the trees are no big deal to them because they jet set away to tropical locations all the time anyway. But for someone like me who can't afford to fly anywhere -- Port Dover Beach IS my tropical getaway!

Michelle LOVES feeding the seagulls. She insisted on sharing her bag of popcorn with them. I tried to dissuade her. I told her that not everyone is a fan of flocks of seagulls cawing around, especially near the restaurant where people are trying to eat their meals in peace.

It was cute though so even though I told her no I still couldn't resist smiling and snapping pictures of her doing it.

I caught a couple of disapproving looks from people but if anyone said anything I was ready to pounce in defense of her.

I thought of the "Feed the birds, twopence a bag" song from Mary Poppins...but then I started to get teary and told myself to shut up.

And once again, Michelle made new friends at the beach! Seriously, I should get pointers from this girl! (She could put Dale Carnegie to shame -- How to Win Friends and Influence People!)  Then again I wouldn't feel comfortable with so many friends even if I could make them. I am mostly a private person and prefer to be close to just a few select people. Michelle enjoys being a social butterfly. She is comfortable going up to anyone. I am happy that she's such a friendly girl. Even if it does make me slightly uncomfortable. As long as she's just befriending kids her age and not, say, sketchy looking adult males, which I would ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOW! No way. No day.

Michelle and her friend playing in the sand. So cute. I really could watch Michelle play forever so it's a good thing that I capture her in photos and then I literally CAN enjoy these moments forever. I love seeing her so happy and having fun. These are my favourite moments. And when I'm having a rough day/night at work (a LOT of those...) I can at least look forward to a break where I get to just enjoy being with my girl. She is my happy place. And the beach with her is the happiest place!
So cute! I love Michelle's smile and her laugh. I can't look at these photos without smiling. I was zooming in at the time to get a better look at her expression and I'm glad that I did. It's priceless. The girl's mother didn't seem terribly enthused about her daughter being covered in sand. I'm used to it with Michelle. She likes to make sand angels. It sticks to her hair. And the sunscreen is like glue so it sticks to her like breading on fried chicken. It's a trip through Hell but she seems to enjoy it!

Another occasion to dress up...

My Princess (complete with tiara!) in a pale blue dotted dress and me in a white floral. Yes I'm wearing white AFTER LABOUR DAY! Hopefully the fashion police don't arrest me. I've been told that rule no longer applies. Or maybe it only applies to wearing white PANTS after Labour Day, not tops and dresses. And truly if the weather feels warmer than Summer you should be allowed to wear a Summer dress of any colour!

We were heading to my Mom's for Uncle Mike's birthday party...

Michelle's IKEA panda and turquoise teddy bear (from Build a Bear) and little elephant (from Metro I think it was? She has so many stuffies but somehow twists my arm to get her more when we're out "PLEASE Mama? He's so CUTE!" and how can I say no? I can't obviously. So we own a stuffed zoo basically. Any animal you can think of she probably has one, at least one. Maybe 10 of them. This is possibly the longest parenthetical statement ever. And the most pointless!)

Michelle wanted to dress her animals up for the party but I told her it wasn't necessary. then she did it anyway. Most of them are wearing a bow or some sort of accessory.
It was the Tim Horton's Smile Cookie week so I got Michelle a Smile Cookie pretty much every day. $1 goes to children's charities (hospitals, food banks and children's programs), Michelle gets excited about having a cute smile cookie and it gives me an excuse to get my iced cappuccino fix at Tim's! It's win-win-win!

We were disappointed when the campaign was over and the chocolate chip cookies DIDN'T have smiles anymore. But I still get Michelle a cookie when I stop by Tim's on our long commute. It makes the trip a bit sweeter.

I once got Tim's to draw a sad face on a cookie when a co-worker was going to be leaving. I think sad face cookies would be a good idea when someone is feeling down. I could go for one quite often.

My Princess and me in front of the tiger eye sumac tree in Grandma's backyard.

I love that tree. (It used to be mine in another life back when I had planted a tropical garden. It was going to be ripped out and sodded over by people who weren't in love with my backyard beach idea so I rescued it and a bamboo tree and planted them at my Mom's...It looked like it was struggling when first transplanted but then grew stronger and I was so happy to see it healthy. I smile when I see it. I'm glad I got to save something from my old yard...And I'm glad I got pictures of it to remember. It was a crazy idea to try to create my own tropical beach backyard, minus the water, but it was kind of cool. Just not practical at all. Nor was the convertible I also had at the time. Those were the days!)

Christina brought this amazing jumbo Jenga set and the kids had a ball with it though it was a little scary when the blocks were about to fall! It makes you jump even when you play with the tiny blocks never mind a bunch of wood slabs!

Poor Reggie managed to knock them over a couple of times (through no fault of his own, just bad timing/luck of the draw.) I was afraid the kids would be hurt if all that wood fell on them but they stayed back so no one lost a toe or anything! "Timber!"

I was kind of a nervous wreck when it was Michelle's turn to remove a block and put it on top. She couldn't even reach the top without a step ladder. Luckily she was very careful and skillfully moved the pieces on her turn so they didn't fall on her head and knock her unconscious (which was my fear as a neurotic control freak helicopter parent! I don't want to spoil Michelle's fun so I let her do these things. I just stand on the sidelines wincing "I hope she's OK! Careful honey!"

The group shot. Has to be done. I can't even tell you how difficult it is to get EVERYONE together at the same time. Usually at least one or a few are missing at any given time, in the bathroom, in the house or somewhere. But I got us all together and set up the timer for the big group shot. Chris even stood on a ladder so he could be seen from the back! I always run in at the last second.
And a second shot, just in case. We try to change the pose up a little so it's not identical (not that it ever would be with that many unpredictable humans in one photo. They couldn't stay that still/consistent if they tried.) It's my dream that one day we'll all be smiling in the photo but that may be too much to hope for. For now, just getting them all looking is good enough.

And when Shane arrived with his big bright white fancy truck my brother Chris (God love him!) suggested we get a picture of the kids in the back of the truck.
"Hell YES!" I said and suggested the whole gang pose in front as well. So there we are. Even my dad who had been missing showed up for the last shot.

"Happy Birthday to you..."
The cake. The song. The photo.
I didn't even realize Evie was in the back corner and had to run to get in. She's still in it, though mid-run and Barb is turning to look/say "Hurry up honey!"

My Mom's cakes may not wind up on Pinterest but they are made with love and always taste delicious!

Playing with the filters on Shannon's i-Phone again... I love Michelle as a rainbow kitty. She looks like a stuffed animal with her big eyes and cute little nose and ears.

I almost got into the shot as well in the background. The filters don't always allow more than one person/animal but sometimes they do.

It's a really good thing I don't have this app on my i-Phone or I'd be addicted and everyone would have cat ears, like ALL THE TIME. And that probably wouldn't be a good thing. OMG though I just thought if I could get a group shot of the whole family WITH CAT EARS?! But it probably only allows 3 people, tops. Not 16. So that dream will likely never come to fruition!

From cat to mouse! Michelle looks so adorable here! She's like a little doll or stuffed animal. I love the big doe eyes and the nose and ears.

I suppose I've created a monster with all the photos I've taken. Michelle is a little Diva and loves posing. She was wanting to try Shannon's i-phone and take selfies but then she holds it too close and it doesn't always turn out right. This one was better with Shannon taking it for her. I love her sweet expression and her hands folded in her lap. My cute little Michelle Mouse. "M-I-C-H-E-L-L and E, Michelle!" (In the tune of Mickey Mouse which is actually how I taught Michelle to spell her name when she was 3 and it worked!)

And who can resist rainbow kitty ears?!

Shannon loves selfies too. Of course she's part of the whole Instagram generation. I'd like to point out that I was taking selfies long before it was cool but mine are different -- setting up the self-timer on my old school Nikon (with a scratched lens and I still can't part with it!) Most people just hold their cellphones out and shoot. I see them doing it everywhere. People have even started taking photos of their dinner etc. Recording their whole lives. And hey, you might as well. It goes so fast. Photos are a way of slowing it down, capturing every moment. That's why I'm a photoholic!

Shannon looks adorable here. She suits the animal ears and large anime eyes... She's a living doll!

At the party my brother mentioned that Burlington Beach was back! After several rainstorms months ago the sand had all but disappeared but now the water had receded again and the beach was back so we decided to check it out! Actually our original plan was to go to the pool in Burlington but it was closed. I guess it closes in September regardless of how warm the weather might be? I'd checked the website and it made it look like it was open but we got there to find it closed.
Change of plans: BEACH! My Mom was upset she hadn't packed beach chairs. I hadn't brought Michelle's sand toys either but we decided to make do. We'd come that far and we were psyched to go in the water somewhere on a hot day. Of course the pool would have been beautiful and heated but we got in up to our legs in the lake at least...

We weren't the only ones there either. When Summer makes a comeback you might as well take advantage.

Michelle was far more daring (as she always is) and got into the water. I told her not to go too deep because I didn't want to go any higher than my thighs. She had fun in the water with her floatie lion.

She made a couple of friends as she always does, my little social butterfly. I could never do it -- just randomly approaching someone my age and saying "Hi!" and start hanging out with them. Of course as an adult it's 100% more awkward. Even if you're not painfully shy.

My Diva, posing for picture day. I heard other Moms complain that they couldn't get their daughter to wear a dress but I have no such problems with Michelle. She's always eager to dress up. She loves to accessorize as well. We both agreed this floral headband went PERFECTLY with the dress.

I told her to make sure she has a nice smile when they take her photo.

"Like this?" she asked, forcing a smile showing all her teeth in a maniacal clown grimace.
"Ummm no. A natural smile. Not a silly smile."
I was hoping for the best but the reality is that I would have to buy the photo no matter how it turned out. It's just what I do. My Mom never bought my school photos and yes it hurt. She argued she was never crazy about them. So I took that to mean I was ugly. And even the ones she liked, she just kept the proofs! Usually with the word "Jostens" across my face! I mean how cheap can you get?! Some of them she even put in frames. Words on my face and all. I am not doing that to Michelle (even though the proofs now just have a small watermark above their heads.) I'm all about the digital shots anyway. If I can't post it on Twitter and my blog what's the point?! (But yes I also get ones for my wallet, copies for my family etc.)

On picture day when I drop her off I worry that by the time they take her photo she will bear no resemblance to the girl I dropped off - her hair and dress will be a mess, her headband will be gone but she actually didn't do too badly. By the end of the day when I picked her up she was still my picture perfect girl, sort of. She was wanting to run amok, even in her fancy dress. And she's developed this distressing habit of hugging and trying to lift her friends off the ground only to drop them on the cement. I told her to stop doing it. They do it to her as well. I'm afraid someone is going to get a concussion, which really should be the opposite of what you're going for when you hug someone...
Running amok in the school yard didn't suffice. Michelle wanted to go to the park. I agreed as long as she changed. No fancy dresses at the park. She has so much energy I figure I might as well let her run it out so she'll wear herself out and sleep. In theory anyway.

I don't have 1/10th of Michelle's energy. Ever. Of course I'm usually sleep deprived, fatigued, barely have the energy to function. But somehow I managed to drag myself around for Michelle's sake. At least she lets me just sit at the park while she plays, except when I have to give her the starting push on the swings...

Michelle made a friend. Again. Everywhere she goes. He didn't want her to leave and she didn't want to leave but I explained that I had to get dinner, she had to have her bath and get to bed. It was a school night after all.

I told her that she could play in the sand at the beach again, weather permitting. The way September was going it seemed to be a distinct possibility.

Yes! We made it to the beach again! The weather got even hotter. And the beautiful thing was that now it wasn't nearly as crowded as in the Summer. We had the beach almost to ourselves.

I never tire of Port Dover Beach. We park ourselves under the palm trees and life is good. Michelle plays in the sand, I listen to the waves, the seagulls and watch her play and the stress of life melts away, temporarily at least.

The beach is our happy place. Getting to go there in the Fall is a treat.

Michelle loves feeding the seagulls. They started to swarm her. She was laughing but I was having a bit of an Alfred Hitchcock moment and wondering if they were going to attack. I was also afraid I might get pooped on (because that's just how my life goes.) Thankfully the birds had their snack and (mostly) left me alone.

When the beach was crowded I told Michelle she can't feed the gulls or people would get mad. Some people (Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe for instance!) even have a phobia of birds. At the very least most people wouldn't appreciate having them so close and begging for food. (They can be loud.) But with no one else to complain, Michelle was in her glory feeding the birds.

There was almost no one at the beach and Michelle STILL somehow managed to make a friend! I am just in awe of this girl. She's completely the opposite of me. I'm off on my own trying to avoid people and she's out there trying to make friends with all of them. I know a lot of it is just her natural innate personality (birth sign -- Leo -- etc) but I'd like to think some of her confidence is because of me. I've always showered her in attention and praise and made her feel like she was a Queen. (Whereas I always felt like I didn't get enough attention as a child and felt like I was nothing...hence my insecurity. But I'm also a shy Taurus so there's that.)
One last shot of us at the beach, not knowing whether we'd be back again this year (we would. The hot weather would continue!) Michelle had her ice cream. She really didn't feel like posing for a photo but I insisted. So she's just eating her ice cream anyway. At this point we were literally the ONLY ONES ON THE BEACH! A beach to ourselves. I'll take it. It was always my dream to live on the beach one day... Preferably somewhere tropical. (Of course with all the hurricanes it wouldn't be practical...Even Paradise can be Hell. Some of the most beautiful places have been wiped out.)

Michelle wanted to go to the indoor playground after school one day. I thought it was a terrible idea but I complied because I like to make her happy and I feel guilty for all the times I have to work and don't get to do fun things with her.

So we went. Michelle had a ball, as usual. It turned out that it wasn't the best idea on a school night. I thought it wouldn't be as busy as the weekend at least but it was still a madhouse! Apparently any time you go, any day of the week is busy. It didn't help that someone was hosting a kid's birthday party there. A lot of people do that. Any day of the week as well.

We didn't stay too long. I was hoping it would tire Michelle out anyway and give me a chance to just sit and relax which is rare for me. Not that I can really relax because I keep checking to see that she's OK. And relaxing isn't really the word for it when you have the din of multiple children screaming/crying/playing at all decibels. Another Mom kind of gave me a look like "Can you believe this?!" and I just nodded in agreement. Another Mom said she's gotten good at just tuning it out. I'm not quite there yet. When I heard a particularly loud scream I was afraid it would be Michelle but it turned out to be a boy.
Normally Michelle is all about her stuffed animals and doesn't play much with her dolls but all of a sudden she started making a fuss of the doll her best friend gave her for her birthday. She named her Sara and carried her everywhere and took her to bed with her and was amazed that her eyes close when she lays down.

She even did a portrait of Sara as you can see. I love it. So adorable. And she even included details like the curly pigtails, the turquoise pjs...

She talked to Sara and brought her everywhere. It was like a little sister. It made me sad to think how much Michelle would love a sibling and will likely never have one (short of a miracle that is. At the rate I'm going I can't even imagine dating anyone again.)

The closest I've come to dating is getting marriage proposals on Twitter. I just roll my eyes. After uncovering one scam artist/military impersonator I just stopped following back any US military accounts that followed me and ignored their messages. I don't get the whole "Catfish" thing. What fun can it be pretending to be someone else?! I did sort of miss the flattering messages I used to get from the phony US Army Chief of Staff "My Darling Queen..." In my entire life no one had ever called me a darling queen! But I have no time/patience for BS. If you're pretending to be someone else then f%$# off!

Then I had another would-be online paramour. His photos just looked like a regular guy (pleasant looking but not a model, not a celebrity, just a guy next door type) so when he messaged me asking how I was doing etc I messaged back not thinking too much of it. He seemed nice. Then as the messages became lengthier red flags started to go up. Was this guy legit? Was English his first language? (He was supposedly Canadian but I had my doubts.) Was he really who he said? I asked him to send a photo holding a note "Hi Ann!" to prove he was the guy in the photos. (My Mom suggested sending one holding today's newspaper. I also considered asking him to hold up his DL.) He ignored my request and the next time he wrote to me he totally changed the subject. I decided to call BS. I told him my suspicions. Then I did a reverse image search and found that yes, as I suspected, he was a scam too! Those were stolen photos used by a few scam accounts! I sent him a link to the site with the same photos used on a bogus FB site. I expected him to confess/apologize. Instead he said he was hurt and felt betrayed by my mistrust and that he had real feelings for me. He said one day he'd show up at my door. I said I'd have him arrested faster than he could say criminal harassment! (But no he didn't know my address or even what town I live in. I'm careful not to discuss that online for various reasons.) I couldn't believe it! It was too ridiculous for words! I sent him an expletive-filled tirade against some creepy a-hole trying to prey on a single Mom. I mean I don't know what he hoped to gain. I have no money. I would never have a romance with a stranger and what purpose can it serve having a fake online relationship! I told him to get a life, preferably HIS OWN THIS TIME. So from now on I just ignore Twitter messages. Unless it's someone I know or a verified account etc.

For some reason there seemed to be a spike in followers/admirers since I hit 10K followers. Maybe they think I'm a celebrity? "A minor celebrity creating a minor stir." (Line from Seinfeld! LOL) Anyway, ain't nobody got time for that! I'm not remotely interested in a fake relationship with some weirdo. Twitter is a fun place to share my thoughts on politics, my shows, my life etc. It is also fun to connect with other people but to the guys who try to play mind games, just buzz off! No I'm not moving to Dubai, no I'm not going to marry you, no I don't believe a word you say and unless your account is verified or you send me a photo of yourself with your ID, I'm assuming you're a phony baloney! My time is precious. I'm not wasting it on a liar.

When I work so much, Grandma and Grandpa's place is Michelle's second home. I am grateful to have my parents to watch Michelle (even though the commute is a killer.) I never want to leave her and still can't imagine leaving her with strangers.

Michelle said she misses me when I'm at work but she has fun playing with Grandpa in the backyard. We love the nice weather. I enjoy getting a bit of fresh air before/after my shifts.

I love Michelle so much. It breaks my heart when she says that she misses me. I always call her from work on my break to say hi during the day and see how she's doing or to say goodnight before she goes to bed when I'm on nightshift. Talking to other Moms at the school it seems like guilt is just something you have as a Mom -- no matter what you do, whether you work or not. You want to do the best for your kids and you're never sure exactly what that is. So you just do what you think is right and do what you can do. Michelle is happy and healthy and couldn't be more loved. Still I worry about the things that I can't give her -- a father, siblings, a normal life, all the things she would like, trips, etc. Mostly I feel bad when I have to leave her. Especially for such long hours. My schedule is hard on both of us.
Michelle said that she set something up at Grandma's to remember me by when I'm at work. I was taken aback when I saw that she'd set up an altar with photos and candles. It totally creeped me out. She said she got the idea from a TV show or something. "But Michelle..." I tried to tell her "people set up a memorial like that to remember someone AFTER THEY DIE! I'm still alive!" My Mom was totally creeped out by it too and took it down. I had been having a tough time emotionally and physically and started to worry that I was working myself into an early grave. Sixteen hour shifts on no sleep are a form of torture. Some days I wondered how I survived!

As tired as I am, as stressed and irritable and miserable as I am some days I try not to let Michelle see it. I try to put on the happy Disney Mom smile for her. Some days it's really a stretch though. When I could just curl into a ball and cry but I have to fake enthusiasm when Michelle is excited about something. "That's great honey!" I have to pretend to be happy so that she thinks everything is OK when it's closer to the truth that Mama is losing it...

Without saying where I work (because I don't mention my job online. Ever.) people almost always say "That must be stressful. I don't know how you do it!" And when people hear that I'm a single Mom without help (especially when I was pregnant and alone) they say "That must be tough. I don't know how you do it!" The reality is that it's tough raising a child, even when there are TWO parents. As a single Mom, with a stressful job, and no social life and no support network (I have my family and they're my lifeline but they're not local...) it's unbelievably tough to be on your own, to feel isolated. Sometimes it feels like I carry the weight of the world on my own and no one understands and no one can really relate. I feel like I'm the only single parent in the world (or at least in my neighbourhood). I'm surrounded by married couples. I lost touch with my single friends from years ago. And I don't even drink. Not that alcohol is a healthy escape by any means but a lot of times people joke "Go have a glass of wine after a bad day!" and I have to say "I don't even drink. I'm sober to deal with this sh%$."

After a terrible day at work at least I have my girl to cheer me up somewhat. Grandma wanted to go to Walmart and Michelle wanted to visit the Halloween section so I complied. As long as I can take pictures, I'm happy. So we posed with the blow up Halloween decorations. I told Michelle we would never buy them. I don't really subscribe to the whole massive blow up decorations on the lawn for Halloween OR Christmas. Then again when someone has them they are an amusing photo op. Some people really get carried away with the decorations and that's cool. Holiday spirits can be a nice break from the Fall and Winter blahs -- aka Seasonal Affective Disorder. Though this year it just seemed like Summer would continue indefinitely. Maybe we wouldn't get a Fall. And I was OK with that. Except that Global Warming was having catastrophic/apocalyptic effects around the world (like the worst hurricanes in hundreds of years -- record breaking category 5s that wiped out entire islands.) I was not OK with that. Every time I logged on to Twitter and saw the trends it seemed like Armageddon was upon us. Still people kept acting normal. It was all surreal to me. But this was 2017. Insane was the new normal.

And when the world has gone to Hell (as it quite clearly has: Trump is still President and fighting with Kim Jong Un like a couple of kindergarten kids with nukes; the Earth is waging war on us for the damage we've caused and slamming us with the worst storms ever (entire islands have been wiped out. Some people lost their homes, everything.); there's a mental health crisis and opioid crisis that no one knows what to do about...) you have to find a way to laugh, sometimes even through tears.

Even at McDonalds Michelle makes a friend. She wanted to sit on Ronald McDonald's lap. It became a little crowded. Some people are a little creeped out by clowns (myself included!) but I guess Michelle isn't one of them. Then again she hasn't seen Stephen King's "It" (the latest incarnation looks particularly horrifying.) Nor will she! She has become quite brave lately though and has watched a few horror movies with me -- Ghostbusters 1 & 2 (though they are more comedy than horror), Arachnophobia and Gremlins. It's cool now to be able to watch movies with her aside from just animated/Disney films. Michelle's father was a complete horror movie aficionado. That's all that he would watch. He leaned more toward the particularly grotesque and disturbing horror movies where I preferred the less gory, more psychological thrillers. I haven't watched a really scary movie in a very long time. I'd like to try again but I don't want to give myself (more) nightmares...

The world can be a dark place especially these days. For Michelle of course it's all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns. For her sake I play along and pretend the world is still a beautiful, magical place (as it can be sometimes.)

Michelle has several headbands in various colours and styles. She has a few sets of cat ears. Then I found this pink set of unicorn ears and horn and I couldn't resist. So I dropped my little unicorn off at school.
Michelle is like a unicorn, a magical little creature with a pure heart. She can usually make me smile no matter how terrible a day I have had. Here she is posing with her furry older sister Ali and her Vampire Mickey & Minnie.

She had Vampire or Dracula Mickey from Halloween last year. Then she found a Vampire Minnie and wanted her as well. How can I say no?

My girl is all that keeps me going so if there's anything she wants and it's within my power to grant her wish? Why the f*$# not?
I'm not sure if these are supposed to be doe ears or bunny ears or what but they're cute as a button especially with the flowers as well. Michelle won't be this age for long so I'm taking advantage of it while I can and dressing her in cute dresses and headbands as often as possible. Luckily she enjoys it as much as I do. She loves going to school like a magical little creature. It's one way to get her enthused about getting dressed for school. Usually it's pretty hard to drag her out of bed early in the morning. "Just a few more minutes, Mama..." Then I'll show her the cute outfit I have picked for her and she perks up. I am glad she approves of my clothing choices. Speaking to other parents I learned that some kids insist on picking their own outfits and they don't make the best choices. (Shorts on a cold day/mismatched pants and shirt etc.) Michelle and I are thankfully on the same page fashion-wise. She even boasts "I'm a fashionista Mama!"

Michelle was excited to be invited to a male friend's birthday party. She had a ball running around and playing. Parents were allowed to stick around as well so I stayed and talked to some of the Moms. I wound up confiding some of the problems I'd been having with stress/my work and was pleased to find that one of the Moms had worked in a similar field before going on Mat leave so she understood some of the stress I was going through, however she had a support network at work as well as her spouse and family nearby. I'm sort of on my own to deal with things.

It did help talking to some of the other Moms though part of me does always feel like no one can quite relate to my situation. Even other single Moms I've spoken with in the past weren't quite in the same position as me -- abandoned while pregnant with no contact whatsoever and no help financially or otherwise (with child care etc.) Most people have some sort of help. My position is pretty unique. Also people would say (and some frankly HAVE said) that it's my own fault I have such a long commute etc because I'm a control freak and I refuse to leave Michelle with a babysitter and have to drive all the way to my Mom's place which makes my long shifts at work that much longer. I'm usually on little to no sleep, drive 2-4 hours and work 12. It's not an ideal situation. It's the only one I can sort of live with for now. But it is killing me. And the job itself is taking a toll...
You can only run on empty for so long before it catches up to you. My hectic schedule and constant sleep deprivation was destroying me. On top of that things were getting more chaotic at work, busier than ever. I was falling apart.

Apparently there was a prophecy by some doomsday Christian guy that the world was going to end on September 23rd. I was scheduled to work nightshift so I thought, "Great. I'll have a front row seat for the Apocalypse!" The world didn't end but it sure felt like it. All Hell broke loose. It was one of the busiest, craziest nights I'd ever seen. Some were saying they'd never seen anything like it in 20 years. At one point (I guess I was swearing or my head was spinning or something) my boss pulled me aside to ask if I was OK. I said "No. I'm not OK. But what can I do? It's busy and we don't even have time to be having this conversation."
Somehow I managed to survive the 12 hour shift (actually a 14 hour shift for me) but it had taken a toll. I was already stressed to the max and sleep deprived. I was falling apart. After work I got in my car, sat there and bawled. I cried all the way home. When I finally got to lie down, I was beyond exhausted but I couldn't sleep. I couldn't shut my brain off. And I still had to work nightshift again the next night. I was so drained. I just cried and cried. I didn't know how I'd keep going.

The next week I got a link to an article about Cumulative PTSD. I'd always thought of PTSD as being reserved for war veterans and victims of violent crime -- a reaction to one disturbing event. But apparently there is also Cumulative PTSD -- it is more an accumulation of traumatic mental stressors. It's not one event but a build up of toxic events that chips away at you until you reach your breaking point. One article compared it to being a redwood tree -- you don't chop it down with one blow but if you took a swing at it every day for 17 years (how long I've been in this field) -- a little nick here, a big chop there, eventually the tree will fall. I was falling.
I had ALL of the physical symptoms listed -- fatigue, thirst, sleeping issues, intestinal issues, anxiety, irritability, twitches, headaches. Stress was breaking me down. My nerves were shot. I was hanging by a fraying thread. This year had been tough on me with my crazy schedule but now I'd reached a point where I just couldn't take it anymore.

I made an appointment to see my doctor. The moment I set foot in her office I started bawling and couldn't stop. I told her what had been going on at work and how I'd been feeling and how I'd heard about Cumulative PTSD and maybe this was what I was going through? She recommended I take some time off to rest and recuperate. She was also referring me to a psychiatrist but she said it would could a few weeks to get an appointment. In the meantime I sought out a counselor, an expert in PTSD and she was helpful. Just having a break from the stress of work was a help.

The counselor asked if I was a danger to myself (it's a standard risk assessment when someone is in crisis.) "No," I assured her, "I could never do that to Michelle. I'm all she's got." I'm Michelle's Mom above all, no matter what I'm going through, I have to be there for her. And thankfully she hasn't seen me at my worst. I was able to hide it from her though it's tough. Sometimes it feels like I step out of a horror movie (at work) and into Disney movie Mom mode and the contrast is jarring to say the least. When I see what's going on in the world (at work, in the news etc) it certainly seems like the world is falling apart and yet people drop their kids off at school, mow their lawns, have mundane conversations, act like everything is normal. Sometimes it feels surreal to me. Sleep deprivation doesn't help. Being constantly exhausted makes you feel more fragile and unstable. I can't sleep and when I do I have nightmares. Sometimes it feels like life is a nightmare. But Michelle is happy and healthy and her life is perfect. Thankfully she isn't affected by the dark reality that I've been living in.

The counselor had me close my eyes and visualize a horizontal line. In the middle of the line was a dot. I was to focus on that dot. Then she said to imagine an arrow going to the left of the line. She said that that is the past and that thinking/dwelling on it will create sadness. Then I was to imagine an arrow going to the right of the dot. That is the future. Thinking and worrying about it would create stress and anxiety. The only place to find peace was to focus on the dot, to be in the present. She had me describe things in the room, sights, scents, etc to ground me. I realized how my mind had been jumping from past to future and that I was rarely in the moment. Dwelling on the past creates depression and on the future creates anxiety. There are a few moments when I'm present and calm -- when I'm doing yoga, at the beach etc. The key is to find a way to hold on to that peace even when I'm faced with stressful situations -- at work, in traffic etc. How can you be present in the moment when it's not a moment you want to be in?

I felt so fragile I worried I was having a nervous breakdown. I always wondered what it actually means to have a "nervous breakdown." What happens? I pictured someone just stopping their car in the middle of the road and primal screaming until someone finally comes and takes them away...Or a woman dressed in a tiara and evening gown with mascara dripping down her face and clown lipstick, going into a grocery store and emptying boxes of Fruit Loops onto the floor. But maybe it's not as dramatic as that. Maybe it's as mundane as what I was going through -- just crying and crying. Crying at work. Crying as I drive. Crying as I take Michelle to school. Crying in the grocery store. At the doctor's office. Thank God for sunglasses. Thank God for people being so wrapped up in their own lives that they don't notice you breaking down right in front of them.

I was a jangle of nerves. Crying at the drop of a hat. Irritable AF. So jittery I'd jump out of my skin at any sudden noise. I was losing it. The only times I felt somewhat calm were when I was laughing with Michelle or my sister, doing yoga. In those moments I could be present and find my Zen. Unfortunately I didn't seem to be very good at holding on to it when I was in the midst of chaos. That's what I had to learn -- how to breathe and find my calm centre even when in the middle of a stressful situation.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I wound up writing a song about Cumulative PTSD:

The Tree -- an original song by Ann Marie Pincivero:

I needed to relax. One of the tools I was given was to do deep diaphragmatic breathing. I did an exercise where you time your breaths. I took (what I thought were) exaggeratedly slow breaths and counted 14 breaths per minute. Apparently 8 was average. (A complete inhalation and exhalation counts as 1 breath.) So if I was almost DOUBLE the average even when I was trying to breathe SLOWLY imagine how fast my breathing normally is? Or when I'm stressed? I'm probably hyperventilating. Shallow breathing worsens your anxiety. You're not getting enough oxygen. It's why people tell you to calm down and take a deep breath. It's actually good advice if you really do it. When I take my deep breaths and do yoga and visualize the beach (or actually go!) I am able to find my Zen and calm down temporarily. But as soon as I have to deal with the stress of work/driving in bad traffic etc, my fight or flight primitive brain kicks in. The counsellor told me that this is the amygdala. It controls how we react to potential threats. When you're severely stressed, it's cranked up to full blast. ANGER FEAR PANIC FREAKING OUT! Now in prehistoric days that instinct to attack or flee was necessary and kept you alive. It kept you alert. You reacted to real threats. You fought (anger) or you ran (fear.) But in modern society (hopefully!) our stressors usually aren't life-threatening: traffic, work, things going wrong. They probably won't kill us, they're just aggravating but our brains are still wired to panic. Some more than others.
When you're fragile and on edge you can have an extreme reaction to everything. It's hard to tone it down. You're on high alert all the time. You can't deal. Lack of sleep alone can drive you nuts. You're so exhausted you feel fragile. And even as tired as you are you can't sleep. You lay there and think and worry. And then even if you fall asleep you have nightmares, wake up and can't get back to sleep. Some days I'm just a stressed out mess! One day my face was twitching so bad I almost couldn't see. I was shaking. I felt like I was literally going to fall apart. Like a cracked vase barely held together with glue in the middle of an earthquake. I was worried everyone would stare at me but they probably didn't even notice. We think people see our flaws but most of the time they have their own stuff going on and probably couldn't care less what's going on with you.

I know that there is a wide arsenal of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications out there. I don't believe in popping pills. I've seen what they can do to people. As far as I can tell sometimes the side effects are worse than what they're supposed to cure! It seems to me that drugs either bring you up or down artificially and it's far from a perfect system: Anti-anxiety meds cause depression and anti-depressants cause anxiety. It's like a teeter totter playing with your brain chemistry. They can't get it just right. I don't trust it. Now everyone is different and if you have found something that works for you and does not have harmful side effects, then more power to you. But what works for you may not work for everyone. We are all individuals with our own unique brain chemistry. I don't even drink and have never tried drugs (aside from prescription pain killers after surgery which I was careful to limit) because I don't like the feeling of losing control to a substance. I would just rather work things out behaviourally instead of popping pills. I would rather learn tools to relax and become more resilient. I would rather just find my peace than to become dependent on something artificial to escape being me. I still want to be me. I would just like to be a more relaxed, less stressed out version!

I may end up seeing a psychologist rather than a psychiatrist because as it turns out psychologists focus more on changing behaviours while psychiatrists, medical doctors, tend to rely on prescribing medications (pill pushers.) I know it's not a popular opinion but I don't believe in drugs or alcohol. I think they're evil and at the root of 75% percent of society's problems. People use them as an escape but they are not a healthy escape. They make your life worse. And the reality is that if you are unhappy with yourself, nothing can fill that void. Drugs and alcohol won't. Eating, gambling, sex or any other addiction won't. The only thing that can fill that void in you is LOVE. Self-love, love of others, love of nature. I know the whole "Peace and love, man" thing makes me sound like a hippie but really that's what the world needs. If we all loved OURSELVES, EACH OTHER and OUR PLANET would we have the problems we're facing today? Violence, drug addiction, global warming, disasters etc? When you hate yourself, when you walk around angry and hostile with the world, it adds to the negativity in the world. It becomes a destructive force. Of course it's easy for me to say as I type this. But it's another story when someone cuts me off on the highway and I'm screaming. (A couple of posts ago I talked about wearing a shirt that said "Be Kind." These days I almost wish I had a shirt that said "F$%^ this Sh$#!" or "I hate everyone!" Then again this may not be the best example for Michelle...
I found this meme on a particularly bad day and it made me smile. You have to try to keep your sense of humour, no matter what. Sometimes it's harder than others. Sometimes you feel like Alice in Wonderland -- that the world is a dark place and makes no sense and you just want to yell "F*%$ this sh$*!"

My sister May is amazing. She always manages to make me laugh through tears. She knows just what to say to put things in perspective. Talking to her helped. The counselor helped as well. I'm not OK but I've been told it's OK not to be OK. And I'm working on it. I'm doing deep breathing and yoga. I even booked a massage (for the first time EVER!) I'm not shy about admitting I need help. I need to relax. I am trying to do relaxing things. Unfortunately life happens. It seems there is always something to stress about...

Sometimes life gives you signs. My brakes were making a scraping noise. "Great," I thought. "One more thing to worry about!" Breakdown/brake down... It's no wonder of course. With all my commuting I do more kilometers in a year than some people would in 10 years. I took the car in for service. I was not thrilled about it. The price tag was even worse than I thought. I thanked the guy at the desk for calling me "Miss" instead of "Ma'am" anyway. I hate Ma'am. "Well why would I call a young girl Ma'am?" Again, thanks for calling me a young girl. Of course he was just trying to soften me up before he dropped the bomb. I needed my brakes FRONT AND REAR, replaced. Great. It was sort of a metaphor for my life: Pushed to the limit, scraping metal, nothing left. I needed to SLOW the F&*% DOWN! I had a visit with my sister to cheer me up while they worked on the car. The shuttle driver was probably sorry he started a conversation about current events. The news was on the radio. There was another shooting. Yes the world has gone to Hell. The driver got an earful about my anxiety over the world falling apart. A different driver picked me up afterward. He had classical music playing and didn't say a word. It was definitely much more calming than news radio. Focus on the beauty...

When I went in to pick up my car and saw the invoice I said in a deadpan voice "Well I hope you know you've murdered Christmas."
The guy at the desk chuckled nervously.
"I guess I'll tell my daughter that Santa died of a fentanyl overdose like everyone else."
"You're really funny!" the guy said.
"I'm having a nervous breakdown," I replied.
Of course I'm kidding about Santa. I would never say anything like that to Michelle. (Though my Mom told me one of our relatives during the Depression told the kids Santa had committed suicide and that's why they wouldn't have any presents. I really hope she's making it up or it's an urban legend because that's messed up.) No. Santa is alive and well. No matter what Michelle will still get her present from Santa and presents from me. It will just be a little tougher. But there always seems to be $omething. Last year it was the furnace. Sh#* happens. Especially around Christmas time.

Of course my problems seem awfully small in comparison to the horrendous things going on in the world lately. As one of my friends suggested I have to stop focusing so much on the negative, to stop reading about and listening to the horrors in the news (which just makes me feel more stressed, hopeless and helpless), to just find my happy place and try to forget that the world is in the crapper. There is so much ugliness and pain in the world but there is also so much beauty and so much joy. There is LOVE. That's what we need to hold on to...I still have a lot to be grateful for. Mostly Michelle. And there are always things to look forward to. On the bad days I just have to trust that better days are coming. Somehow I got through September. As I write this actually now we are almost through October! And there's Halloween to look forward to...