And even in December it can be difficult. Yes Christmas is a beautiful holiday about love and giving and I appreciate time with family. I love the excitement of sharing Christmas with a child. But then there's the other side: the stress, the expense, the pressure to make it a perfect Hallmark card and all the things that inevitably go wrong and just Winter itself sucks. (I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and lately I've been dealing with acute anxiety/severe stress from work and my life in general...) Thankfully this year at least I wasn't sick with pneumonia at least. I had health issues off and on but I wasn't hacking my lungs out as I usually seem to be through the Winter. So there's that. Still, more often than not I was sleep-deprived, stressed, irritable, falling apart. Coasting on the fumes of cortisol and caffeine. Some days were better than others. Some days it was all I could do not to just lay down on the floor and sob. (I tried to save those moments for when I was home rather than at work or shopping for groceries.)
For Michelle it's all good, all happy, all the time! Every day is Christmas! And why not? She couldn't be more adored by her Mama, or grandparents. She pretty much gets whatever she wants (within reason.) She makes friends easily everywhere she goes. Life is all sunshine, unicorn and rainbows, a magical adventure. She's cute, strong, talented, brilliant and doing well in school. The world is her oyster! (Her Mama is falling apart half the time but I try to keep that hidden from her!)
And when you don't have Santa's lap to sit in there is always Ronald McDonald. (Michelle is not creeped out by clowns yet. I will not allow her to see "It" until she's at least 18 years old. Or maybe never. I find clowns creepy. Especially the psychotic killer clowns!)
Every time we go to Walmart Michelle wants to sit on Ronald McDonald's lap. We usually have to wait for Gramma to cash out anyway so I let her sit while we wait...
Sometimes the awkward up-close hand-held selfies turned out the best because at least you could see us.
A lot of other people had the same idea -- taking advantage of a mild evening to go for a walk through the festival of lights. It wasn't really that late. It just gets SO dark so early in the Winter. (Yes that's also depressing!) It was a school night but I wanted Michelle to see the light show and I often work weekends so I have to seize the moment while I can! Plus weekends are probably too busy/crowded.
Being a photoholic I just kept snapping and hoped for the best. At least I wasn't alone. A lot of other people were there taking pictures too -- of course they all had their camera phones rather than an old fashioned camera like my Nikon.
This section with the deer by the water was one of my favourite displays but unfortunately my photos really don't do it justice. (Obviously!) The distant ones are a bit blurry and too far away and this close-up barely shows the deer at all. It was hard to find a happy medium.
In the Bible they describe Hell as being a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth." So apparently I'm already in Hell considering how often I cry and grind my teeth. Actually I've been grinding my teeth for about 17 years (which not coincidentally is how long I've worked in my job! Just one of the effects of stress. IBS is another.) At one point a dentist fitted me for a mouth guard to wear at night but I couldn't stand it and never used it. I have problems with my teeth hurting/jaw aching now and then. I try not to think about my teeth because I'm not a fan of them. They're crooked (I was supposed to have braces as a child) and yellow (apparently I brushed them too hard and wore of the top layer of enamel.) Most of the time I just hope they don't give me too much grief.
Then I was working one night when I got a terrible toothache. It seemed to be more than just my tooth. It was emanating from my gums behind my back tooth. Deja vu. I'd already had an abscess in July and went to the dentist for anti-biotics. Now I had pain in my gums/rear tooth on the opposite side. For crying out loud I thought, it's always something! So I went to the dentist and sure enough it was an abscess again. He prescribed anti-biotics (AGAIN!) and a rinse to clear up the infection. He also referred me to a periodontist who recommended surgery -- gingivectomy so that I don't keep having this problem. There is an opening at the back of my mouth in my gums where my impacted wisdom teeth were removed decades ago. It's easy for food to become trapped back there which can cause infection. So it's easier to just remove that section of my gums once and for all. They booked the surgery for the beginning of 2018. Last year it was a lumpectomy. Now a gingivectomy. Because Winter isn't already unpleasant enough, you might as well have surgery in the middle of it! Woo hoo!
I got a 360 X-ray and they managed to do it without bonking me in the head like the bumbling dentist office I had tried once in the Spring (and mentioned in a blog post. I never went back to them.) When I saw the X-ray it was so creepy and cool I asked if I could take a picture of it. They probably thought I was a weirdo but they said "Sure." It's not very Christmas-y but as a photoholic I appreciated having this scary skeleton shot of myself. I'm not looking forward to having my gums cut out but if it's going to prevent going through this whole abscess thing ever again I'm all for it. Michelle was fascinated by it all and wanted to look in my mouth with a flashlight. She thought about being a dentist like Hermey on Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. I told her it pays better than making toys.
This classic letter in "The Sun" puts it beautifully:
The Sun letter, New York 1897 -- "Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus"
"Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy...."
I was thrilled that Michelle had a big smile! I couldn't, however, say the same for Santa. In his defense maybe he was smiling under the beard but it didn't show. His eyes didn't seem to be smiling... They seemed somewhat stern if anything. Then again it must be tiresome to have kids sitting on your lap all day. They're probably not all cute or friendly. You get the ones who cry or scream or squirm or are dirty or sticky or (Heaven forbid!) soil themselves?! My Michelle was an angel of course when she was a baby she was terrified of Santa and screamed bloody murder when I tried to get a picture with him. (I wound up having to get in the photo holding her that year.)
I loved their professional photo and got a couple of copies as well as a light up folder/frame to put mine in.
I love having printed photos (especially since I haven't printed photos in years so ones that I get when I'm out somewhere or school photos are the only hard copies I have!) but I still want a digital copy so I can post them on Twitter/my blog etc. They gave me a code to download the picture online.
After our successful Santa visit Michelle and I did a bit of shopping and then got an ice cream while we waited for Gramma. It seems every time we go shopping with Gramma we end up waiting for her but ice cream makes the time pass more pleasantly! Since my Mom doesn't drive she relied on me to take her Christmas shopping most of the time. It was tricky to work in with my insane schedule. Even when I had time off work there was so much to do. Time to myself was in short supply, basically non-existent. Sleep deprivation was an on-going problem. Even when I finally would get to lay down my brain wouldn't shut off. I would spin and spin. Worrying, making to do lists, overwhelmed. Tired just thinking of all that I had to do.
As we walked through the mall people were admiring Michelle's adorable red Santa/elf outfit. She loves dressing up and is always in her glory if she gets to wear a fancy dress.
I'm always reluctant to leave Michelle, (other than for work and school when it's unavoidable) even for a few hours but it's the only time I have some time to myself. Most of the time when Michelle is invited to a party I've been able to stick around anyway but a couple of times it's a party at home and you just drop them off an go. They're always kids from her school and the parents always seem nice, still the control freak in me has a hard time letting go.
After dropping her off I decided to run some errands. I had a package to pick up at the Post Office. I'd been out the day that the delivery arrived and I had a card to attend the post office to pick up my package.
I was expecting something small. I'd been approached on Twitter about tweeting #TogetherWithTwoOceans during The Bachelor Canada (#BachelorCA). I was offered a care package with a bottle of wine, an Emoji pillow, chocolates etc. I told them that I don't even drink wine but I can't say no to chocolate and the other stuff sounded neat. And I could always give the wine to my brother.
After waiting in a long line I got my package and I was shocked that it was a huge box! It was so nice! A basket (which matches my wood floors and I love it!) the Emoji pillow, tissues, a rose pen, a mood ring, rose shaped chocolates, wine and glasses! Bling! It was so cool! They called it a "Mixed Em-Oceans kit" designed to help you get through watching the show. I was so grateful that I wanted to make sure I promoted Two Oceans. When I work I'm usually out of town/off the grid in the evenings but I made a point of traveling home that week so that I could be there to watch/tweet the show and #TogetherWithTwoOceans. The show wound up having an unhappy ending. The love story that I was rooting for (#TeamLyndsey!) fell apart and he wound up settling for the other girl. They didn't wind up staying together. It's hard to make love work period never mind on reality TV. Still, I don't date myself so watching people date on TV I get to live vicariously through them at least. I felt bad being away from Michelle that night but I figured I should have at least one night to myself once in a while.
Most Moms, even if they don't have a partner, have some kind of social life, girl's nights out or they date, go on vacations etc. I don't do any of that. So this one night, to be at home on my own and get to live tweet my show, was the closest I've come to a social life/date in several years! Occasionally there are single Moms who go on the Bachelor and they have to leave their kids for months. I could NEVER do it! I feel bad being away from Michelle for ONE DAY! Michelle even asked me once "Mama would you ever go on vacation without me?" Hell no. I told her that the only way I could go on a vacation would be if I win the lottery (in which case I'll be booking a trip to Hawaii/Fiji/somewhere tropical!) and even if I was going anywhere I would bring her with me! No adult resorts for me. It would have to be kid-friendly hotels etc! Any adventures I have will include my girl!
So the snow is absolutely no fun for me. It is at best a nuisance and at worst a hazard. But Michelle loves it and so I do make a point to drag myself out and play in the snow with her sometimes. But aside from the photo op I'm really not a fan of the cold! I mostly just count the minutes until I can go in and get a hot chocolate! One day Grampa came out to play in the snow too. Sometimes it was too cold to be out even for a few minutes. We had some bitterly cold days. I HATE the Winter. Summer is my favourite season. And Spring. Michelle loves it all. "What's your favourite season?"
"Christmas!" she said "and Halloween!"
"Well those are HOLIDAYS not SEASONS. Halloween is in the Fall and Christmas is in Winter."
But as a kid it's all fun. It's all magic and adventure and treats and toys. You don't have the expenses, stresses, responsibilities and burdens. Just the fun stuff.
She wanted to try it on right away when I showed it to her.
Michelle is my happy place. She is my shining star. She is ALL that keeps me going these days. I've been through a really rough time.
After a breakdown in late September-early October I'd gone to my doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist. Apparently the waiting list was so long my appointment with him wasn't until mid-December. In the meantime I was also referred to a psychologist (through work) and went to see her in November. I had always wondered the difference between "Psychologist" and "Psychiatrist." I really know now! (Bearing in mind that my experience is limited and that I happened to meet a very nice female psychologist and a rather terrible male psychiatrist... So this may have affected my opinion as well...)
A rough couple of days... (weeks...months...Actually the whole year sucked!)— Ann Marie Pincivero (@ampincivero) December 13, 2017
I went to see a shrink... but then I decided I'd like to stay the same size...
Oh well 2017 is nearly over. What didn't kill us made us stronger. Or something. Right? pic.twitter.com/Kg4N5R2j6P
A Psychologist offers CBT (like TCB!) -- cognitive-behavioural therapy -- helping patients with emotional and mental issues through counseling and behavioural intervention. They give you the tools to take control of your life and help you to feel better. At the risk of generalizing (and sorry my experience in this realm is limited but from what I've seen and heard from others as well) a Psychiatrist is basically a drug pusher. As medical doctors they can prescribe medications. And unfortunately that's about all they do. Their entire focus seems to be that you are broken and that only drugs will fix you. They want to throw drugs at everything. Anxiety? Here take these anti-anxiety meds (which may cause depression or worse anxiety or become highly addictive or even kill you.) Depression? Here take these anti-depressants (which may cause anxiety or worse depression and will make 1 in 10 people turn suicidal/homicidal and have a host of other symptoms that are actually worse than what you're trying to cure.) Hyper-active kid? Put him on psychotropic drugs (which may actually cause hallucinations and really mess the kid up!) Yes I'm simplifying but every one of these examples is based on someone that I've known and seeing what they went through.
Now don't get me wrong. (And please don't send me hate mail -- these are MY opinions which you may not share and that's fine. I don't claim to be an expert, far from it!) If your condition is so severe that you see no other way and you find a medication that works for you, then by all means, do what you need to do to feel better. But I don't believe in taking drugs myself and I think that shrinks are too willing to give drugs to everyone (even CHILDREN -- Ritalin when they're hyper-active etc.) And I think it's diabolical. Too many drugs are addictive and/or have horrendous side effects. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease! When you see those commercials on TV where they show people laughing and running and then quickly rhyme through the side effects of the medicatons ("May cause diarrhea, internal bleeding, DEATH...") the drug companies are banking on you focusing on the happy people (actors, mind you, NOT people on the medication!) and not the horrid side effects. The thing is that while a drug MAY work for someone, each individual is different and to expect it to work for everyone is dangerous. It's all experimental. It's a crap shoot and they can't quite get it right. I've talked to people whose anti-depressant medications made them like zombies with no emotion. (To me that is NOT PREFERABLE! I'd rather feel all my feelings and shout my rage and cry all my tears than to feel nothing!) I've talked to some who were prescribed anti-anxiety meds that were so addictive they were climbing the walls when they tried to wean off of them. I've seen drugs destroy people. Substance abuse of one kind or another (alcohol and drugs) destroyed two people that I loved. Bottom line: I don't believe in drugs. For something like physical pain, sure, I'll take a pain killer (though I'm careful not to overuse them.) But something as complex as a mental and emotional problem, or for dealing with stress that is more situational than anything I don't believe that popping a pill is the answer. I would rather learn relaxation techniques and find ways to feel better on my own. I would rather feel stronger on my own than to become dependent on a pill to feel better (and which in many cases can make you feel worse! I remember one guy that I dated many years ago was throwing up every day for weeks on a new anti-depressant. How is that OK?! I would have given up and tried something else.) I'm a control freak. I want to feel in control. I don't even smoke or drink. I don't do drugs. I've never even tried marijuana and I am not about to take a psychotropic drug that will mess me up even further just because some doctor is getting kickbacks from Pfizer for pushing it.
With all this in mind, I went to see the psychiatrist for an appointment that I had waited two months to get. And he was the WORST. Calling him a "shrink" seemed fitting within the first two seconds of meeting him. He must have shrunk the doorway as he walked through because he banged his shoulder on it as he led me to his office. Like he couldn't make it through the door. It was awkward to say the least. I was going to ask whether he was OK but then thought this would be more embarrassing for him. His office (if you can call it that) looked like a cross between a garage sale and a flea market -- a cluttered mix of tacky art and brick a brack circa 1975. His floor was lined with stacks of books and papers. Couldn't he afford a bookcase?! Had he just moved in? I didn't bother to ask but he struck me as pretty disorganized to say the least. The word "bumbling" comes to mind. And he was supposed to be helping me with MY issues?! Maybe he was just eccentric. Like the absent-minded professor type. Then his questions began and my last remaining shred of faith in him was destroyed. English wasn't his first language so that may have been a factor but basically he would ask me a question and then repeat and type everything I said except getting it COMPLETELY WRONG. For example he asked about my childhood and I explained that being the middle child I always felt like I didn't get as much love and attention as the other kids -- my sister was special being the oldest and my brothers were special because they were the babies. I felt like the chopped liver in the middle and knocked myself out to be the best at everything (straight As in school, winning races etc) just to get some attention. But I still didn't get as much attention as the others. My Mom explained that because I was the "good kid" all through school -- a goody two shoes, with good grades, never smoked or drank or got in trouble -- that I didn't need as much attention. She didn't have to worry about me. From all that he types (and says out loud) "Sooooo... your mother didn't love you..."
"WHAT?! That's not what I said at all! I just didn't feel I got as much attention because--"
Maybe he wasn't even listening to a word I said. Just spouting his own cliched psychoanalyses...
When I told my doctor how awful the shrink was she apologized. "I'm sorry. He was the only psychiatrist that was available!"
"Well I can see WHY he was available." And even at that it took two months to get an appointment with him. Welcome to the mental health crisis! In fairness I'm sure there are some very good psychiatrists out there. Unfortunately the waiting list to see them is likely several YEARS long.
While Mama was falling apart at least Michelle was happy and healthy mostly -- except for a cold/cough that she'd had pretty much since she started school in September. I didn't bother taking her to the doctor because I figured there's not much you can do for a cold anyway (and I tried to NOT be like my hypochondriac Mom who dragged us to the doctor for every sniffle.) A few Moms at Michelle's school suggested I take her to get checked out though and sort of guilted me into it "What?! You haven't taken her to the DOCTOR?" (Mom guilt gets me every time. I try to do all the right things for Michelle & I can't bear to think I'm doing something wrong where she's concerned!) So I took her just to get the other Moms off my back and to be reassured that yes she's fine, just a sniffle. It gave me some peace of mind though having taken her.
"Well that's easy for you to say! But it's hard on Mama. I can't even breathe!"
"Come on Mama! I want a free ride!"
"Well it may be free for you but I'm the one paying for it!" But it's a metaphor for our relationship. She gets a free ride where she has the time of her life laughing her head off and Mama breaks her back trying to make her happy. But I love her so I do it.
Michelle and Ali were my happy place. No matter how crazy and stressful the rest of my life was I was always happy to be back home with them (even if it was only briefly before we were off again.)
Michelle was super psyched for Christmas. I had mixed feelings about it. I was looking forward to seeing her open presents and to spending time with family but it still seemed like chaos to me. Even happy chaos can be stressful when you're so exhausted you could just lie down in the middle of the floor. I basically just didn't sleep. The days I worked there were only a couple of hours available when I COULD sleep and even on my days off I could never catch up. I still lay there, my mind racing, spinning, worrying.
Hell to the NO!
"No way! He's bigger than ME! He wouldn't fit in the car! He wouldn't fit in our HOUSE! Plus he's $75! So it's a hard pass!"
Nonetheless he was super cute and it was a photo op so I was ON IT!
Michelle was happy to sit on his lap for a picture. Why buy the thing when you can just get a cute picture with it? Part of me was almost tempted to get the bear. When I'm having a rough day I could go and give him a bear hug. I used to cuddle teddy bears as a child. I sort of miss that kind of unconditional comfort. Of course I have a couple of living, breathing teddy bears -- Michelle and Ali -- to cuddle!
"You and me both!"
Oh to be a child again when your needs and desires are so simple and attainable. When the smallest things can make you smile and laugh! At this point in my life my needs and desires seemed so unattainable I pretty much shelved/forgot about them. I was lacking even basic necessities like getting rest. I was letting myself get so depleted there was nothing left. I was like a shell of a person. But for Michelle's sake, I forced a smile. I got good at forcing a smile. When she wasn't around I let myself cry. I didn't really have a choice. You can only hold it in so long. Crying in the car became a common occurrence. It was the one place I was alone, between being at work and being at home. The one place where I could just let go. My car saw a lot of emotion -- tears of anguish and exhaustion, stress and anger (a long commute on no sleep and dealing with other drivers.)
And then I'd be with Michelle and have to switch to Disney "happy Mom" mode. Most of the time I managed it. A couple of times I broke down. Luckily my girl is so kind and compassionate she comforted me and brought me a Kleenex. She comforted classmates at school when they were upset. I was glad that she was a kind and caring girl. At times it's almost like our roles were reversed. She had her act together. She was strong and stable. I was falling apart.
Michelle loved playing "Mama" sometimes -- pretending that she was the adult and that I was the child. That her little kitchen was the real kitchen where she would do the dishes and make supper and that I was the one playing at a toy sink and stove. She made it clear though that she did NOT want kids when she grew up because "babies are WAY too much work!" I told her they're a lot of work but they're worth it and I've never loved anyone or anything as much as I love her!
I'm so glad that Michelle loves school and is doing so well. She is (unlike me) very social and makes friends easily. In SK she made a new BFF and they're pretty much inseparable. I was allowed to come into the class one day so I took the opportunity to get a picture of Michelle and her friend in front of their class Christmas tree. I've often thought that I'd love to be a fly on the wall and watch Michelle at school. I've had a few chances to be a visitor/guest in the class on Scientist day and Career day.
It's always like pulling teeth asking Michelle what she does in school all day.
"Did you learn anything new?"
"Well what did you do?"
"I don't know." Then gradually she'll open up about things that happened. A new song they learned etc.
Just as important is that she is doing so well socially. She gets along with others. I always struggled with social interaction. I was shy and found it tough to come out of my shell in a social setting. Michelle is definitely NOT shy.
And then one day I was taking Michelle's agenda and lunch bag out of her backpack and I came across this. I was FLOORED.
"Michelle! You won a CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP AWARD?!" I wish I'd been there to see her accept it in front of the whole school. I was so proud and happy I thought my heart would explode. I was proud of my girl being so clever, but this, to see that she is also exceptionally kind -- "a shining example of Gospel values" in her class and her school was possibly the most proud moment of my life! I have made so many sacrifices for Michelle -- did everything in my power to make her feel safe and loved and to help her be the best person she could be. Even if I was falling apart it was worth it to see that Michelle was doing so well. At least I had done SOMETHING right. Although I had won many scholastic awards myself in high school and university, somehow this award of Michelle's meant so much more. It pretty much trumped everything.
There's a fine line between tacky and cute... I think the important thing is to have fun with it. The whole "ugly Christmas sweater" thing seems to have become more popular than ever. There were a lot to choose from. And I LOVE this crazy Christmas tree dress of Michelle's. It was in her size and on sale so really I had no choice! Of course one day (in her teens likely) she will refuse to wear anything so garish (and will probably insist on name brand this and that) so I might as well enjoy this time while she's young and willing to wear fun, wacky things that I find on sale. I won't do to her what my Mom did to me: dress her in embarrassing things that make her get picked on as an adolescent. Then again, Michelle is pretty tough and assertive. I don't think she would ever get picked on. She can take care of herself. I wish I had been more like her when I was growing up! Heck I wish I was more like her NOW! I admire her confidence -- that's one thing I always lacked and it's still in pretty short supply! While I'm plagued with self-doubt, she believes in herself.
I love my family. I am always grateful for the time I spend with them. My sister is my best friend. No one really gets me or makes me laugh the way she does.
I always take a second shot just to be sure. This time I got in the front to make it easier not having to climb over people. And this way you get to see my lovely snowman sweater! Chris is leaning on the giant Jenga set that he made for Reggie and Shannon. (We had played with one outside in the summer. The kids loved it. It is a little scary when they fall since they're big blocks of wood but no one was hurt thankfully!) Being a carpenter Chris often makes homemade gifts. He made May and I beautiful birch candle holders. I love rustic things to match my barnwood floors.
Michelle LOVED it! She wanted to take him out of the box right away and was cradling him like a baby and giving him his bottle. He makes little noises. It was so cute. She wanted to take it to bed though I worried it wasn't the best idea since his chattering would keep her awake. Not to mention he had a hard body not like a stuffed bear.
Michelle also loved her Zoomer Show Pony from Auntie May. Basically if there was a cute/pretty girl's toy out this year, she got it! Michelle was spoiled by the whole family!
That's what I love about family and especially my sister May -- that she accepts me as I am. That I don't have to worry what she'll think. She can see me at my worst and it's OK and she helps me through it and helps me to laugh about it. I wish I lived closer to her. It's hard to be so far away from my family and to feel so isolated a lot of the time and to have to commute so far to work and child care/family. If I did win the lottery I'd want to live close to my sister and my Mom. (Unfortunately I would NEED to win the lottery to do so! Housing prices have gotten INSANE to say the least. Which is why I live so far away (because that was what I could afford.)
Michelle adored her polar bear and carried him around the rest of the day and night and for the next few weeks. She named him "Peanut" (I'm not sure why...) and treated him like he was her baby. She even asked me to watch him for her when she had to go to the washroom or something. She can be quite an attentive parent! She is fickle however and keeps changing her mind which toy/stuffie or doll is her favourite at any given time. She certainly has a lot to choose from!
How can you resist a twisted Christmas photo op? They are the colours of Christmas anyway! Red, white and green! I laughed my head off when I saw Slimer. I nearly screamed when I heard the price but he's one of a kind and Shane just HAD to have him...
It was Christmas Eve and Michelle was extremely excited. I told her she could open half her presents on Christmas Eve, the other half on Christmas and then she'd open presents from Grandma and Grandpa at their house (there were so many presents to bring that to cut down Mom left Michelle's and mine for us to open later.) The big family Christmas was before Christmas. My brother Mike and Barb alternate years to spend Christmas with their families and this wasn't Mike's year. Still we were going to be seeing Grandma and Auntie May again on Christmas day. I was beyond grateful to have Christmas off this year (which doesn't always happen. When I was forced to revert to full time in January of 2017 the up side was that at least I had my pick of vacation time for the whole year so I took a few days off each month to make it more livable. It still was NOT livable. The 16 hour shifts on no sleep were killing me but somehow I made it through the year into December, mostly intact!)
We went to Christmas Eve mass and it was BEAUTIFUL! We went early to make sure we got a seat. I love singing Christmas carols. Luckily they started them early so it filled the time. Most of them I know by heart. They played just about all of my favourites: Oh Come all ye Faithful, Silent Night, The First Noel, Angels We have Heard on High, Joy to the World. I was enjoying it. I used to go to church every Sunday but got out of the habit (especially with my crazy hectic work schedule and having to work a lot of weekends.) There never seemed to be time and the few times I had gone to mass with Michelle (for weddings, communions etc) never went well -- she was restless and acting up. Now that she was older I figured she'd be much better behaved. And she WAS but she started to lose patience and started asking when it would be over halfway through the mass.
I was so happy that we got to Christmas mass. Christmas is the birth of Jesus after all and it felt right to celebrate with him in church. I really should get to church more often it's just not easy. As a kid Mom dragged us every single week and it felt more like a chore and a punishment than anything. I don't ever want Michelle to feel that way about it. To me that defeats the purpose of going.
Ali got a few presents too but she wasn't very good at posing. She chased after her catnip mice etc and all my shots were blurry.
I found this magic set and thought she'd like it. She was fascinated by her cousin Reggie's magic set and she always tries to do tricks even without the props. She put on a little show for me and I feigned amazement at her tricks. She didn't have the patience to read through the actual instructions for the hundreds of tricks so she just improvised. It was still cute. The set came with a plastic top hat, magic wand, trick cards, rings etc. For some reason almost all kids seem to love magic. My nephew Dan used to be into magic as a child as well. Childhood itself is magical. It's all unicorns and rainbows and fairytales and Santa Claus. Magic and wonder and adventure and fun. Then you grow up and you lose your sense of magic. You get too lost in grown up realities and responsibilities. You lose your sense of fun. There isn't time. You give up on your dreams. They call it growing up but in some ways it's shrinking... (and sometimes you wind up seeing a shrink!) As a child your imagination is boundless. As a grown up, you start seeing limits. Of course if you're lucky, you never lose your childlike sense of wonder...
She had asked Santa for a teddy bear (a choice which was considerably better than her original idea -- to ask Santa for the $400 pink car at Toys R Us that Mama couldn't afford! Thankfully I was able to talk her out of it because logistically it just wouldn't work on so many levels!) and was anxious to see what kind of a bear he had for her. She was quite confident it would be a bear. Santa always delivers! Santa was kind enough to give Mama some bubble bath -- inviting me to pamper myself and take a moment to breathe. Unfortunately there never seemed to be time to take him up on this suggestion. Someone at work had said the same thing, that I had to take time for myself. But when I only had a 4 hour window to even grab some SLEEP most days, a bubble bath was pretty much out of the question!
I LOVE watching Michelle open her gifts. I used to love opening my presents as a kid but watching Michelle open hers is even more fun! It's like reliving my childhood again but better because I get to be an observer and share in Michelle's joy. These moments with her melt my heart and are the perfect antidote to the stress and mess that is the rest of my life...
(Santa thinks of EVERYTHING!)
Another day. Another ugly Christmas sweater! It's actually kind of cute. This time with a cat on it. And sequins. Of course. The best part is that it says "Meowy Christmas!" Because when you're sleep deprived, hanging by a thread and on the verge of a full scale mental breakdown you have to at LEAST find a way to lighten up and laugh at yourself! Plus I love cats and if I see anything with a cat on it I pretty much HAVE to buy it!
I swear that watching Michelle open her gifts is even more fun than opening my own gifts was when I was a kid. I think. From what I remember. This just trumps everything. Even after going through so many rough days it absolutely melts my heart and makes my life to see Michelle so happy.
She really is all that keeps me going. I love her so much. And I would do just about anything to make her happy. So I am grateful that she is happy. Now we just have to work on Mama...
I have a hard time saying no to Michelle and at least it wasn't a $400 pink Cadillac so it was within the realm of possibility. To the degree that I can I try to give Michelle what she wants. Her happiness is my #1 priority. My own happiness, doesn't even make the top 10 in my priority list, based on the evidence and how little I take care of myself. In my defense there was just never time. Sometimes I felt like I was never still for more than a minute, if that. At home, I almost never sit down. There's always something to do. Even on my laptop for the few internet moments I steal, I'm standing. When not at home I'm almost always driving/working/on the move.
Michelle certainly isn't photo shy anymore (if she ever was!) Now she enjoys posing for the camera. I wanted to just snap candid shots of her opening her gifts naturally but she would ham it up and pose for me. I guess it's hard to be "natural" with the paparazzi snapping away at your every move. She is becoming quite a Diva and loves the attention so I suppose I've created a monster! As a photoholic however having a child that actually cooperates and LOOKS at the camera and SMILES is a godsend! I can't ask for better than that! Once in a while she does tire of the camera and say "Mama. Do you HAVE to take so many pictures?!" but more often than not she's as happy to be in the photos as I am to be taking them!
I didn't even notice that her bow had come undone because I was too busy looking at her happy face. This is the best gift of all for me -- just getting to watch Michelle's excitement as she opens her gifts. I remember in the past as I got older and wasn't getting toys anymore I felt like I was missing out. I would watch my younger brothers open their gifts and feel like Christmas wasn't as fun for me anymore. Now it's like I get to relive my childhood through Michelle -- her joy is mine, only magnified. I feel all her excitement. It's palpable. Someone once said having a child is like having your heart walking around outside your body. And it is -- everything that happens to them happens to you. That's why you want the best for them. That's why you want them happy and you couldn't bear to see them hurt. At least that's how I feel. She's like part of me but the most precious, most important part.
We were heading to Auntie May's again afterward to celebrate my Dad's birthday as well. Michelle certainly wasn't complaining about having so many Christmas celebrations. And she always loves visiting with family. It was tough to tear her away from her new toys though.
Chris and Mike had already given dad his birthday presents at the Christmas celebration. Having your birthday near Christmas you wind up having them both lumped in together but at least Dad got a separate celebration with May and I. Dan and Julie were there as well. We had a blast talking and laughing at dinner. Shane made a brisket which was BEYOND DELICIOUS but my Mom's compliments were awkward to say the least. She told Shane "This is so tender you could eat it WITHOUT ANY TEETH!" We laughed our heads off at that but it got even better (worse!)
"An axe?" Julie asked.
My Mom replied "Yes. Beside my bed." (WHAT?! Don't even ask!)
"A raft?" Dan asked.
"Yes," Mom said, "but only one oar." (So when the deluge comes, she'll float away but can only go in a circle?) No matter how bad life gets I can count on my family to make me laugh!
Of course 2017 was a tough year for a lot of people. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call it an apocalyptic year. I decided to do a blog about it (the post just before this one: "2017 had its moments -- all of them bad!) I thought it would be good to take a more global perspective for a change except that it got out of hand. The more that I researched, the more I wanted to include. I knew that there were a lot of natural disasters and tragedies but I only knew the tip of the iceberg. There were so many stories to share and it became overwhelming. I don't know how I even found the time (insomnia helped!) but somehow I did it. And it was therapeutic in a weird way to get it all out.
I took my parents out to dinner and then we just hung out at my Mom's to watch the ball drop in NYC on TV. Even though we weren't going anywhere fancy Michelle loves any opportunity to dress up and we all dressed up in silver. I got some goofy props -- hats, glasses, etc -- to add to the photos. I am a photoholic after all. I've never done anything too exciting on New Years. Even when I was in a relationship and tried going to events and parties it was usually a huge disappointment. Sometimes the best New Year's is just staying home with the one(s) you love...
You would never know my Mom is in her 70s. She looks like a young girl. I love this picture of Mom and Michelle. They're just crazy.
I wanted to celebrate 2018. To commemorate the fact that 2017, one of the worst years ever, was over and that we had gotten through it.
The New Year always feels like a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to get it right. Unfortunately my problems weren't just magically going to go away.
Happy New Year! Welcome 2018!
So here we are. I'd like to say that the year is off to a good start (as I finish this it's already mid-February! Time flies!) but it has actually been pretty rocky so far. The bad news is that my problems didn't miraculously disappear in January (Some of them even got worse!) so I was still a stressed out (sleep deprived, running on less than empty) mess. The good news is that I'm working on it... I'm finally taking better care of myself (or trying at least.) But I'll save those details for the next blog post about Jan-Feb... Which at this rate will be done in April...?