It's kind of surreal to be writing this now (in June). This is a post about March and April but I'm just beginning it now. March came in like a lion. I'm not sure if it went out like a lamb. We actually still had the occasional snow and ice storm even into April! Oddly it went from one extreme to the other and in May we seemed to jump straight from Winter to Summer, with temperatures in the 30s Celsius! After all that snow I wasn't about to complain about it being too hot. Still it's nice to have SPRING weather, a happy medium between too cold and too hot.
Of course I always make Michelle pose for photo ops. It was pretty crowded so it was tough to get photos without strangers in them but somehow I managed. This was in the little workshop section as you first go in. Michelle was getting frustrated because kids weren't giving her a turn on the computer puzzles/games. I told her we had to get moving along anyway. We didn't want to lose our place in (an extraordinarily long and winding) line.
Michelle doesn't have a lot of patience (I don't either for that matter.) After a long drive "Are we there yet?!" the last thing she wants is more waiting. I reminded her that everywhere you want to go, other people want to go as well and there is really no way of getting around the whole line up thing. Canada's Wonderland is the worst for that so I think we'll have to wait until she's older to even attempt it. You wait hours to get on a ride that lasts 2 minutes. It's kind of a metaphor for life.
Michelle sometimes loses patience with my photoholic tendencies but she knows there is no way around it. I am obsessed with capturing every single moment. I've been this way for decades. I don't know how to stop now! In my defense there is a whole generation of people (the Instagram generation) who document the minutiae of their lives in photos now. I was doing it LONG before it was cool! Ironically as much as I love pictures I'm not even on Instagram because you post photos through your phone and my now obsolete i-phone 4 can't anymore. I still post pictures regularly on Twitter.
"Come ON Mama! No more pictures!"
"Just one more?|"
And of course we HAD to pose with the giant Lego Canada flag. Non-negotiable.
I actually HATE this part of Legoland because the kids enter this playground and disappear for hours. You can't see them inside and I'm always anxiously eyeing the exits to see if Michelle is leaving. For a control freak with anxiety issues it's kind of a recipe for disaster. I sat there with a knot in my stomach trying to relax in a huge crowd of strangers, some of whom were (if I'm being frank) sort of sketchy looking. Did they even HAVE children? Were they just waiting to kidnap one? I wish I wasn't made this way. But I AM.
A lady sitting next to me was much more chill. She boredly asked her hubby to get her a bag of Doritos. I thought how nice it would be to have a hubby who would get you a bag of Doritos whenever you asked. The woman and I started chatting and it turned out it was actually her ex-partner but they were still civil for their daughter's sake. Ironically, her daughter and mine had become friends in the mysterious playground of death and emerged together. They wanted to continue hanging out. It was awesome because her Mom was really cool and having no social life to speak of it's rare that I get to talk to a woman my own age. The girls both wanted to go on the flying ride so we headed there together. They wanted to sit together but children have to be with an adult. The line up seemed to take forever but at least we had our new friends to pass the time. I got a picture of Michelle and her new little friend. I don't remember her name now because I'm writing this months later and I'm HORRIBLE with names.
We were starving so we decided to get a bite to eat. Our friends came with us. Of course I couldn't resist a photo with Yoda first.
"Let's just GO already."
But you can't leave Legoland without looking in the gift shop. I was going to get a bag of pink Lego (you can sort through pieces and fill your own bag) because let's face it you can never have enough pink pieces. Unfortunately when the cashier weighed it and told me the price it was like a million dollars so I said sorry no I can't do that. She looked mildly annoyed but I could see some other bags of random Lego behind the cash that poor schleps like me couldn't afford.
I did spring for the cheesy green screen shot of us. They take your photo as you first go in and then at the end you can choose your background. Michelle chose this Lego Friends one. I wish they hadn't made us give a thumbs up because we just look goofy but it is still cute and Michelle is sort of almost smiling. Ish. In addition to the printed photo they give you a code for a digital version to download which is a must for me since I am impelled to post souvenirs of my life on Twitter.
And then just when you thought her drawings couldn't possibly get any cuter she does her rainbow kitty and it's so cute your cheeks hurt! I absolutely adore Michelle's artwork! The world she creates is so adorable and colourful and whimsical and charming. Michelle can be hard on herself sometimes and think that her pictures aren't good enough. I remind her that she's only 5 years old after all! I love her artwork. Being artistic runs in the family. I always loved to draw (though I hadn't done much in a long time) and so does Shannon.
This is so cute! I love how her printing is so random and some letters are bigger than others. Her creative spellings are usually pretty close. Frankly she spells quite well for a 5 year old. She spells better than the leader of the Free World for that matter! #ImpeachTrump by the way. I try not to follow American politics as much because it's just another stressor and what can I really do about it? The idiot is good for a laugh sometimes though. There's an account on Twitter called Trump Draws and it pokes fun at his stupid executive orders, showing him holding up a folder with a child's drawing and misspelled words. Trump is so beyond absurd you don't even have to parody him. His ACTUAL tweets are so ridiculous they're a joke as is.
It was March break and we got a special "passport" from her school filled with places that were offering free activities and events for kids. You could go for free and stamp your passport. I can't argue with free so I went through the book with Michelle and she chose what she wanted to go to.
"But it didn't say anything about a limit in the passport. Please. I promised her. She's been looking forward to it for weeks."
"Sorry. These people got here an hour ago and the tickets were gone in minutes."
Note to self: there are a LOT of poor and cheap people. If there is a free event, people will come out in droves. Some latecomers like us were turning around and going home defeated. I was a warrior. I could not let my girl down. I asked to speak to the manager. We stood around and waited, possibly for nothing but I couldn't give up. After two managers finally I got a sympathetic looking soul and I gave her my best pouty lip: "Please. I promised my daughter. I don't want to let her down. Is there anything you can do?" And out of her pocket she produced two tickets. "Here you go." I was so happy I hugged her. Michelle was thrilled. Mama was a hero.
After all the waiting we got to see the show. It wasn't quite what I would call a "safari" -- the only jungle animal there was Michelle in her leopard print ears. They had a couple of exotic birds and small animals but I was a bit disappointed if I'm being honest. Still, I was proud of my tenacity. I didn't give up. I didn't let Michelle down. At least in this instance. I try to be the best Mom I can be. There is a lot beyond my control but I do the best I can. And I got Michelle to smile.
While I have virtually no social life to speak of, Michelle has quite an active one! She was invited to several birthday parties. One of them was at a movie theatre. I'd never seen a movie theatre birthday party yet and I was curious how it would be. Luckily I was invited to tag along. It was actually pretty fun. We were going to see Peter Rabbit, which Michelle and I had already seen but we loved it so much we were happy to watch it again. Michelle had a ball with her friends.
I guess I should have been more specific. Smile like you're not a robot or a deer caught in the headlights or a space alien. It's still cute though. She insisted on bringing her bunny to the movies because he was the stuffie that her fickle heart loved most that week. Plus it was a movie about a bunny so I had to allow it. It just made sense. I warned her not to put him down on the seat because Oprah did a study once and they found more fecal matter on movie theatre seats than they did on the public toilet seats. Toilets get cleaned regularly. The seats, not so much. As a germophobe I actually don't know how I survive going to the movies. I mostly try not to think about the seats. Or to touch them with anything other than my backside.
Posing with Peter Rabbit again. Even though we'd already done it the first time. People always look at me a little strangely outside the theatre when I'm setting up my old school camera on a cement planter, counting down from 10 and running to pose in front of a movie poster like a total nerve. I see other people take selfies all the time but it's ALWAYS just a close up with their cellphone. I rarely see anyone with a camera other than a cellphone one. The only exception is at the Butterfly Conservatory where some look like professional photographers and they have a crazy huge fancy old school camera. Even if I could still take photos with my cellphone I would still prefer to use my camera. You can't get SD cards for the cell (not that I know of) and I would run out of room so there would be no point. I take a LOT of pictures. I go through a LOT of SD cards.
One of the free passport activities was a free piano lesson. Michelle was so excited. As a child I wanted piano and ballet lessons and my parents couldn't afford it. I always felt deprived when other kids got to have lessons. I didn't want to deprive Michelle. When I was working full time though it would have been impossible to put her in lessons. I thought the free lesson would be a good way for her to try it out and see if she liked it. Then if she really loved it I would find a way. I didn't want her to go without. She did so well in her first lesson and learned so much just in that one hour that I decided to start her in lessons every week. She liked the teacher so we kept the same teacher. I told Michelle how lucky she was to have piano lessons because I never got to. I didn't know what would happen when I went back to work especially with my odd hours/schedule but we would work around it whatever happened. Making Michelle happy was my top priority.
I was really impressed with the first free lesson. They gave her a music book with stickers and coloring. It was perfect to engage children in their first lesson. Michelle got through the whole book. Her teacher said of the several kids she'd had only a couple got through the entire book and Michelle was the youngest who had. She was proud. She seemed to have a natural aptitude for it. Of course music is in her blood too. I may not be able to play piano or read music but I can play guitar (albeit not very well!) and have written a thousand songs.
She drew and coloured this adorable picture of us. I'm glad I brought paper, pen and crayons for her to use. Between her drawing and playing games on my phone (OK yes I admit sometimes the gadgets come in handy to entertain the kids but I don't think they should be on it ALL the time! Nor should adults for that matter! There's a real world out there if you just look up from your little screens now and then! Don't be a zombie!) she was entertained and good as gold.
The library was having another free event. Knowing how it worked and how crowded it would get. This time I was going to show up early and guarantee we wouldn't have to fight for tickets.
Tea party was a bit of a misnomer. They weren't about to give hot caffeine laden beverages to a group of children. So the kids had juice and cookies while Alice in Wonderland played on a big screen and then they could play games and pretend they were in Wonderland. Michelle found a copy of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and she was actually reading it -- I thought the long pages full of words (with minimal pictures) would be too challenging for her but she could actually read it and wanted to take it home. I was so proud of her! I'm glad she loves books and reading.
Thankfully people had the sense not to walk right in front of the camera as I counted down from 10. I guess it helps when you're in front of an obvious photo backdrop.
I was a trend setter and after breaking the ice by getting a shot of Michelle and I next thing I knew everyone was getting photos of their kids. Of course Michelle was the only actual Alice aside from one of the library staff. I still think Michelle wore it better though...
"It's more fun that way," Michelle explained. Sigh. I'm one to talk anyway. I chose a pretty wonky path in my life but even though it had its rough moments I wouldn't change it. To change one part, even if I could might unravel the whole thing. For whatever reasons everything had to happen the way it did and I wouldn't undo it or I may not have my girl and she is my everything.
And then of course there's pin the smile on the Cheshire Cat! Once again you can't go wrong with the old school games. Pin the Tail on the Donkey in any incarnation, never goes out of style. Michelle was excited to try it and she did pretty well. The Cheshire Cat is one of our favourite characters in Wonderland.
"We're all mad here!"
I asked Michelle to give a big grin for a photo and she did.
Michelle, library staff and some other girls at the Mad Hatter Tea Party. I was a little disappointed they didn't have anyone dressed in a Mad Hatter or March Hare costume but you can't have everything. There were a few kids dressed up. There was a young boy in a suit that was adorable.
I was glad that I'd picked up that Alice costume on sale after Halloween. It was just perfect for the event! I carry theme dressing to the extreme!
There were still events to get to, some of them continued even after March break. Our passport was filling up. You were supposed to hand them in after the two weeks were up for a chance to win a bike but I wanted to keep the passport as a souvenir of everything that we did. Michelle thanked me for taking her on all these adventures. It was fun for me too. And I need fun. I need to focus on happy things.
Once again there was a big crowd at the library but we were there early to guarantee we got tickets. Michelle played with the computer programs and activities in the children's area.
They had a 3D printer where you could pick an item and the machine would actually MAKE IT! Right before your eyes! So cool. So Michelle chose to make a blue butterfly. We sat and watched as strands of plastic formed to create a butterfly. I'm always amazed at the modern gadgets they have now! (I am NOT modern.)
It was a little crowded and chaotic. We didn't have much luck with some of the stations. There was one with a variety of circuits and you had to hook them up to make a light go on but I couldn't even make sense of the directions much less Michelle trying to do it so we just gave up on that one. I am NOT good with technology. AT ALL. Michelle had fun with the paint though.
Michelle knew about primary colours -- red, blue and yellow, as well as secondary colours -- orange, purple and green and what combinations you use to make them. We're both artists and we love colour.
There was a baby playing with paint nearby and I was afraid we were both going to end up wearing it but luckily we survived unscathed. The baby did NOT fare so well. Probably not the best idea to have an infant play with paint. Especially when there is no access to running water nearby. Sometimes I wish I was a laid back Mom who didn't worry about getting paint everywhere. I am not. I did let Michelle finger paint before though. We should do that again sometime.
The rainbow is a perfect symbol for Michelle because she manages to find the beauty and joy even on a grey, rainy day.
After the science adventure we headed to the butterfly conservatory.
We weren't there long when Michelle made a friend. This butterfly just LOVED Michelle's colourful rainbow skirt! Michelle was like a walking flower or rainbow fairy and butterflies flocked to her. I'm always thrilled to have a photo op so I was all over it!
I love Michelle's expression here! She is like a real little magical rainbow butterfly fairy!
It was quite crowded being March break and all but I still wanted to get a few selfies. Here Michelle has a butterfly on her shoulder. You can barely see it (I guess that's the point of their camouflage).
Yes you'll notice Michelle and I are BOTH wearing butterfly tops because of course we are. I can not resist the chance to dress on theme. No matter what the event I probably have something to go with it. I'm OCD about theme dressing (among other things.) Someone usually comments "Oh, you're wearing butterflies!" as if it's by accident. I assure them that no, I planned it that way. We have bird shirts if we ever go to Bird Kingdom again but I haven't been back to Niagara Falls since the Sponge Bob accidental border crossing incident... (Don't ask. It's a long story. I wrote about it once.)
This butterfly liked Michelle a lot and stayed with her a long time. She was calling it her friend and naming it.
Some of the butterflies are very friendly and comfortable with people. I guess those are the "social butterflies" -- see what I did there! Then there are others that are more skittish, elusive, anti-social (like the beautiful Blue Morpho.) There are unique personalities, introverts and extroverts, even among butterfly species...
Some people can be so nice!
I really prefer not to do selfies because they are way too close up and awkward with my camera and you can't even SEE what you're taking (unlike with cellphone cameras.) They rarely turn out very well. That's one time I really wish I had a better cellphone. They are the best for cell-fies.
"I know! OK stay still and SMILE!"
She wasn't looking but her surprised and gleeful expression is still cute.
And then after letting me take her picture she also sat on my hand for a photo. I say she because somehow butterflies are all female to me...
I managed to get a selfie with Michelle and me and the butterfly all in it though I do look quite awkward and foolish and there wasn't much I could do about random strangers in the background.
So cute. Her expression is adorable too. I told her "Don't move! It's on your hairband." So she's trying to be still while holding in her excitement and this was the result.
Moments like this are why I take pictures. Moments are fleeting but the photos freeze them. Forever I can look at this picture and be in that moment as a five year old Michelle smiled and held her breath knowing that there was a butterfly in her hair. I need to hold on. These days especially when it seems like so much of my life is outside of my control and there are so many answered questions. At least photography is something I can control. I can see something I like and hold on to it. Then again I can't control Michelle or the butterflies. But sometimes I get lucky and they cooperate!
My little girl is growing up so fast. It's scary. It's why I take so many photos. To hold on. I'm grateful to have this time with her.
The doctor ordered that I do everything I could to avoid stress, to heal myself, to find my zen. Spending quality time with Michelle, doing yoga every day, writing out my thoughts and feelings, making music and singing helped me so much. I started to feel like myself again. When I was working those hellish shifts I was losing myself. Turning in to something else. Chronic stress is so damaging -- physically, psychologically, spiritually. I don't even know how I last so long.
Only five years old but Michelle had a boyfriend in her class and she talked about marrying him! I told her she's MUCH too young to talk about love or marriage. I told her she has her whole life to meet and date people before she decides to get married one day.
I sort of skipped that step of course. I dated someone for nine years and didn't marry him. I seemed to gravitate toward flawed boys and dead end relationships so I always had an escape hatch. There was no danger of me marrying. I was afraid of commitment. Now I have the biggest commitment of my life -- Michelle will be my little girl forever! But it's different. She truly is the love of my life and I'm so grateful for her. This is one commitment I would not want to get out of! (Which is good because there's no going back once you're a parent!)
I don't have a lot of green but I wore a green shirt for St. Patty's day. I think if you're part Irish you have to! Again, the nerd in me simply can NOT resist an opportunity for THEME DRESSING!
It was a spy birthday theme so they had some fun spy activities and games to play. I just grabbed a couple of photos and left. I had so much to do and only a couple of hours to scramble before picking Michelle up and heading to Party #2!
"I know. I know, Mama!" she said beforehand. Of course once she was there it was a different story. I couldn't drag her out of there. We ended up leaving the same time as everyone else.
We made it to Auntie May's for Dan's party and I insisted on the group shot. Michelle wore her green streamers for the photo there too. At least half of us were in green for St. Patrick's Day. I just realized my Mom does theme dressing too. She mostly does colour coordinated dressing -- she'll match her outfit to her jewelry, shoes, purse etc. I'm not quite there. I can't be bothered moving all my stuff from purse to purse so I just keep the same bag most of the time. And I don't have shoes in every colour.
Uncle Mikey couldn't make it but he'd just been on the news the other day talking about road construction (he's a civil engineer) and May had taped it so we all sat and watched Mikey's 15 minutes (or 15 seconds!) of fame on the big screen TV. It was pretty cool.
Mike Pincivero, Engineer! Proud of my baby brother!
It's always fun playing with silly snaps on Shannon's i-phone. Sometimes I really wish I could take pictures with my cell and have fancy apps. I'd be playing with it all the time. The St. Patrick's Day one was pretty horrifying. I wasn't crazy about myself as a leprechaun but this one with the little flames over our heads was cute.
Shannon always looks like a doll in these snaps. Then again she's pretty much a beautiful perfect doll in real life too! A lot of the filters seem to enhance your eyes with this doe like quality. I can definitely see why people use them. I still can't believe how some people use Snapchat though -- taking photos and videos that just vanish. Photos should not be ephemeral! Life is fleeting enough. Photos and videos are the only way of holding on.
Michelle playing dress up again, this time as a fairy.
"Can I play dress up Mama?"
"Sure. If you let me take a picture!"
She did a little dance too.
Michelle really wanted to take ballet. I kept meaning to look into it. I was always afraid it would be impossible with my crazy schedule. And now I didn't know what my schedule would be or when I'd be back to work. At least there was a free ballet lesson as a passport activity so Michelle would get to try it. And hopefully in the future I could get her lessons. It's something I never got to do as a child and regretted it.
I wanted to ride on rainbows. For the most part Michelle helped me to find my happy place. But sometimes it was tough. I tried to hide it from her but I still struggled with anxiety. I worried for our future. I didn't know what was going to happen with my job.
When Michelle was asleep, or at school, when I had a moment to myself, sometimes I would just sit and cry.
I try to be strong for her. I try to act like I have it all together. For the camera I smile and it looks like everything is OK. When I'm alone with my thoughts, I wonder and worry. I feel alone. I feel scared. I want the best for Michelle. And sometimes I feel like a failure.
My therapist says I'm too hard on myself. I always have been. I beat myself all through school and at least it helped me to get As. Now as a Mom the stakes are even higher. Nothing has ever been more important to me than Michelle. I can't bear to mess this up. But as my therapist says there is no "perfect parent." Perfection doesn't exist and striving for it will make you crazy. We are all just human beings doing the best we can. You have to cut yourself some slack. You have to find a way to have fun.
March break was over but the free passport activities were still going on so one day after school we went to Crock a Doodle to paint a free tile. Michelle painted a picture of a cat. We had to go back in a week to pick it up after it was fired in a kiln.
Of all the free activities Michelle was most excited about her free ballet lesson. She'd wanted to take ballet for a long time. I hadn't put her in any kind of lessons while I was working because she'd end up missing her class every other week (and they still make you pay whether your child is there or not.) My strange schedule really didn't make it possible. Now that I had some time off I asked about putting her in lessons but was told you had to enroll them in the Fall. Spring is the end of the season. I was so disappointed. I felt like I'd failed/disappointed Michelle. As a child I wanted ballet lessons more than anything and Mom just always said no they couldn't afford it.
At least she would get to try her one free ballet lesson. And maybe we could look into getting her lessons in the future.
Michelle had a couple of tutus. She picked this one to wear to her class. And of course a Princess tiara. She wanted her hair in a bun too. She really looked the part. I knew Michelle would have a natural talent for it and love it and I felt guilty that I couldn't get her into lessons right away. I know that you're supposed to start as young as possible (preferably 4 years old) so that you still have your flexibility. Michelle is very flexible. She can even do the splits. (Something I always wished I could do!)
I wasn't sure what it would be like at the class but I was hoping I'd be there with her and could take photos. I was disappointed to learn that not only can parents NOT be in the room but they have to watch through a window with blinds in the way. I was not impressed.
When we went to pick up her free tile from Crock a Doodle she wanted to paint something else. She chose a cat sculpture. So much for our free craft. Now it was costing a fortune. She did a great job but it took her HOURS to paint her cat and I was running out of patience. I hadn't slept very well the night before and getting up early to get her off to school on time is always a stress. Even though most of my major stress triggers had been removed, I still struggled with anxiety and insomnia. My brain just wouldn't shut down at night and I was usually on too little sleep.
Here is Michelle's finished painted tile. The paint is much more vibrant once it has been fired in the kiln. It was so cute. I knew that her cat sculpture would be cute too. I just wished it didn't take so long. I even picked out a little bunny for me to paint too just to pass the time.
It's marketing genius really the Passport thing -- they get you in there for your free class/event/craft hoping that you can't resist returning/spending money for more. Our free tile wound up costing me a lot more time and money. But Michelle had fun so it was worth it.
Another trip to the indoor playground: Michelle's choice. Crowded, chaotic, cacophonous, it was never MY choice but I did everything I could to make Michelle happy. So I tolerated it. And there were always a few photo ops anyway.
At least Michelle has gotten better about coming over and checking in with me regularly so I don't worry where she's disappeared to. Mom is a control freak. She just has to learn to live with it. Plus she gets thirsty often so it's an excuse to stop and get a drink too. Win-win.
I almost envy the parents that don't worry at all, that don't watch their kids like a hawk, that just assume they're safe. Unfortunately I'm not made that way. Plus I've seen and heard what can happen. We live in a very troubled world where you can't assume you're safe. Michelle is more precious to me than anything. I need to know she's safe at all times.
My therapist keeps reminding me that life ISN'T perfect and that expecting it to be is part of my problem. I can't believe how long I lasted in my job (almost two decades) considering how stressful and how FAR from perfect everything was ALL THE TIME. Every time I went into work I was reminded that the world is falling apart and all I could do was try (feebly) to hold it together a little bit, in some small way. It's no wonder it broke me. My therapist and others on my team were now saying there was pretty much no way I should return to that position since it would likely break me down again. It was hard for me to let go though because it was all I'd known for so long and what would I do instead? My therapist said not to panic and they would work on finding me something else. I'm someone who likes things resolved and in order so it's scary not knowing. The therapist just had to keep reminding me to take care of myself and trust the process. Things are going to be better. The important thing is to focus on wellness. For so long I was just pushing myself and staying in a bad situation. I finally got out and am working on taking better care of myself. It was long LONG overdue.
Another Saturday, another Toys R Us craft and activity day. Once again I couldn't resist taking Michelle somewhere that was fun and free except that walking around a store is dangerous. It doesn't stay free for long. I always wind up buying something. We got our free Hatchimal and took advantage of the cute photo op but then of course Michelle wanted to look around, of course she found cute things she wanted and of course Mama couldn't say no!
I still can't believe Toys R Us U.S. went bankrupt. At least Michelle and me are doing our part to keep Toys R Us Canada around! I can't imagine the world without Toys R Us. Losing Sears was bad enough. I'll miss the Christmas Wish Book. It's just a different world now for retail. You have to adapt or get left behind. Luckily Canadian Toys R Us is trying and they have loyal customers like us!
I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid!
And then we saw Geoffrey the Giraffe, the Toys R Us mascot walking around. Michelle wanted to go say hi and I wanted to get a photo of them so we were both happy. With so many stores going out of business they call it the "Retail Apocalypse." People aren't going out shopping as much anymore. They buy things online. I was sad to see Sears Canada close down. It was the best place to buy beautiful girls' dresses. The Bay doesn't even carry children's wear anymore and the children's clothing stores rarely have formal wear. Michelle loves her fancy gowns. Now I won't be able to get them, except the odd time at Winners. Stores have to find ways to get you into the store so that shopping becomes more of an experience. Toys R Us has the right idea having these events on the weekend to bring people in with their kids.
That's Michelle on the left and me on the right in case you couldn't tell!
I thought we'd actually see them collecting/making maple syrup but that wasn't the case.
Of course I couldn't resist a group shot with the cheesy cutouts. In this one I couldn't quite reach my head up to the cut-out in time, standing on tippy toe. May didn't really want to be in the pictures but I insisted she get in the group shots at least.
I was excited and curious to go inside and check out an old Victorian farmhouse. I figured there would be plenty of photo ops in there. Unfortunately it was a little crowded in the small rooms and hallways but I still managed to snap a few pictures unobstructed.
That headless mannequin was NEXT LEVEL creepy and I swear if it started to move or anything made a sound I was ready to run out of there so fast! Just looking at this photo almost makes me scream!
It was still Winter out as you can tell by our winter coats and boots.
I imagine one day Michelle might actually be taller than me. She could be 6'2" someday if she takes after her dad. I'm 5'7". I heard that kids end up the average height of their two parents but then again my Mom is 4'11" and my dad is barely 5'2" and somehow I'm 5'7". Michelle has always been in the 90th percentile for height for her age group. Whenever we're out and she meets kids her size they're usually 7 or 8 years old. She's already wearing size 7. Everyone who finds out Michelle is only 5 has the same reaction. "REALLY?! She's SO TALL!" I hope her height and her name are the only two things she gets from her dad...
Michelle and Reggie had fun climbing on the hay bales and I managed to get another group photo. It reminded me a little of our yearly Fall trip to the farm around Halloween.
I love spending time with my sister and the kids. She always makes me laugh. She is just what the doctor ordered! May is my happy place!
The rest of the group wasn't quite as enthusiastic about posing for group shots but they indulged me at least.
I enjoy these outings with May and the kids. I'm so grateful for them. When I get stressed out it always helps to spend some time with May. She always manages to calm me down, put things in perspective and make me laugh.
She has her cozy unicorn hat to keep her head warm. I put my hood up when my ears started to go numb in the wind.
Shane in a t-shirt while Michelle is in a winter coat and hat sums up Spring in Canada -- you could go either way. Boots or sandals? It depends on your tolerance for the cold.
My Mom used to get bunnies in the backyard every Spring. She would find a nest of baby bunnies. One year we even got pictures holding them.
The bunny gave me hope that maybe Spring was coming soon.
Then Michelle and Kayla had fun sticking a stuffed dog on Mike's head and giggling about it. It's that much more hilarious because of his deadpan face and how calmly he just sat there and left it. The fact that he's wearing a Superman t-shirt makes it even funnier.
And then even Mike broke out in a smile. Everyone is laughing and smiling except my dad who for some reason looks like he's on death row. Oh well. You can't have everything.
I remember when I first heard about Snapchat and how it was something where you share a video and then it disappears and that sounded crazy to me. I don't want to create things that disappear! I want to keep them forever! I'm glad there is a way to keep these photos. I'm a keeper. I'm not very good at letting go.
Michelle was so excited to come downstairs and hunt for the eggs that the Easter Bunny had left for her.
While she knows that Easter is when Jesus rose from the dead to open the gates of Heaven and free us from sin, she also believes that the Easter Bunny brings chocolate and gifts to celebrate Spring. I don't see the harm in embracing both the Christian and the pagan aspects of each holiday. Mom used to get us chocolate bunnies for Easter but we never had an egg hunt growing up. I want Michelle to have all the fun she can.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket of course! Michelle had a LOT of eggs!
Michelle had an EGGS-elent Easter morning!
Just when Michelle thought she'd found all the eggs she'd come across another one she missed. There was even an egg with a little wind up bunny inside. So cute.
I didn't have a bunny outfit for myself. I just wore pink but Michelle had her pink bunny dress for the occasion. They have so many cute clothes for kids at H&M. H&M took some flack at one point about an ad they had featuring an adorable little black boy wearing a shirt that said the "coolest monkey in the jungle." I hope they didn't mean any harm by it but they made a lot of people angry. I thought it was in poor taste but not enough to boycott the store because where else would I get adorable dresses with animals on them for only $5?!
There is no question about it: Michelle is definitely spoiled. I just can't resist getting cute and pretty things for her. There are so many things that I can't give her (like a normal family, a father, siblings, etc). If there is something that I think will make her happy, I can't resist. If it's adorable and doesn't cost too much, how could I NOT get it for her?!
I actually don't take photos of food that often. I am certainly not a foodie but if it's cute and a photo op, I'm for sure going to capture it before it's eaten!
I love fireworks. I wanted to share that with Michelle. Because they don't even start until late at night (and because I was often working holidays like Canada Day and Victoria Day) I had never taken Michelle to see fireworks but I was thinking maybe we might try this year.
She wore her bunny ears. Michelle used to see a LOT of Gramma and Grampa when I was working. Now she didn't see them as often but I still wanted to make sure to visit now and then. My Mom was having a rough time with health issues. She said she wasn't sure if she'd have been able to watch Michelle if I had been working. I was stressed enough about my precarious situation, now I was worried about my Mom too. I tried to focus on happy things but in my quiet moments I couldn't help but think and worry. Even with most of my former stress triggers removed (the job, the long commute etc) I still had trouble sleeping. I still had nightmares sometimes. I wasn't out of the woods yet.
Inspired by Michelle's happy sunny view of life I painted my own rainbow then I pasted it over a grey sky as a symbol of finding the bright spot in a dark day, looking for the good. I wrote "Paint a rainbow across the grey sky" on the painting and it inspired me to write a song about it as well. Here's the video on Youtube:
"Paint a Rainbow" original song by Ann Marie Pincivero --
There were a lot of grey days. I had hoped that April would mean Spring but Winter lingered. We even had a terrible ice storm at one point and the power went out.
Still, we tried to create a little bit of Spring any way we could. Michelle dressed in happy Spring colours with flowers in her hair.
Sometimes I felt like the Eeyore to Michelle's Tigger. She was so lively, joyful and full of energy. I was more gloomy and exhausted a lot of the time. It didn't help that I rarely got a decent sleep. Still at least a little of her happiness rubbed off on me. Seeing her smile made me smile. I like having these pictures because it helps me remember the happy times and forget the sad ones. I never took pictures of the sad days.
"There she is!" she'd laugh and scream and run away.
Like the paparazzi, she really couldn't escape me. I was waiting around every corner with my camera ready.
I loved Lite Brite as a kid. The modern version is a little bit different but the same basic idea. Michelle had almost forgotten about hers. She has so many toys and games that we keep stored in baskets and sometimes she forgets all that she has!
She was happy to discover her Lite Brite again and even spelled her name on it.
Michelle with her name in lights!
If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. If life gives you snow, make a snowman. It was STILL Winter but we tried to make the best of it. Michelle was having fun. I was really ready to trade in my winter boots for sandals but it wasn't happening any time soon.
Strange weather was becoming the new normal. Global warming didn't just mean warmer than average temperatures. Sometimes it meant colder than average. It just meant everything was out of whack and you never knew what you'd get. Some places were getting snow that had NEVER had snow.
"OK. Can we go home NOW?"
"One more minute Mama!"
"Bother that cat!"
On YTV they showed a really cool exhibit in Toronto -- the Yayoi Kusama exhibit "Infinity Mirrors" at the AGO. Michelle and me really wanted to go but when I looked online all the tickets were sold out. Soon however we discovered on YTV that there was yet another cool interactive exhibit called digiPlaySpace and tickets were still available. So we went. Luckily it was a perfect day for walking around downtown. Michelle looked very chic all dressed in black and wearing black diamond encrusted shades. A woman walking down the street saw Michelle and called her the little "Queen of Fashion!" Michelle was so happy. It was pretty cool.
Here Michelle and me are turned into Japanese blue wave people!
I love this! It's so neat! I wish they'd had several more famous paintings that you could walk into. It was like becoming a work of art!
It was lots of fun for Michelle and fantastic photo ops for me so we were both thrilled!
This one is absolutely my fave. It's cool how much you can simplify a face and still tell that it's you. Just a few lines and shapes. It made me want to draw and paint again. I hadn't in a long time.
There was a Mindfulness Machine which would print out designs and colours based on how it was feeling. It was a bit disturbing to think that a machine could feel anything but people don't seem to worry about Artificial Intelligence taking over...
This was one of my favourite parts. There was an enormous stretchable screen that you could push on and it would play music and create designs based on how you stretched it. Living a creative living, breathing screen. I'd never seen anything like it. It was pretty magical.
I could have stood there for an hour playing with it and taking pictures but Michelle wanted to explore the rest of the exhibits.
Oh the POWER! Michelle holding the sun.
And God said "Let there be light..."
I wanted to be able to see our fish and seahorse but they got lost in the sea of others.
As artists who love colours this was a really magical exhibit for us! So beautiful!
I could have stayed there for hours but we still had a lot to see and I figured we could return to it on our way back out afterward.
I asked one of the staff if she could get a picture of Michelle and I on the green screen. So she had us sitting on a cloud.
I was so glad we were able to go to digiPlayspace. It was a great experience. Michelle loved it too and told me that I was the "best Mama ever!" I was still bummed we didn't get to see #InfiniteKusama but I'd just found out about it and the tickets sold out back in January.
I love that the exhibits were interactive, that you could be part of the art. Normally I'm not a fan of technology but this was REALLY COOL and creative. Like art in motion.
The whole exhibit was such a cool blend of art, science and technology. Great for kids and adults. We couldn't have asked for a better day. I was so glad that we went. Days like this are good for my spirit. I want to focus on the good things. Art and beauty and fun. There is so much darkness, ugliness and sorrow in the world. I'd been in such a dark place for so long. It feels good to get out of it, to breathe again.
The Toronto International Film Festival was only having this digiPlaySpace exhibit for a short time. I was so glad that we were able to see it.
We couldn't resist stepping into the paintings again on our way out. I got photos of Michelle on her own.
So here she is with her flamingo.
Spending time with Michelle, focusing on beautiful things helped me to find my calm. Doing yoga, reading about Mindfulness, writing, painting, singing were all good for my soul. I had been in such a dark place, now I was trying to focus on the light, on the good things in life. Focusing on all that's wrong in the world (A LOT, these days more than ever) just makes me feel helpless and stresses me out.
I try not to follow the news much anymore. Unfortunately I still hear things and see things. You can rarely log onto Twitter without seeing something disturbing trending.
Tragedy struck Toronto right after Michelle and I visited. A psychopath randomly drove a van over the sidewalk killing 8 women and 2 men. At first people thought it was a terrorist act, then it was learned that the attacker was actually an "Incel." "Incels" are a disturbing subculture of misogynists who identify as "involuntary celibate" -- basically they can't get laid and they are angry about it! They hate women and they can be violent (even to the point of homicidal). They seem to have a sense of entitlement and resent women for not giving them the attention they deserve. They detest what they call "Chads and Stacies" the attractive males and females who are able to find partners. Sometimes these creeps lash out violently as a protest, punishing women for rejecting them. This sort of "Incel Rebellion" inspired Elliot Rodger to kill 6 people in California in 2014. Now it had happened in Toronto. It's terrifying to me that someone could be so messed up they could feel justified in taking innocent lives.
Reading about tragic events in the U.S. and around the world is bad enough but when it happens so close to home, it's that much more horrifying. Michelle and I had JUST BEEN THERE. We don't go to Toronto that often but we had literally JUST GONE. It was too close for comfort. It could have been us walking down the sidewalk and struck by a van. It was horrible. When I went to my therapist I was sobbing. I try so hard to focus on the good things. I want life to be all sunshine and rainbows but there are terrible things happening all the time. In my job I was forced to deal with it day after day. I don't know how I did it for so long. Now that I have been out of that nightmare world I don't want to know about the horrors in the news, I don't want to hear about the world falling apart in so many ways. I want to focus on the good things, but I can't avoid hearing about tragedies when they strike. The therapist reminded me that the world is far from perfect. We are not meant to be happy all the time. We experience a wide range of emotions in response to what happens -- anger, fear, sorrow. You just have to deal with it and move on. People post their happy moments online. Everyone on Instagram or Twitter looks like they have a perfect life because you just see the smiles, the good times that they choose to show. But everyone has their struggles, you just don't always see them. Life will never be perfect. You just endure the bad times and enjoy the good times. And hope that you have more good than bad.
There is a mental health crisis in North America. I even grapple with mental health issues in my own life. But I am not a danger to myself and others. Unfortunately there is so much hatred, anger and despair in the world and some people are so far gone that life no longer has value to them. Their own or someone else's. It sounds like a hippie thing to say but what I really want is "Peace and love, man!" I don't want the world to be the dark place that it seems to have become. I try to focus on the good things. I try to exist in this beautiful, happy world with Michelle. To go beautiful places, to do fun things, to avoid anything dark, stressful, awful. But even though I avoid watching the news it catches up to me. I glimpse a trend on Twitter. Or my Mom calls to tell me some other horror story unfolding in real life.
When my Mom heard about the Toronto attack she told me never to go to Toronto again, that it was too dangerous. "You can't live in fear," I told her, "you can't stop living your life and doing anything because something might happen." You can't let one bad person stop you from enjoying your life. Otherwise the bad guys have won. II understand my Mom's worrying nature. I have it myself. I struggle with anxiety too but I still want to do things. And you can't let the bad steal your good. You can't hide away from life just to stay safe. That's not really living. You still have to get out there. The only good thing to come out of tragedy is that it can draw people together. #TorontoStrong trended on Twitter. There are still good people out there. There is still a lot of love. I told my Mom I would still go to Toronto again. I was hoping we might get to that AGO exhibit at some point. I heard that although advance tickets were gone they were giving out a certain amount of tickets each day if you lined up. It was on until the end of May. Maybe we would get there. Maybe that could be my birthday gift to myself. Art made me happy and Michelle was excited about it too.
I love Michelle's artwork. It's so cute. It's supposed to be a dove but looks more like an obstinate goose! I told her doves are usually shown in flight, their wings open. She said she wanted to do it "her own way" and this is what she came up with. It is adorable. I told her she should have a cross or something to show that it's a Communion so she drew a cross inside the card.
Her dove almost seems to be saying "I know I should open my wings to show that I'm a dove but I want to do things my own way!"
I don't even know where I'll get Michelle's Communion gown when it's time for hers. Sears used to be the best place to go for kids' formal wear. Now it doesn't exist. Other kids' stores just seem to have casual wear. The Bay doesn't even sell kids' clothes anymore. I guess I'll have to look online but you have to TRY things on. How can you buy a dress online without trying it on? I guess people do. This is why the retail apocalypse is happening. Brick and mortar stores are disappearing.
Michelle had some of both. Reggie will only eat cookie cakes. He doesn't like regular cake (?! I know, right?! How is that possible?! How can someone NOT LIKE CAKE?!?!)
I had a small piece of each as well. I can't resist sweets.
Climate change has wreaked havoc around the world and we felt it in Canada too.
I'd never tried planting bulbs before so I didn't know if I'd done it right or if they'd grow but I was happy to see them starting to come up. Spring really was coming. We had to keep the faith. No Winter, no matter how dreary, could last forever.
I can't really remember learning to ride a bike. I think my Dad went out with me. It seemed to me that I learned in one day but I may just be remembering it wrong.
"I can't believe you're letting me do this! You're the BEST MAMA EVER!"
It is hard for a control freak to let go and let my kid get messy once in a while but I want her to have fun and be happy. That's more important than my need for control/perfection. As my therapist keeps reminding me, perfection is impossible anyway.
And when I feel overwhelmed and stressed, when I let myself cry it out because I'm sad and scared and I don't know what the future holds and it's hard not knowing, what keeps me going is my girl. I think of her and I'm so grateful to be her Mom. And I have to be OK for her. So I WILL be OK for her. I'm not sure how but I'm working on it.
Having time in the fresh air and sunshine heals my soul. That's part of why Winter is so hard -- it's cold and dark and grey and you're cooped up so much of the time without fresh air and sunlight.
This Winter seemed especially long and especially brutal. I didn't know how I'd get through it. Somehow I did and Spring came finally. I want to hope for the best. I'm still scared. I still try to take things one day at a time. I am still a work in progress. At least I have Michelle to remind me every day to find a way to smile and to laugh, no matter what may be happening in the world and within my own mind.
It was hard to get the kids to stay still and look for a photo but I caught this one anyway.
"Michelle!" I would call and she ignored me.
I was getting discouraged. When she's just with me she's my sweet girl but when she's around her friends she tries to be funny/to be cool and can be disrespectful to me. I told her afterward that I was hurt and that I want her to respect me. I get that you want to impress your friends but I'm your Mama and you should love me and want to make me happy too. She hugged me and apologized.
I took lot of pictures of Michelle but I didn't get in any until we were leaving and I set the camera on a chair so we could get a picture together. As a photographer you're always behind the camera. Sometimes you want to step in front of it too as if to say, "I was here!"
Yes. It's part of why I take photos, why I write this blog, post on Twitter etc: to say I WAS HERE. Life is ephemeral. We're here then we're not. We change. The world changes. We are supposed to live in the moment. I would rather relive the moment, all the happy moments forever. To keep them frozen in an image that will never change. Photos let the control freak in me breathe a sigh of relief. At least I have something to hold on to.
The mass was REALLY REALLY long. Michelle was losing patience and frankly so was I. At one point the kids sang a song and we kept thinking it was over but it kept going on. To the point where people clapped but the kids continued to sing and everyone was laughing.
Michelle said "It feels like we've been here for 2000 years!" "We HAVE!" I said. It didn't help that we were almost an hour early and then the mass was almost two hours long.
Kayla was an adorable young lady in her little white dress. I imagined Michelle in her white communion dress one day. It will be here before I know it. Time goes way too fast. Except when you're sitting in church for three hours! It reminded me of the Gretchen Rubin quote: "The days are long but the years are short."
Cherish all of it. It goes so fast. Sometimes a day can seem tedious and difficult to get through but when you look back those aren't the times you remember. You recall the good times and they seem to speed by like the clips set to music in a memory sequence in a movie. The highlight reel. The movie of your life. IT GOES SO FAST.
She used to want me to give her a starting push on the swing. Now she wants to do it all herself.
"I'm a big girl now Mama! I don't need help!"
She's growing up so fast. While I'm proud to see her becoming more mature and independent it is also a little sad to feel like I'm losing my baby girl. I have explained to her though that no matter how old she gets, even when she is a grown up lady, she will ALWAYS be my baby girl.