Saturday, June 30, 2018

Hope Springs Eternal

I couldn't wait for Spring to come. Somehow I always equate the coming of Spring with new hope and new life. This year however, Old Man Winter was lingering, WAY out-staying his welcome. At least Michelle didn't mind. When there was snow and it was packing snow, we were out making snowmen (or snow ladies) again. It's a trip through Hell for me but she seems to enjoy it! I made the larger snow woman and Michelle worked on the smaller snow girl. The weather was up and down so they melted soon but Michelle loved them.

In the backyard I made a snow kitty and Michelle decided to make a snow chair. It was pretty inventive on her part. After all her hard work she got to sit down on it. She thought she was the first person to ever make furniture out of snow but I told her I'm pretty sure they have built entire hotels and castles out of ice and snow and they probably had some furniture inside as well.

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.

Michelle was bummed that her snow friends had melted but I reminded her that at least we had photos of them and we took one last shot of her with them before they turned into a puddle. Michelle insisted on saving a little bit of snow in the freezer so we gathered some up and put it in a baggie. It's still in there now as I type this, months later. Michelle is amazed that the snow could last that long. I told her as long as it stays cold. So we have a little piece of Winter in our freezer as a memento. Not that I wanted to remember Winter at all! I certainly didn't. Especially not this one.

I asked Michelle where she wanted to go and she chose Legoland. I was game. We hadn't been there since last year and it was fun. I'm a big kid at heart too so I enjoy looking at the Lego displays and riding on the rides.

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.

The line up for the first ride -- the laser quest kingdom thing -- was ridiculous. We'd been standing there a while already when one of the staff made an announcement. They were working on the ride and it was going to take a while before it would be up and running again. Some people left. I asked the guy had this happened before and how long did it take that time. He said 10 minutes. So we decided to keep our place in line. Luckily it was fixed in 5 minutes.

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.

I tried to get pictures of us on the ride but they were all blurry and or incredibly awkward. This was as good as it got. Actually I don't think the ride was even moving yet. It's still quite awkward.

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.
I love the Lego Toronto cityscape! It's so cool! If I was rich I would want to have Lego versions of all of my favourite cities. The buildings look so real! It's a perfect miniature version of the real thing! You can tell by Michelle's face that she's not overly enthused about the self-timed photos. She was anxious to play and get to the rides.
"Come ON Mama! No more pictures!"
"Just one more?|"
And of course we HAD to pose with the giant Lego Canada flag. Non-negotiable.

This was like an insane hamster wheel. A constantly spinning cylinder. The control freak in me was kind of losing it that Michelle was going to get hurt in a massive pile up of rolling children but I tried to hang back and just let her be. She thought it was hilarious. Some of the kids looked a little distressed.

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.

On the ride. I can't remember its name either. It's like a magic wizard bicycle thing (I'm fairly certain it was called something cooler than Magic Wizard Bicycle Thing!) You can pedal and the harder you pedal the higher your bike goes. Michelle and I were the highest ones of all. It's quite a workout. My legs were aching afterward!

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.

Nor could I resist a photo with a magical wizard. I asked Michelle to do a nice smile and this is what she came up with. Her friend was even less cooperative. It's still cute though. It was kind of nice spending the day with another single Mom and her daughter (though it was sort of bizarre having the dad/ex tagging along. I didn't feel like the third wheel (or fifth wheel I guess?) because the Mom (I can't remember her name either. I'm terrible. I should have written it down. And got her number too for that matter. She was so cool!) was talking to me all the time. It was more like the guy was the odd one out. Everyone kind of ignored him. Poor guy. He would go and get things when asked though. I don't think the lady realized how lucky she was to have someone that she took for granted to cater to her every whim. Sigh. I had that once or twice but I took them for granted. You don't know what you've got til it's gone.
We had lunch together. Tiny overpriced pizzas. They do the trick when you're starving though. The girls were being silly and laughing their heads off. Of course I insisted on getting a photo even WHILE we were having lunch because I'm just a total nerd. The girls were so cute together. I wished they'd lived closer to us but they were quite far away. Just my luck. As if I could make a friend that I could actually see again and spend time with. I don't have that kind of luck. It was nice having a friend for one day though. I gave her the Coles notes of my strange life/work situation etc.

And then we went to see the 4D movie. It was pretty cool. So aside from being in 3D the seats moved a bit, there was air blown at certain times, a mist sprayed. It really added to the illusion that you were moving, going through water etc. It was pretty neat. We really enjoyed it. Of course the line up had been really long to get in there too and to make matters worse they had a timer counting down how many more minutes you had to wait and a group of VERY LOUD boys were counting along to the timer. It was even more aggravating that it sounds. After the first two minutes I had a migraine.

I was determined to get a selfie on the King's Quest (or whatever it was called) ride that didn't look completely ridiculous. I was pretty happy with this shot. Michelle is even smiling. They take your photo during the ride too and you can purchase it at the end. It was very unflattering. We looked stunned and stupid. Even the second time around, even though I KNEW where the camera was and pretty much when the shot was coming I still wasn't prepared and looked more like a deer in the headlight. Plus the photo includes your score and frankly our shooting score wasn't that good. I was shooting more things with my camera than with my gun, which frankly is how it should be. #GunControlNow (just had to get that out of my system!) After a long exhausting day I was ready to leave. Even Michelle was running out of steam. We said goodbye to our friends (whom we would never see again, sadly. I should have gotten her email or something. I'm such a loser.)
One last shot with the Legoland Niagara Falls. Michelle's face says it all.
"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.

After Legoland we headed to the Build a Bear workshop across from it in the mall. Because apparently Mama hadn't already spent enough at Legoland and now she needed a bear or stuffed cat as well. I have a hard time saying no to Michelle. Especially when the things she wants are adorable and I love them myself. She's a tad spoiled. I just remember when I was a kid and every time I wanted anything the answer was always "NO!" I like to give Michelle as many "Yeses" as I can. The word yeses looks so weird that I'm questioning if yeses is even a word but spellcheck is allowing it...

It was worth getting Michelle a bear if only for her drawing of it. #ADORBS! I totally love this. So so cute. When she first gets a new toy she carries it around and it's her best friend and she wants to take it everywhere. My Mom said that's what she was like with toys and with men. She says it's a Scorpio thing to be all or nothing, to totally love someone or completely lose interest. The last two men I dated were Scorpios and her story checks out for the male versions as well. It's nice feeling so special, wanted, needed and loved for a while, even if you do just get cast aside like yesterday's news after. Actually no it's not nice at all. It's easier to just not even get involved with anyone. Since having Michelle I haven't had that need for a relationship anyway which is good because I really sucked at it.

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.

Michelle has an agenda for school and every week we record what books she reads that week and choose one to do a book report on -- to sum it up with words and pictures. Sometimes I have to twist Michelle's arm to do it but it always turns out so cute. I want her to get in the habit of doing homework even though it's just Kindergarten because it will keep getting harder as she gets older and I want her to be disciplined and want to excel. I was always a straight A student and pushed myself. My Mom didn't even have to push me. I'm not sure if Michelle will be the same way.

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.

Toys R Us in the U.S. closed down. Another victim of the retail apocalypse. I hope the ones in Canada survive. I'd be really sad without Toys R Us. I'm a big kid myself and I love looking at toys as much as Michelle. At least they're trying to bring people into the stores. They usually have events on the weekends -- crafts and give-aways for kids -- to get people into the store. And of course once we're there we wind up shopping around. It's marketing genius really. Michelle had fun colouring a mask. I can't remember what the other craft/activity was.

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.
There was going to be a "Safari Adventure" at the library. That sounded cool. So we show up at the library and see that it's packed. Apparently there are more than 100 people and only 100 tickets. They failed to mention any of that in the passport/booklet. I asked one of the staff and she said sorry we were too late. Michelle was pouting. I had failed her. I wasn't giving up.
"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.

A few times they asked for volunteers to come up and see the animals. I was annoyed that they never picked Michelle even though she had her hand up EVERY time and she even had leopard print ears for crying out loud, how do you not pick a cute kid with so much spirit? Dear God, I thought. I'm becoming one of "those" Moms. I really hope she never gets into sports because I don't want to have to cheer on the sidelines and get angry when I feel that she's not being treated fairly. Or get into arguments with other parents. I've seen that sort of thing on TV and it looks like a nightmare.

At least at the end the kids could line up and pet a skink. She didn't get picked to meet any of the cute animals but at least she could wait her turn to pet the blue tongued skink, which basically looks like a snake that grew tiny little stubby legs like an awkward lizard. I just remembered that there were a couple of REALLY annoying twin boys in the audience that were pushing and making noise and eating (you weren't supposed to) and even spit on another boy. At one point they stepped on Michelle and I wanted to kill them. Well maybe not kill. Maybe just tell their Mom (who was oblivious and sitting far away from them) that she sucked and her progeny were vile. I was sitting on the floor WITH Michelle like a loving parent would. She was in a comfortable chair at the back pretending she didn't know the evil twins committing felonies in the front row. Sigh. I may be one of "those" Moms but at least I'm not one of the "other" Moms. If the choice is overprotective helicopter parent or nowhere to be found/negligent, I'll be in the helicopter! I suppose somewhere in the middle would be perfect.

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.

We were in the party room before the movie started and her friend's Mom passed the time by having the kids perform silly songs and play games like "Simon says." With all the fancy gadgets and things they have now, kids still enjoy the old school low tech games. I'm all about OLD SCHOOL! I am not fancy or modern by any stretch. I don't even have gadgets myself never mind Michelle having them. To me, kids need to use their imagination. If you stick an electronic device in their hands to play with then they never get to develop their own imagination and create their own games. It's bad enough when adults look like mindless zombies texting on their phones and what not. You don't want to do that to kids. I let Michelle play Angry Birds the odd time (the app on my phone still works apparently) but aside from that she doesn't have any video games or devices or gadgets.

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.

The candid shots of Michelle are the best -- where she's not posing for the camera, not forcing a smile but just being herself, laughing her head off, having fun. I love this one of her friend and her laughing. It's so sweet the way he's looking at her. She's my little Princess, complete with tiara (she has one in just about every colour. I put a hairband on her every day so why not make it fancy? She loves them too.) People ask where I find all those tiaras. Some at Ardene, others at Claire's or Toys R Us (the girl's makeup and accessories section they have in some stores.)

So many big laughs. I LOVE this photo! Wide open smile and laughter. I love capturing natural shots that aren't posed. I could snap photos of Michelle all day long. She's my favourite subject! Of all the photos I've taken over the years, these mean the most to me. My little girl is growing up so fast. I have to hold on. I have to capture every moment before it's gone. She won't be my little girl forever. Well she will actually no matter how old she gets but she will keep growing and will be a young woman before I know it. And I'm just not ready to let go. I don't know if I ever will be.

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 places in the passport free events was the Indoor Playground. Of course being free it was more crowded than ever. It was impossible to set up the timer and not get photo-bombed. This chick with her baby blundered right in front of us as the camera clicks but you could still see us behind the carrier so I just cropped her out. People always seem to give me a look of disgust when they walk into my photo even though I'm the one who should be disgusted with them. Sometimes I forget that I'm the weird one and that no one gets me. I'm surprised they don't say "Hey loser why don't you just take a selfie with your cell (a cell-fie?) like everyone else!" And then I would answer that my obsolete cell can't take photos anymore so I'm limited to my Nikon. And selfies with it are WAY too close up and awkward and I like to have the camera at a distance away. I look better from afar. The farther away you are, the better I look. Unfortunately I can only run so far in 10 seconds.

Michelle on the slide. I managed to capture the moment before a boy ran right in front of her. It was the most crowded and noisiest the indoor playground had ever been. Once again I was reminded that a lot of broke people like myself could not resist going somewhere when it's free. Plus it's March Break and you're trying to find ways for your kids to run off that excess energy rather than bouncing off the walls at home. Part of the goal too with the activities was to keep your child ACTIVE instead of just sitting in front of the TV or playing video games all week, for them to get out and actually do things. It was nice of all these organizations to sponsor the events and offer services for free. We had something scheduled every day of the week. I was grateful that I got to spend this time with Michelle. Working 16 hour shifts and barely getting to see her at all had taken a toll. Having time with my girl was just what the doctor ordered.
Still, I was worried. Everything was up in the air with my job. When I first began therapy it was a matter of "when" I returned to my job. Now it was becoming "if." The therapist suggested that I don't return to that career because it was bad for my health. Removing me from the situation reduced my anxiety. Returning to it was very likely to push me over the edge again. It was scary for me though. I'd been in this career for 17 years. I didn't know anything else. What would I do? Though I was partially relieved at the idea of not returning to a job that was frankly killing me mentally and physically, I was also scared to let it go. Change, even a change for the better is scary to me. My therapist assured me that I had a team working on my behalf and that they would find something better suited for me. As a sensitive person I don't know how on Earth I lasted so long in a job that requires you to be bullet proof. I still didn't want to walk away. I thought maybe changing my hours/working part time instead of leaving it entirely might be a solution. I didn't know what to think. Everyone told me that the first priority was going through therapy and feeling like myself again. Then we would move on the the next stage. As a control freak it's hard for me to not have the answers. I'm someone that wants things resolved right away so I can stop worrying. I like to have my ducks in a row. But the most important thing was feeling well again. I'd gone so long running on less than empty and with no form of self care. Now I was told (by my therapist and my doctor) to avoid stressing myself out and to find things to relax me as much as possible. Spending time with Michelle, doing yoga, writing, going for massages, even taking an occasional bubble bath were helping me to find my zen.

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.

 March break meant Michelle was going to be with me 24-7  so I had to take her EVERYWHERE with me. Usually I try to run errands, buy groceries, have appointments while she is in school. Now I wouldn't have that option so she'd have to accompany me, even to my weekly psychologist appointment. I didn't feel as free to express myself in front of Michelle. I try to be strong for her. I don't want her to see me breaking down or talking about upsetting things. I cry through most of my sessions but with Michelle there I was able to hold back for the most part. Michelle was good as gold and drew a picture and played Angry Birds on my phone for the hour. She was my perfect little Princess. I had been worried she'd be bored and making noise or pestering me but she was quiet as a mouse. I was so proud of her. Mama may be a mess but my little girl has it all together.

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.
A "Mad Hatter Tea Party!" What could be more cute?! Especially when your girl is a die hard Alice in Wonderland fan (we've seen the movie a hundred times) and even has an Alice outfit (it was on sale after Halloween and I couldn't resist. It even has a little Cheshire cat on it!) I was kicking myself that I didn't have white stockings for Michelle. She used to but she apparently outgrew them by a mile. When we put them on the crotch only came up to her knees! I guess it had been a while since she'd needed white stockings for anything. We would have to settle for a black pair. It was too cold out still to have bare legs. It was supposed to be Spring-ish but Winter was lingering. In March you never really know. From one day to the next it could go either way. You might find someone in a winter coat and someone else in shorts on the same day because Canadians don't know what the heck to do. I'm usually the one in the winter coat and boots until the day it's warm enough to break out the sandals. I was really looking forward to that day.

We got our tickets! Yay! I watched in mild amusement as frustrated parents were told the tickets were gone. I'd been there too. Live and learn. Aside from the tea party they had activities, games and crafts for the kids.

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.
They had a photo op set up to pose with so of course I was right in there with my self-timer.

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...
The library asked if I minded if they got some photos with Michelle in it. I said not at all. After all I take thousands of photos of her and post them on the internet. My Mom always says she's worried Michelle's dad will see photos of her or try to find us or something. I'm not that concerned anymore. It's been 6 years. I think if we were going to hear a peep from him we'd have heard from him by now. I think he's just moved on with his life and doesn't give us a second thought. Or he knows better than to even try. Or he's dead or in jail or something. Who knows? I'll never know and that's fine. I don't need to know. There was a time I needed closure but not so much anymore. It just doesn't matter. We're OK without him. Well I'm not completely OK but I'm working on it. And it was my job that pushed me over the edge, not him. And Michelle is happy and thriving. That's what really matters.

Down the rabbit hole. It was cute that they had a tunnel for kids to climb through so they could pretend they were going down the rabbit hole like Alice. Of course they didn't get to actually fall or float in mid air but you can't have everything. Then there was an egg race where you carry an egg on a spoon. You could pick the straight and narrow path which was easy or the crooked path which was hard. Michelle chose the crooked path. "Why would you make it harder than it needs to be?" I asked her.
"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.

The next event at the Library was the Rainbow Magic Fairies Science Adventure. I wasn't entirely sure what that was going to be but I dressed Michelle in a rainbow skirt. I figured we'd go check it out  and then go to the Butterfly Conservatory after.

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.)

Michelle had fun playing with the computer games. She was laughing at a kitty game where you could dress the cat up in various accessories. At least it passed the time while we were waiting for the Science Adventure to begin. And of course I couldn't resist snapping pictures of Michelle with her kitty game.
"Look Mama!"

The Rainbow Fairies Science Adventure got a little messy at times. At one of the stations the kids had to squeeze paint on top of milk with some detergent in it. Then they lay a piece of paper on top and the paint stuck to it to create an abstract rainbow painting. Michelle had fun.

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.

At another station you mixed colours to create new colours. Michelle made a range of hues from purple to peach to vermilion.

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.
Kids could also draw their own rainbow and then look at it through a bottle. I got a picture of Michelle with her rainbow. She's known the order of the rainbow colours ever since she heard a song on "The Cat in The Hat" show on TV: "Red, orange, yellow, green followed by blue, indigo and violet, rainbow colours for you!"

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.
 The Butterfly Conservatory is one of my favourite places. I could go there every day if I had my way! It is my happy place. It's like entering another world. A perfect, beautiful paradise. If only the rest of the world were like that!

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 is so cool! A butterfly landed on her ponytail and it looks just like a bow in her hair. So cool! Perfect. I couldn't ask for better than that.

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...

Then a little orange butterfly landed on my shoulder. I think a stranger must have taken our picture here (I can't remember because it was months ago now!) because it doesn't look like a selfie. Thank you kind stranger whoever you were for helping me to capture a photo op!

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.

The only thing better than a butterfly landing on you is (are?) TWO butterflies on you! A butterfly on each hand. Other kids looked at Michelle jealously wondering how she got so many butterflies to perch on her. It helps when you're a Rainbow Butterfly Fairy Princess!

"Mama look!"
"I know! OK stay still and SMILE!"
She wasn't looking but her surprised and gleeful expression is still cute.

Her old friend the black and red butterfly again. This one was so friendly. Michelle named her "Lenore" which I thought was very cool and Edgar Allan Poe-esque. I wasn't sure how Michelle even heard that name unless she'd heard the poem "The Raven," which was doubtful but possible. I love that poem. My favourite line is "And his eyes had all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming and the lamplight o'er him streaming threw his shadow on the floor and my life from out that shadow that lies frozen on the floor shall be lifted NEVERMORE!" Seriously who else is named Lenore?

I couldn't resist getting a few macros of butterflies. I was a macro queen back in the day. Now I mostly take photos of Michelle but once in a while just taking a close-up nature photo is awesome. This beauty was cooperative and posed nicely for her picture.

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.

A butterfly on Michelle's hair like a bow again...

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!

One day Michelle just wanted to stay home and play. We'd been on the go so much that it was nice to just chill for a change. She wanted to play dress-up. Michelle looks like she's wearing a wedding dress! She insisted that I dress up too.

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!)

Michelle was so popular she had a birthday party to go to every weekend. On St. Patrick's Day she had to work in TWO birthday parties -- her friend and her cousin Dan. I found her a St. Patrick's day outfit and even a green streamer headband. She loved it but it wasn't very comfortable so she pretty much just wore it for the picture and took it off.

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!

Most people were NOT dressed in green. The kids were pretty mischievous and were not very cooperative when I asked for a nice smile.

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!
The kids were all laughing. Michelle is laughing and pulling a silly face. She had a ball playing with her friends. I am glad that she's so sociable and outgoing. That's something that I always struggled with being shy. As a child and even into adulthood. I am just not a very social person. I love my sister and she's my best friend. Aside from family events I don't socialize at all. At least I get to talk to some of the other parents sometimes at Michelle's school, at parties etc. I always feel like I don't fit in. Everyone else is married. No one is a single parent.

And then one of Michelle's besties arrived so I had to get another group shot. At least there were a few girls at this boy party. She went to one party where she was literally THE ONLY GIRL THERE! I was afraid she wouldn't survive but aside from some green icing in her hair inexplicably she was OK. It's always hard for me  to leave her but it's only for a couple of hours and it actually gives me a little bit of time to get some things done.
Just as I'd expected Michelle didn't want to leave the party. I told her I had to pick her up a little bit early because we had to drive all the way to Auntie May's for Dan's birthday but she still didn't want to leave. I told her ahead of time "Remember I have to pick you up early to go to Dan's party."
"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.
And then the group shot with the family...

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.
Reggie had some green balloons too.

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.
Michelle also loves drawing and painting. I love this portrait she did of us riding on a rainbow. So cool.

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.

It was KILLING me that I didn't have a better view! As a photoholic when I'm not able to take advantage of a photo op it physically hurts! Some of the other parents were trying to take pictures through the glass with their cellphones too. I was the most snap happy. So many shots were blurry but I struck gold with this one. I managed to catch Michelle and her reflection in the mirror. I was so proud of her. She did great in the class. I felt awful that she missed out on taking lessons for the year. It broke my heart that I couldn't give her that but classes start in the Fall and my schedule in the Fall was NUTS!

I want to give Michelle everything. My therapist tried to help me to go easier on myself. I tend to think in terms of black and white/pass and fail. I "should" myself to death. I manage to make myself feel guilty to the point where I can't win. When I was working all the time I felt guilty that I wasn't there for Michelle. Now being off work I was feeling guilty that I wasn't a positive role model for Michelle. She was proud of me in my career. It was an important job with a lot of responsibility. But frankly, the stress of the job and the insane schedule were killing me physically and mentally. Michelle was happy to have me at home but at the same time it felt like she was taking me for granted. When I used to come home from work she would run screaming "MAMA!" like I was a rockstar. Now that I was just home all the time she wasn't as happy to see me when I went to pick her up from school. Sometimes it felt like she was just "Meh" about me and would rather stay and play with her friends (of course I know that is bound to happen as she gets older!)
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.

I LOVE this picture Michelle did of a kitty by the sunset. So cute and colourful. I wish I could live in Michelle's smiley happy perfect world.

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. 

One weekend Michelle and me went to the Maple Syrup Festival with Auntie May, Shannon and Reggie. It was fun and had a lot of photo ops like this ridiculous cut out of a man and woman collecting sap/maple syrup from a tree.

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.

They had pony rides! Michelle was almost as excited to ride the pony as I was to get pictures of her on it. I'm always surprised that Reggie and Shannon have no interest in riding a pony. I never got a pony ride as a child. I would have been thrilled out of my mind! I didn't get to go horseback riding (and even then it was just once) until adulthood. I want Michelle to enjoy all the things I never got to do. (There were a lot of them.) Even though I'm always a little nervous of her falling, I want to let Michelle do these things. I don't want her to be afraid of things. Fear governed my Mom. I've always been a worrier too. I'm glad Michelle is a lot more brave.

There were several activities for the kids. Michelle and Reggie got to play a fishing game and won a prize. It was a little chilly out but sunny anyway and we were bundled up. It sure didn't feel like Spring was on the way.

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.

It was cool to step into the past and see the cute and quaint world that they lived in. It's hard to imagine now that we have so many modern conveniences how they managed without but it's whatever you're used to. I still remember the world before the internet. Kids today have no idea. I try to keep Michelle off of devices for the most part though she plays on my phone the odd time. Too many kids are too addicted to devices. Sometimes going off the grid, old school is the best.

Michelle and Reggie took turns pumping water out at the old fashioned sink. We take running water for granted now but back then it was a chore to get fresh water, which explains why they bathed so rarely. I can't imagine it. I remember the expression "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." Because the whole family would bathe, from oldest to youngest and by the end the water would be black. Quite disgusting actually! I prefer not to think about it. I don't think I could get in used bath water if my life depended on it but I guess if you didn't know any different...

There was already a sort of creepy quality to the house, like there may be ghosts of the past there, but this room took the cake.

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!

Once there was a break in the crowd I set up the self timer and managed to get all of us in a group shot in the kitchen of the old farmhouse. The old stove is so cute! It was fun to feel transported back to that time and to see how they lived. It was nice to warm up for a while after walking outside too.

It was still Winter out as you can tell by our winter coats and boots.

Another silly cutout photo op. It almost looks real!

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...

Of course it wouldn't be a Maple Syrup Festival without maple syrup so we all tried a small cup. I've only ever had syrup on pancakes, not drinking it straight from a shot glass but it was good. It was very VERY sweet (even for me and I'm a cola and iced cappuccino fiend so I LOVE my sugar!) I wouldn't say it was too sweet -- I don't think you can be too rich, too happy or too sweet. But I think I'll just put it on pancakes rather than drink it from here on out. I think it was a bit much for Michelle too.

There were some games and activities in the barn for kids. I spotted a place to set my camera for the timer and got a group shot of us. No one looks very enthused. It was a little chilly. March had come in like a lion and wasn't really going out like a lamb either. We weren't sure when Winter would end but it wasn't quite yet anyway. At least the sun was out.

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!

Group shot with a quilt. Just because! If there was a flat surface to sit my camera on and a slight break in the crowd I was ON it!

The rest of the group wasn't quite as enthusiastic about posing for group shots but they indulged me at least.

And there was a hay ride. Again it reminded me of our annual Fall trip to the farm, only much colder. At least the sun was out but it was definitely not Spring.

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.

Michelle and me on the hay ride. It was fun but part of me was just counting the minutes until we could go inside and get warm!

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.

Uncle Shane let Michelle play with a remote control car. I was afraid she'd crash it/break it but Shane wasn't too concerned. It had already taken quite a beating from him and Reggie playing with it.

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.
BUNNY! Nothing says Spring and Easter on the way like bunnies in the backyard. So cute! The flash bounced off his eyes making them red and slightly demonic looking but he was still adorable!

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.

I was surprised how close he was letting me get without hopping away. I zoomed in as much as possible as well.

So cute!

The bunny gave me hope that maybe Spring was coming soon.

It had been YEARS since we'd been to Chris & Christina's condo (long before Michelle was born. Maybe a decade ago?) but we were invited for Chris' birthday. It can be tricky to fit a HUGE family like ours in a small space but it worked. Their condo is beautiful and they make good use of space. Of course it helps that Christina is a minimalist. While I think minimalism is beautiful I'm more of a maximalist (though not quite to the degree that my Mom is!) I love my stuff. I have a sentimental attachment to things.

It's tough to get Chris to smile for a photo but it happens once in a while. He and Christina are not quite the photoholics that I am (then again, WHO IS?!) I remember ex boyfriends telling me that I take too many pictures but I don't think you can. I never regret the photos I take, only the ones that I missed. Life is so fleeting. Time goes so fast and things can change just like that. Photos are the only way to slow time down, to capture the moment before it's gone. I will never give that up or apologize for it. I don't understand people who don't want to hold on. Who don't get attached. I guess it's partly how you're raised. Someone I used to work with threw her children's artwork out. She didn't like having "clutter" around. How can something your child created be clutter?! How can you not be sentimental about your own kids?! I guess everyone is different.
I don't know if Mike was mid-sneeze or what but this picture cracks me up! James is on his tablet or whatever (as he is 99% of the time!) Michelle and Shannon are posing on the back of the couch, Kayla has her eyes closed and Mike is sneezing, yawning or God knows what. I could have just zoomed in on Michelle and Shannon but then I would have missed out on the funny characters around them!

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.

We had a choice of HUGE chocolate chip cookies or small ones. I opted for the small one  (I am still counting calories after all these years) and Michelle took the LARGE. Apparently Kayla took a big one too!

Michelle LOVES her Uncle Chris! It's a shame he'll never be a Dad because I think he'd be a great one. Kids love him. He's such a character -- funny and animated and loves playing with them. I understand the decision not to have children. I used to think I didn't want kids either but then Michelle was the best thing that ever happened to me. My Mom and sister tried to tell me that no love compares to the love you have for your child but I didn't fully understand until I had one of my own. She turned my world on its head but I'm forever grateful that she did! She is the love of my life!

Easter was on the way. Snapchat always has holiday themed filters so Shannon and I played with the Easter ones. I always have her email the snaps after.

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.

Ready for Easter like...

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.
She was so excited. She was asking me to help her find the eggs but I told her I wasn't sure where the Easter Bunny had left them. She found them all around the main floor, in a boot, behind a book, on a shelf, etc. There were all different kinds of eggs. Some with toys or stickers inside, others with candy or chocolate. Some even had Play Doh inside. And some were just pretty decorative eggs. My lucky girl filled two baskets with eggs.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket of course! Michelle had a LOT of eggs!
I love getting pictures of Michelle beside a mirror because it's like there are two of her and I get to imagine for a moment that she's twins. Don't get me wrong -- one of her is MORE THAN ENOUGH and two of her would be A LOT TO TAKE but I love her so much that it is fun to imagine once in a while two sweet little identical twin girls in matching outfits. It makes my cheeks hurt just thinking about it!

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?!

Aside from all her eggs from the Easter Bunny, Michelle got lots of presents from Mama too.

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?!

After the egg hunt we had breakfast. I made Michelle bunny shaped pancakes with jellybean eyes and nose. She absolutely LOVED them. I was proud of myself that I managed to do it. The first few misshapen bunnies I made I just ate myself. I waited until I had enough practice and had it down to a science before I gave Michelle hers. And took a photo of them. My camera even has a setting with a picture of a knife and fork, like they EXPECT you to take photos of your food. Food macros. Because people do now. People take photos of everything. I just want to remind everyone that I was doing it long LONG before it was cool!

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!

My gifted girl. Sometimes I envy Michelle. When I was a kid I would have been thrilled to be showered in love and attention. (Instead I felt like I was always competing with my siblings and losing.) To get everything that I asked for (instead the answer was always no.) Everything I asked Mom for. Every time we went shopping: No. No. No. The answer was literally NEVER yes. So now I say yes to Michelle all the time just so that she doesn't have to feel that way. Just so that she knows she deserves to be happy. She deserves to get what she wants. She deserves love and attention. I felt ignored and unloved much of the time. I mean I guess my Mom loved me. It just didn't seem like it a lot of the time.

Michelle wanted to have a dance light party again. I was game because it meant getting some really cool creative photos. We turned the flashlights around and around and actually wrote circles in the air. All kinds of awesome! It still seems magical to me that you can actually draw with light and a slow shutter speed will capture it.

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.

I tried to draw a heart with light and it actually worked! It was like the coolest thing ever! Michelle was amazed when she saw the photos. The night setting on the camera has a really slow shutter speed. It takes a while before there's a click and you're not even sure what moment the camera is actually capturing. But when it works it is amazing to see. From sheer persistence I have managed to catch some extraordinary photos of lightning and fireworks. Of course for each one of the those keepers there were HUNDREDS of failed/blurry/black sky shots where it clicked a moment too soon or too late.

The whole family wasn't getting together for Easter because we'd just had Chris' birthday celebration but Michelle and me visited with Gramma and Grampa anyway.

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.

Michelle wanted to go to the indoor playground again. She made friends as usual. I am always amazed how easily she meets and makes friends. It's something I still haven't figured out but mostly because our personalities are so different. Michelle has all the confidence in the world, is friendly and outgoing, can go up to anyone and strike up a conversation. I am riddled with self-doubt, shy and withdrawn and in a billion years I could not just go up to a random stranger and start a conversation. No way. No day. So unless they magically approach me, it ain't happening. And I've been told I'm not very "approachable."

I love this shot of Michelle laughing on the slide with her new friends. I quickly became known as "Michelle's Mom"  -- the crazy lady with the camera. The girls all thought it was funny that I took so many pictures. Michelle started screaming and running away from the camera which became a game. I still managed to get a few shots in.
"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.

It was too late in the season for Michelle to start ballet lessons with a class but individual piano lessons you can do anytime so I decided to start Michelle in them. She loved the teacher from her free lesson so we stuck with her. Michelle was SO excited to be going to piano. I wanted to give her that because it was something I always wanted as a child and never got to do. I try to give her everything I missed out on.

We loved the movie Ferdinand at the theatre and got it on DVD when it came out. In the bonus features they had a gardening activity (because Ferdinand loves flowers) -- you plant seeds into egg shells and then plant the sprouts (shell and all in the ground). Michelle wanted to do it so one day we did. Some of the seeds sprouted and grew really well. Others didn't sprout at all. So you just never know. You just keep watering and hope for the best.

Michelle liked having pretend tea parties and picnics. This was a BBQ and Ali was invited (actually she crashed the party after it was all set up. Michelle got a kick out of it.) I wanted to get pictures but Ali wasn't very cooperative and wouldn't look. At least I got a smile out of Michelle!

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. 

The continuing cold certainly didn't seem to bother Michelle. She still wanted to run amok and play outside with her friends after school. I just stood there shivering.
"OK. Can we go home NOW?"
"One more minute Mama!"

Mog the Forgetful Cat by Judith Kerr was an adorable story I discovered online and had to pick up. Michelle decided to read it to Ali, who was also a forgetful cat. Ali will sit at the cupboard and beg for treats even after I've already given her treats. Of course it may not be that she forgets she's had them. She may just want MORE. Ali is a big cat and the last thing she needs are more treats but it doesn't stop her from asking. Over and over and OVER again. I thought it was adorable to see Michelle reading a cat story to our cat so of course I had to get a picture...
"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.

One of the staff kindly took our picture so it turned out better than my attempts. This exhibit was SO AWESOME! You stand in front of the different screens and it turns you into a painting!

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!

I absolutely LOVE this one! IT looks like a real abstract painting. So cool!

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.

At this station you could dance and move around and the camera would turn you into a flamingo which you could watch on screen!

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.

This was AWESOME! How often do you get to actually HOLD THE SUN! You could move the sun up and down, back and forth across the sky and watch it change the landscape on screen!

Oh the POWER! Michelle holding the sun.
And God said "Let there be light..."

Then there was an activity where you could colour your own fish, have it scanned and watch it swim around in an aquarium. Michelle had fun searching for her fish going back and forth across the screen. I coloured a seahorse as well.

It was tough to get a timed shot with so many people around but I managed to set the camera on the table and run into the picture in time.

I wanted to be able to see our fish and seahorse but they got lost in the sea of others.

This was AMAZING! There was a table with a plastic cover and liquid colours underneath. You could push on it with your hands and create different designs and effects which would then show up on a screen on the wall.

As artists who love colours this was a really magical exhibit for us! So beautiful!

When there was a break in the crowd I set the camera on the table and we stood in front of the screen to pose with some of the psychedelic colours.

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.

Michelle was excited to see herself on a screen as she posed and moved around in front of a green screen. She pretended she was a bird flying in the air. She saw how they do some special effects in movies by using a green screen.

There was a line up of kids waiting their turn but Michelle didn't want to leave. Each child only gets a couple of minutes playing in front of the green screen. I snapped as many photos as I could though none of them turned out very well.

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.

Another encounter with the breathable stretchable art and music screen. This time it was playing different music and making splashes of colour. It was so cool.

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 found a spot to set the camera down and got a photo of Michelle and me embracing, both as humans and as flamingos on the screen! (There we are in the middle.)

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.

Before we left we got one more shot of us with the psychedelic colours. The bubbles of colour had kind of an eery feel to them. Like cells under a microscope. It was like living art. It continues to change and evolve. It's never the same twice. And you can affect what it becomes by pressing on the screen.

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.

I'm so grateful for these adventures with Michelle. I'm glad that she loves the same things I do so we can enjoy these excursions together. We both love art and colour. We both had fun interacting with the exhibits. And of course I'm always thrilled to have a photo op!

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.

As fun as it was it was still a long day and I was on too little sleep as usual. I was exhausted and ready to leave but there was still a children's activity area and Michelle wanted to stay a little longer. She got to see herself with a computer animated background again. This time a snow storm. That was the last thing I wanted to see. After the longest Winter ever I didn't want to see or hear about snow ever again!

We couldn't resist stepping into the paintings again on our way out. I got photos of Michelle on her own.

We checked out the gift shop afterward. Everything was so expensive I wasn't sure we'd find anything. Michelle picked out a flamingo (which wasn't cheap either!) that she wanted. At first I said no but it was pretty cute and unique and was a good souvenir of our experience at digiPlaySpace.

So here she is with her flamingo.

One last shot of us at digiPlaySpace at the Bell LightBox. I was so happy that we got to see it. It was a fantastic experience.

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.

Michelle made a card for Reggie's First Communion.

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!"

The kids are growing up SO FAST! It's crazy. Reggie had his First Communion already. Kayla's was coming up as well. Before I knew it it would be Michelle's. Reggie looked adorable in his little suit like a miniature man! The girls looked like beautiful little brides in their white gowns.

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.

Would you like a cookie cake or regular cake?

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.

"It must be Spring NOW right?!" the robin seemed to ask and I didn't have an answer. We would have a nice day and get lulled into a false sense of security. I would break out the sandals and hope for the best. Then the next day would be Winter again and I'd need to wear my boots and Winter coat. I felt bad for the birds and animals that didn't seem to know what to think or do. I felt bad for the plants that were starting to bloom only to be covered in frost again.

Climate change has wreaked havoc around the world and we felt it in Canada too.

In the Fall last year Michelle's school was selling bulbs as a fundraiser instead of chocolates. I was relieved because with a case of chocolate in the house I wind up gaining 10 lbs! At least buying the bulbs wouldn't hurt my waistline. And I've have tulips and daffodils to look forward to in the Spring.

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.

Michelle wanted to ride her bike. She still had her training wheels on. I said maybe we'd try to take them off after her 6th birthday in the Summer. I was in no hurry. I was actually terrified of the prospect of her riding a two wheeler. As a control freak it's my worst nightmare to have a situation where Michelle could get hurt and I have to let go to some degree or she won't learn.

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.

Michelle running amok in the park, having fun and making new friends as usual. It always amazes me how she can make a friend everywhere we go. I envy her that. I could be somewhere for years and not meet anyone. She could be somewhere two minutes and have a new friend. I know that a lot of it is her outgoing personality as opposed to my shy, withdrawn one.

The rain doesn't dampen Michelle's spirit. She wanted to jump around in puddles. I figured I could just change her pants afterward. It's only water, right?! Wrong! What I hadn't accounted for was the MUD. Her boots were full of muddy water. Her socks and pants were saturated in it. I had to wash them in the sink before putting them in the washing machine. Still it was worth it to get these cute shots of Michelle so happy, enjoying being a kid.

"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.

Michelle and me in the rain. Michelle really is like a walking rainbow. She is a ray of light and joy and colour on a dark, grey rainy day. Even on dark days, she keeps me going. She is my reason, my purpose, my joy. I'm so grateful for her.

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.

They put a little clubhouse outside the school so now it's even harder to get Michelle to go home after school because she wants to run and play with the other kids in the little house. I love seeing her laughing and playing with other kids. I envy her happy, carefree attitude. It seems so easy for her. My therapist reminds me "She's just a child." But I don't know if I was EVER that happy and carefree. Even as a child I worried, feared, doubted myself. I was shy and scared. I'm glad Michelle is different from me in many ways.

Spring swing = pure bliss. I love this shot of Michelle smiling and laughing on the swing. I have as much fun taking pictures of her and she does playing.

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.

Another weekend, another birthday party for my popular girl! This time at an indoor beach. I thought it was a great idea except that Michelle was covered in sand but we're used to that from all our trips to the beach in the Summer (I still have sand on the seats and floor of my car.)

It was hard to get the kids to stay still and look for a photo but I caught this one anyway.

I was trying to get Michelle to look at me and smile and she wasn't cooperating. She just kept making silly faces and laughing with her kids.
"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.

Some parents just dropped their kids off for the party but several stuck around. I got to talk to a couple of them. It's nice to talk to other grown ups now and then. Somehow I always feel like sort of an outsider though. I seem to be the only single parent in Michelle's class/Michelle's school. I mean I guess there are others out there. I just don't meet them.

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.

And then it was Kayla's Communion. We got there early to get a seat and I was trying to save seats for May and her family. It was a challenge as the church filled up and strangers kept closing in on the space.

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.

Finally it was over but we still had to stick around to snap a few pictures. I couldn't argue with that of course.

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.

After a long, brutal, bitterly cold Winter, Michelle and me were happy to see the Spring. She wanted to go to the park. It was nice to get some fresh air and I always love watching Michelle play, especially when I can snap pictures of her playing.

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.

I wanted to have this post about March and April done by the end of June. June somehow got away from me. Here I am in the 11th hour scrambling to finish this. It's not finished by a long stretch but I'm going to press "Publish" anyway because I can always add to and edit it later. Tomorrow (actually in a few minutes!) it will be July. I can't BELIEVE that 6 months have passed already this year. It has absolutely flown by. I am grateful for the time with Michelle. I am thankful to have all these photos with her. Looking back at the pictures helps me to focus on and remember the good times. I don't take photos of the rough days. I'm not sure why I feel compelled to do this blog except that it is therapeutic for me. It is a way for me to process everything and also helps me to focus on the good times rather than the struggles. Looking back at these photos makes March and April look like a blast, even though there were some very VERY dark days. I'm not sure what the future holds and that scares me but I'm just going to keep going and try to enjoy the journey. I am still and always a work in progress and learning as I go. Thank you for reading. More adventures to come in my next post about May and June (which I can hopefully do by the end of August?!)