Michelle loved catching toads. Here she is holding a baby toad so tiny you almost can't see him in her little fingers. Adorable. She was thrilled to find them and I was thrilled for the photo op.
Michelle became our official toad saver every time I mowed the lawn. I'd see one hop out in front of me and stop the mower, then she'd collect him in her little plastic toad hotel. We'd catch bugs for them to eat. We'd keep them for a day or two and then let them go. Michelle said when she grew up she wanted to "Save the Animals." I told her she can do anything she wants to do.
Just like that it was JULY! July 1st. Crazy. Time was flying. Michelle was done school and now we could share adventures together. We were going to spend Canada Day with Auntie May. We let our little toad friends go and then headed off for a visit.
Michelle was excited to see fireworks for the first time. I had always loved fireworks. I was a little worried because it was SUCH a hot day and there would be a lot of walking. Also there is always a HUGE crowd for fireworks displays and it can be overwhelming. Parking is always a nightmare. And the show can't start until it's dark enough, which, in the Summer is VERY LATE. Like 10 pm. A bit late to be out with kids but people do it. And after all the walking and wading through the crowd and waiting for it to start, the show itself is over in a few minutes. It's sort of a metaphor for life.
Shane dropped us off near the park so we didn't have to contend with parking anyway. There was a HUGE crowd and it was still fairly early in the day. We got maple leaf temporary tattoos and Michelle got a red balloon animal. A lot of people were dressed in red and white. At least sometimes other people are into theme dressing too -- so it's not just me! I was wearing a red shirt and maple leaf pants. Michelle had on a red and white maple leaf dress (no they didn't have a matching one in my size unfortunately. Though it's probably just as well. It would likely not have been as cute on me!) Shannon and Reggie were very festive in red and white too. I don't think May was wearing red and white. She didn't want to be in the pictures.
Michelle and Reggie were getting restless. At one point Reggie started flossing (the dance, not the tooth cleaner!) to break the monotony. At this point I really just wanted to get out of the crowd and get home. Huge crowds start to make me feel claustrophobic. Mostly because I was nearly crushed in a crowd at a concert once.
I tried to catch a picture of her in the light of the screen and it turned out kind of cool, like there are two of her. Trippy. So she had her game and I had photography. We were both happy. But I really wished the fireworks would start. Capturing fireworks is a challenge but sometimes it works out.
When we claimed our spot we didn't realize that the stage actually blocks a lot of the fireworks so we didn't get to sit and enjoy them after all. We had to get up and move to a better spot and stand for them. It was worth the wait though. They were beautiful and Michelle was THRILLED!
It's magical. Out of the darkness the sound, the explosion of light and colour and these breathtaking creations like flowers that bloom for only an instant then disappear. It's such a metaphor for life. You wait and wait for these beautiful, magical moments and then they arrive but just as quickly they're over. That's why I take so many pictures because it's the only way you get to hold on. Something so ephemeral is suddenly eternal. The moment frozen in time.
I took a hundred pictures. They weren't all gems. A lot of them I snapped too early or too late or they were blurry. It's hard to get the perfect shot unless you have a fancy camera on a tripod and everything. It was hard to keep my hand steady enough. Especially when I had to hold Michelle with one arm because she said that she couldn't see in the crowd. I can't tell you how hard it is trying to balance a camera on your palm with one hand while holding a 50 lb girl on your hip with the other.
I love sharing adventures with Michelle. I wanted to give her the best Summer ever. I was grateful to have more time to spend with her. She's growing up so fast and these moments are precious. I thought about all the things we could do together -- trips to the beach, excursions, whatever she wanted to do. There was a lot to look forward to. I needed that. Even though it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, Michelle helped to keep me distracted from my own problems. I was still going through therapy. I still had a lot to work out.
She was good as gold and didn't really interrupt or anything. She just sat there quietly in the corner. Of course I didn't really feel as free to open up with my therapist about my struggles. I try to shield Michelle as much as possible. I don't want her to realize the degree to which Mama is falling apart. I cry during many of my sessions. With Michelle there I managed to restrain myself. Just barely. My eyes were welling back but I choked back the tears. I want Michelle to feel secure. Part of that is pretending that Mama is strong and is holding it together. Even when that couldn't be further from the truth.
She was happy and purring. Her fur warm in the sunshine. The sound of a cat purring is one of the most soothing sounds in the world. If I could spend every minute with my two girls, Michelle and Ali, they could keep me safe from any distressing thoughts or dark realities. Unfortunately ignoring and avoiding problems doesn't always (or ever?) make them go away. They were still waiting for me to deal with them. Usually they would wait until I try to lay down at night to sleep and then my mind would not shut off. I would worry and spin and get myself into a panic about all the things I couldn't control (just about everything!)
"Where do you want to go today?"
It was our happy place. Michelle loved playing in the sand and water. I loved the zen of relaxing at the beach. The sun, sand and sound of waves and seagulls. And the palm trees. I LOVE palm trees. I may not be able to fly around the world and visit the tropical paradise of my dreams (with #ClimateChange and natural disasters wreaking havoc on many of my bucket list locations it may be just as well!) but I could at least make a day trip to Port Dover Beach and relax in the sand underneath the palm trees and PRETEND I'm somewhere tropical!
Michelle is a social butterfly. It just comes naturally to her. She makes friends everywhere we go. I envy her confidence and ability to turn strangers into friends so easily. I have NEVER had that. Not even close. I'm an introvert. Insecure, shy, quiet. I could live somewhere for years and not talk to anyone. She will go somewhere for one day and she knows everyone. I'm glad she's that way. It makes life easier for her. I know that some of it is innate -- as a Leo she's a natural born leader -- but I'd like to think part of her confidence comes from her having a solid foundation of love and support. When you feel loved and safe and secure you have the confidence to take risks because you know someone always has your back. I never really had that. I know my Mom loved me in her own way but I always felt somewhat unloved, unnoticed and unappreciated in the family. I constantly doubted myself and felt like a failure at everything (even when I won first place, awards etc.) It felt like I was never good enough. I felt like I had to knock myself out to get any attention and even then it didn't matter. But enough about me! Long story short, I wanted Michelle to have the advantages I didn't have in life. I do everything I can to help her to believe in herself and to be happy and feel like she can do anything because I never had that.
One day Michelle just wanted to hang out at home and dress up and do her makeup. She wound up gothing it up with a bat headband, black dress and lipstick. It's not surprising she's drawn to things Gothic. Her father was basically a goth (or actually the Prince of Darkness himself!) and would watch nothing but disturbing horror movies. Her Mama had a Goth period (in my 20s) where I would only wear black, watch and read horror, draw and paint morbid self portraits, reading Sylvia Plath and penning my own depressing poems. These days I prefer bright colours. Pink, turquoise, lavender. These days I can't even watch horror movies because I don't want to go there. I feel like I lived through it in real life (in my job and personal life.) I don't want to think about the darkness. I want to focus on unicorns and rainbows. I want to live in a magical fairy tale world of smiles and glitter and pretty things. And as the Mom of a 6 year old girl, it's not hard to do. Spending most of my time with Michelle helped to keep me distracted.
I never learned to read music. I just learned to play basic chords on the guitar. But even from those chords the songs came flooding out. It was wonderful to be able to share my songs again, to be part of a songwriting community. It had been years since I'd done that. After having Michelle I figured it wasn't an option. I couldn't drag a baby out to open mic nights. But now she was old enough to appreciate it. It wasn't too late of a night and being Summer it's not like she had school the next day. So we started going to the open stage at the Starving Artist Cafe. I loved seeing art from local artists and hearing other singers/songwriters perform. It was like coming home.
One of my pieces was considered somewhat controversial: my Yoga Jesus. An East meets West/Christian meditation watercolour with Jesus in lotus. It's something I had thought about years ago and wanted to do. There were times in my life when I really needed Jesus to watch over me. I thought it would be cool to do a portrait of him to watch over me. I picture Jesus as this calm, cool, laid back peace and love hippie and that's what I love about Him. He's the opposite of the fire and brimstone angry God of the old testament. Anyway, I never got around to doing my Yoga Jesus portrait until now. I felt like I needed Jesus more than ever and now I had the time to work on it. Plus I was doing yoga every day and it just felt right. One woman in the cafe questioned whether it was blasphemous to show Jesus like that. I said I meant no disrespect. I love Jesus. But I also love yoga. To me you can be spiritual and embrace both eastern and western philosophies. Peace and love. How can that be wrong? I was relieved no one bought Jesus because I wanted Him back home with me.
Wherever we are, if there is face painting, Michelle is down for it!
She wanted to be a pink kitty because of course she did. It's so cute. I love the little ears drawn over her eyebrows and her pink nose.
I was so glad that Auntie May had suggested going to the Children's Festival even though it was such a hot day I felt like I was going to melt. Just about every day was like that. It wasn't so bad if you were going swimming but if you were walking around it was scorching. Somehow kids don't seem to feel the heat as much. They still wanted to run amok anyway. We needed to stay hydrated though. Luckily they had fountains to refill your water bottles as needed. And we spent some time in the building to get a little A/C.
Michelle wanted a ride in the bucket so we waited in a VERY long line for her to get her wish. Some kids had their parents with them in the bucket. Michelle said no, she wanted to go it alone. It was a little unnerving for me to watch my baby being hoisted into the sky in a bucket attached to a crane. But I let her do it because it made her happy and I know that letting her do things that scare me is necessary for her to learn and grow and be all that she can be. But the bubble wrap/helicopter parent in me was silently screaming. Still, it was a photo op. I asked her to wave when she got to the top but she forgot. I could barely even see her looking out over the edge. We waited for what seemed like an hour and then the ride only lasted a few seconds but that's just how it is with everything.
We came upon a theatre room where kids were running amok chasing bubbles. Michelle and Reggie were right in there too. There's something magical about bubbles and kids can't resist chasing them. Unfortunately the kids were so focused on the bubbles they weren't always watching where they were going and there were a few head on (literally) collisions among the kids. When the decibel level of the screaming became unbearable we decided to move on. There was a craft room where the kids could make their own leaf magnets.
"And you're the best little girl in the world!"
My Mom said I was spoiling Michelle by indulging her every whim. Getting her whatever she wanted (within reason), taking her everywhere she asked. "She won't even remember all the places you took her and all that you did for her," my Mom warned me.
"Yes she will!" I said "I have photographic evidence!"
Yes someday Michelle will be a teenager and maybe Mama won't seem so cool anymore and maybe she won't want to go anywhere with me but at least I'll be able to show her all the adventures we had together. And I hope she won't give me too hard of a time when she's older. I hope she'll always be my sweet girl. For now I'm just so grateful to have time to spend with her. It means more than anything.
Every time I mowed the lawn now Michelle would
catch toads and put them in her little aquarium. They were cute. We always let them go the next day. It was pretty cool to watch them for a while. I wondered if they appreciated the break from the heat being inside an air conditioned home. It was so hot most days -- like 40 degrees. I was sweating buckets when I mowed the lawn. My face would be beat red and I'd feel like I was going to collapse. Then I couldn't even go in and cool off/relax because I had to help Michelle get bugs and worms to feed the toads!
"Do we HAVE to let them go?" Michelle would ask me.
"Yes. It's not fair to keep them captive. They need to be free." So she'd reluctantly let them go and I couldn't resist snapping several photos of the experience. They were so tiny and cute in her little hands.
She asked me again if we could keep them. I told her absolutely not. They needed to eat and we weren't going to go looking for bugs and worms again. I wasn't even sure if they were eating them or not. Plus, they wanted to be free. It wasn't fair to keep them cooped up.
"I'm going to miss you little guy," Michelle said. I assured her that she would probably see them, or some of their brothers, again.
"They live in our yard. They're our little neighbours. You can catch them again next time I mow the lawn."
It took twice as long to mow the lawn these days because I had to keep watching the grass to make sure no one was in harm's way and to stop the mower and pick them up if a toad hopped into my path.
"You are the best Mama in the world."
It was so sweet. I put it up on the basement door so I could see it all the time from the kitchen. Michelle loved drawing. She made a series of portraits of the family -- a self portrait, a portrait of Mama, Gramma and Grampa. They're so cute. The one of my dad looks just like him! She even added details like the little tufts of hair on his head. She put more details into the eyes and eyelashes. She had been studying my drawings and paintings closely and wanted to draw more like Mama. She didn't think her drawings were good enough. I reminded her that I'm a LOT older than her so I have a lot more practice. For five years old (almost six) her artwork was excellent.
Movies are such an escape. Whatever else is going on in your life you can sit in the darkened theatre and let that magical world on the screen pull you in. You forget everything for those two hours. The movie is all that exists.
Distraction was what I needed. Spending time with Michelle and trying to make it a shiny happy Disney movie for her 99% of the time seemed like the right thing to do. Some days it was easier than others.
A butterfly landed on her foot and stayed there quite a while. Maybe it was drawn to her glittery bejeweled sandal. A kind stranger offered to take our picture so I didn't have to set the self-timer which was always a bit of a crap shoot. You never knew what it would take or whether someone who blunder right into the shot.
You feel privileged when a butterfly lands on you. One of the staff told us at one point that butterflies taste with their feet. They land on fruit and flowers to drink the sweet nectar so if a butterflies lights on your they must think that you're sweet. Michelle is sweeter than any fruit or flower.
Michelle makes friends just about everywhere we go but it's not often that I do. We met a Mom and her son. Her camera was broken so I offered to take photos of she and her son and email them to her. We wound up walking around together and talking. It turned out we had a lot in common -- both single Moms who suffered from anxiety, who worked in stressful fields, who had been in toxic relationships. It was sort of uncanny. The kids were getting along famously too. She said it was unusual for her son to click with someone so well and he was very fond of Michelle. It was sweet. Even after leaving we stood and talked for an hour. We made plans to get together again for a play date. The kids didn't want to leave. "Can't she come over for lunch?" he asked. "Yes Mama can't we go with them?" It was nearly dinnertime by this point and they lived a distance away. We assured the kids we'd see each other again sometime.
I got a group photo of all of us. It was so nice to talk to someone who could relate to a lot of what I had been through and was going through. I told her about my situation, my stress, going through therapy, my meeting earlier and how we stopped by the Butterfly Conservatory afterward to cheer me up/get my mind off things. It seemed like it was fate that we meet. The kids bonded so well too. It was wonderful.
The butterflies loved Michelle. At one point one of them landed on her hair and was fluttering its wings right by her ear. It was almost like it was trying to whisper something into her ear. I caught a little of it on video as you can see. It was such a sweet experience. I was so glad we had gone. If I'd headed straight home after the meeting I would have been stewing and spinning and worrying about the future, getting in my head and torturing myself with what ifs, thoughts of failure, guilt etc. (It's what I do!) Instead, we went to our Happy Place and were reminded that life is beautiful and there is hope. And I'm not alone. There are people who understand and can relate.
Michelle and me always had a ball at Auntie May's. This time it was to pick up Michelle's birthday present. My sister got her a sandbox. My Mom thought it was crazy "She's too old for that!" I said you're never too old for sand between your toes and she loves playing in the sand. I used to have a beach in my yard.
Uncle Shane and his toys... He flew a drone over the house and showed them the video footage that it took. It was pretty cool. It almost looked like a UFO up there. Shane loves technology. He's pretty much the opposite of me. He always had to have all the latest gadgets and gizmos while I continued to muddle through with my ancient cellphone, old laptop (that was on its last legs) and old camera with a scratched lens. I know that most of the world is like Shane. They replace their computers and phones every couple of years. Forced obsolescence almost gives you no choice. But I'm stubborn and resistant to change so I just make do.
In the pink...sand that is! Yes we filled Michelle's new sandbox with PINK SAND. I didn't even know that was a thing until we went to buy sand and they asked me which colour. Made by Crayola of course. When you're a girly girl you might as well have pink sand! It was pretty cool and was so SOFT! Softer than ordinary sand. The problem was that now there would be pink sand all over the house! It was bad enough with regular sand after a trip to the beach. I put a little mat by the patio door so we could wipe our feet as we went in. I just thought it would be nice for Michelle to be able to play in the sand while I do yard work.
She wanted me to come in and play with her so I did for a bit. I just sat on the edge. The box comes with a lid to protect the sand and it can be turned into a planter later on if you decide you don't want sand anymore. I wished I'd gotten her one years ago but better late than never even though my Mom still maintained it was a silly idea and she was too old for it. To me, she's only going to be a little girl for a short time so why not enjoy it any way that she can. She loved it and I thought it was pretty cool too.
When my sister had asked for birthday ideas for Michelle I'd only mentioned it in passing because sometimes they have sandboxes on sale but May surprised us with a huge one and then wanted Michelle to have it ahead of her birthday. It was too big to fit in the car with the whole family when they come for Michelle's birthday party.
"Pink sand? Cool!"
As a child I would have thought it was the coolest thing ever. Sometimes I envied Michelle. As a child I felt like I got the least attention and it seemed like I never got anything I wanted. Michelle is showered in attention and love and gets just about everything she wants. My Mom says I'm spoiling her but I don't think you can spoil a child with love. If giving her a lot of love, attention, praise and gifts makes her feel secure and loved and special then that sounds good to me!
Weird weather was the new normal. All around the world climate change was causing fires, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, sink holes. In Canada we mostly had a lot of hot weather and a lot more storms. One day the sky was dark and we could tell a storm was brewing. I thought it was just a thunderstorm but then we heard the pelting of tiny hail stones! I opened the front door to watch it for a bit and filmed Michelle's reaction. She held a piece of hail in her hand. It seemed bizarre that ice could fall from the sky in the middle of a hot Summer day.
We had been planning to go out that night to the Cafe but not in weather like that. We just stayed in.
Here is my video of Michelle "Hail!"
It was just as well we were staying in. I had a lot of work to do. Michelle's birthday party (parties -- one with her friends and one with family) were coming up and I had my hands full trying to get the house in order. The house was like a bomb hit it. I don't usually have visitors so I had kind of let it go for a while. Now it was overwhelming trying to tidy and clean everywhere. It took me days. On top of my seemingly endless to do list I was feeling especially tense, stressed, tired. I couldn't sleep which made everything worse. I was sort of hanging by a thread.
One night I was so exhausted I was like a zombie throwing the last load of laundry in. When I went to take it out it was the cherry on the cake of my day. There had been a Kleenex in the wash. "For fuck's sake!" I can't remember why I put a tissue in my pocket (to wipe my nose or my eyes?) but clearly I forgot about it and didn't check my pockets before throwing everything in the wash. Now there were THOUSANDS OF TINY LITTLE PIECES EVERYWHERE. It was like a metaphor for my life: Trying to hold it together but coming apart in thousands of pieces. I took the clothes out and shook them and it was like it was snowing in my house. Fucking figures. Michelle was asleep. I couldn't sleep. I was at the end of my rope. I just shook everything and put it in the dryer and cried and cried.
So only half of the kids invited could even make it but that was fine because I would have been overwhelmed with a huge group. Then the morning of, one of the Moms texted me that she couldn't make it. She had to go to the hospital to see her sister. That was a good excuse. It was last minute but life happens. At least she let me know and she said she'd pop by the next day with Michelle's gift. Another of Michelle's friends had moved away and I would have understood if her Mom didn't want to make that long trek but she said she was coming before school ended and texted to confirm. The day before she even asked if she could bring her other two daughters and stick around. I said yes of course and I had extra loot bags and everything.
So that day I was expecting her and her three daughters. When the party started and she wasn't there yet I figured she was held up in traffic or something. I checked and there was no text from her. It was a long drive (which I was sympathetic to because I had made many of them myself!) After half an hour of holding up the games however, I was getting worried/stressed and didn't know what to think or do. I tried to reach her and got no response. After 45 minutes I figured we couldn't wait anymore. She never showed. The party came and went and Michelle's friend and her Mom and her two sisters who were supposedly coming and who I waited 45 minutes for before starting the games were NO SHOWS. I couldn't fathom someone being that rude. Far worse not bothering to RSVP she had said she was coming (even bringing EXTRA KIDS!) and then doesn't show. No explanation. No apology. Nada. Unfathomable. Then a few hours after the party ends I get a text:
"Sorry. I just emerged. I must've had food poisoning. I was throwing up." I mean it COULD be true...but I felt like saying "Sorry I'm calling BS!" You could have texted between waves of nausea or asked your hubby to text and warn me that you weren't coming instead of making me wait for people who weren't coming! I told her I wish I'd known because I held up the games for almost an hour waiting. She said she would be in town in a couple of weeks and would drop by with Michelle's gift. I knew she was lying. I just couldn't understand. Why bother going through all that? Why not just say you can't make it because it's too far and you don't want to make the drive. It wasn't fair to Michelle and it wasn't fair to me. But as my therapist keeps trying to tell me there is no point stressing over things that you can't control -- other people being one of them. You can't control what happens. Only your reaction to it.
Michelle was so excited to see her. They ran around and chased her little dog. Michelle wanted to play with her but they were on their way somewhere and we still had family inside. My Mom came out to say hi (because she's nosy and wanted to see what was going on) and was a bit embarrassing (as she tends to be) saying ridiculous things (as she tends to do) but the woman didn't seem to mind and laughed saying that Mom is cute. "You say that because she's not YOUR Mom!" I told her. I wonder if someday I'll embarrass Michelle like that. I sincerely hope not.
When I was little my Mom never let us help with anything in the kitchen because she said we wouldn't do it right. The control freak in me sort of feels the same way but I force myself to let go and let Michelle help because I think it's good experience for her and makes her feel important and involved.
We'd already had pizza at her birthday party so for dinner with the family we had Chinese food. I always order in when I host a party. I am no Martha Stewart. Hosting a party is stressful enough for me without trying to cook a meal on top of it. It's just not my thing. It can be expensive ordering takeout for a large group but to me it's worth it to not have the hassle of cooking on top of everything else.
I had a balloon animal making kit and we all had fun trying to make balloon swans, dogs etc. We were laughing our heads off at some of our mishaps/balloon fails. Then we posed for a picture with our creations (the ones that didn't accidentally pop or deflate or go horribly awry.)
It had been a fun day but I was beyond exhausted after such a busy weekend. I couldn't wait to crawl into bed. I had gone days with barely any sleep but now I was out like a light. And no Kleenex in my pockets. And no more stress. We could sleep in and relax (theoretically.)
The problem is that I have a weakness for cute and pretty things. When you have a six year old girl, EVERY TOY is cute and pretty!
My little girl was SIX YEARS OLD! It seems like she was my baby a day ago and now she's a big girl. Going into Grade One.
One of the items on Michelle's wish list was the Project MC2 Spy/Science kit. I wanted to encourage Michelle to have a love of science. At school they call it S.T.E.M. now -- Science Technology Engineering Math. I always shied away from maths and sciences as a kid. I was good in math but it didn't come easily to me. I got 80s and 90s but I struggled and suffered through hours of math homework. When Math was no longer compulsory and was branching off into Calculus, Algebra etc. I got out. The same with Science. Although I always found it interesting, when it was at the point where it wasn't compulsory and it was going to be Biology I ducked out. I knew that I would have to dissect a frog and I knew that there was no way on this Earth I was going to do that. Still, part of me wishes I had gone further in science. I loved that Michelle had a wide range of interests -- from Art to Science. I wanted to encourage all of it.
My gifted girl! Admittedly I got more than a little carried away with Michelle's gifts. As usual. I had been amassing presents for her for months. Any time something was on sale or caught my eye I'd put it aside for her birthday so by the time her birthday came there was an overwhelming number of presents to wrap. Of course gift bags are easier. You just put it in a bag, add some tissue and you're done. There were a LOT of bags! Michelle had a ball pulling the tissue out of the bags. Sometimes she threw it up in the air. Sometimes I imagine what it would have been like to have been an only child and to be loved and spoiled the way Michelle is. As it was being a middle child of four kids I usually felt like the least loved or noticed one of all. Anything I tried to do to get attention (getting the highest grades in school etc) only backfired. My Mom said because I was a good child she didn't have to worry about me. I didn't need as much attention. Sigh. It may be a bit of an overcorrection but I make extra sure that Michelle gets all the love, attention and appreciation she could ever want or need. And then some!
Then Michelle wanted to go to Toys R Us and spend her birthday gift cards. I didn't want her wearing a fancy gown out shopping but my little Diva still managed to glam it up with a tiara, a gold cat emoji shirt and gold pants. She kept her gift cards in a pink kitty cat purse because why not? She's only 6 but she already loves shopping. Being able to see something you want and get it with your own money/cards etc is empowering. Retail therapy. Once again when Michelle picked items out I told her to add things up in her head. She couldn't have everything she wanted. She would have to choose one or the other up to the amount that she had to spend ($50) I tried to teach her about value. "You could get these little things or get something bigger. When you get something that's on sale you're getting more value for your money. You could get something that's $50 regular price or two $25 dollar items that are half price (a $100 value.) My Mom was always a shopaholic but a bargain hunter. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree!
I sang Happy Birthday to Michelle again and we had more cupcakes. I must have gained 10 lbs that week with all the cake. And pizza and Chinese food! I was eating leftover Chinese food all week. Don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing. Though I was sick of it by the end of the week. I never got sick of the cupcakes. As if one ever could! (Although strangely my nephew Reggie doesn't like cake. At all. How can someone NOT LIKE CAKE?! Like HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!) When I was ordering the Chinese food Michelle didn't really want to try the Almond Chicken Soo Guy until she heard that Reggie loved it. "EVEN REGGIE likes it so it MUST be good! He doesn't even like cake! Or pizza!" A lot of kids are fussy eaters. I've literally never seen my nephew James eat anything. Not a single thing. Ever.
We survived (well mostly I survived, Michelle was having the time of her life!) THREE birthday parties. I was so relieved that it was all over with. Finally I could relax and breathe for a moment again. I felt completely drained. I wish I didn't stress out so much about everything. I wish I was an easy-going laid back person who could just go with the flow and not sweat the small stuff. But I sweat ALL the stuff! Especially when it's for my little girl and I want it to be perfect and nothing is ever perfect.
I told her the stress I'd been under with the birthday parties. I told her how hard it was to keep trying to smile for Michelle's sake even when I wasn't feeling it. Sometimes the contrast between Michelle's boundless energy and joy and my fatigue and stress was so sharp it took everything in me not to collapse in sobs. I didn't want Michelle to see me falling part. Sometimes it was exhausting trying to be a smiley happy Disney Mom all the time when inside it felt like I was coming apart and breaking into a thousand pieces like a Kleenex in the wash. I tried to stay distracted so I wouldn't get myself upset about everything I was worried about but the worries were there, underneath everything and when I lay down at night it was all staring me in the face. It wouldn't let me rest.
Her friend's Mom said Michelle was a joy to have around and no trouble at all. I was glad that she extended the invitation to have Michelle over every week during my therapy appointment. It was a godsend. When I went to pick Michelle up I stayed for a while chatting with her friend's Mom. Michelle didn't want to leave yet anyway and it was nice for me to talk to an adult aside from my family and my therapist!
It couldn't be August already! But somehow it was. Time was flying. The Summer, like life in general, was so fleeting. I realized how much I had been stressing about Michelle's birthday parties and just wanting it to be all over with so I could relax. Now that it was over I felt like it had flown by too fast. I wished I could just go back and enjoy it rather than stressing over everything. But stress is my default setting. Especially when I feel like I'm under pressure to do something. Of course I'm the one who puts pressure on myself. That's just the way I am.
"Ummm...I'll take you there then!"
Australia would not be a do-able but a trip to the mall was. My Mom had some health issues and it made me more compassionate toward her (even though she still drove me crazy!) I wanted to do things to make her happy. She loved shopping and she liked visiting with Michelle and me.
Another day, another play date with another friend! Michelle's social calendar was packed!
She was excited to see the rest of her friends at school in September. I was glad that she was looking forward to rather than dreading heading back to school or it would have been even harder for me. As it was I was stressed enough about the idea of letting her off at the main entrance with hundreds of other kids. I was having nightmares about it. It just seemed like it would be too chaotic and crowded. I was wishing she could still go in and out of the Kindergarten door. Couldn't she stay my little girl in a safe penned in area? She's growing up too fast.
Just as I had asked my Mom "If you could go anywhere..." I asked Michelle. One of her friends' Moms had said that on their child's birthday they give them the option -- you can have a party or an "experience" a trip etc. Michelle had already had her parties but I wanted to give her an experience too. Hopefully it would be something that was within reach.. "Legoland!" she said.
Well it's a bit pricey but it's within reach. At least she didn't say Disneyland. (I think she realized that wasn't in the realm of possibility.)
She wanted to explore everything. We had been there before but each time she was just as excited about everything. I wish I had half her enthusiasm. Or even a tenth of it.
Then Michelle wanted to go to the 4D movie. We were early so we were at the front of the line at least. The movies were short so it wasn't too bad of a wait (15 minutes) between them.
It was almost more fun watching Michelle's reactions than it was to watch the screen. The 3D effects were so real that kids were actually reaching out to touch the things that seemed to be floating right in front of them. Michelle was right there grasping at holographic images. Being 4D it not only had 3D effects but had the added effects of cool air and mist so when the characters were going through adventures, flying and being splashed, you felt like you were in the movie too. It was fun but being damp in a cold air-conditioned room gets a little chilly. I was freezing. Being tired didn't help either. I just wanted to go home and I was dreading the long drive back.
The whole thing is cute. How they let the kids feel involved by stepping on the pedal to add the stuffing, choosing how soft or dense they want their stuffie to be, giving it a heart, a name etc. Then you can give your new pet a bath in the pretend bathtub. Yes it's all very adorable but when you've already re-mortgaged the house to go to Legoland you need to buy an overpriced stuffed animal like you need another hole in the head. Still, it made her happy so she got it. It was a long drive home but Michelle slept through most of it.
"We haven't gone to the Water Park yet!"
So we did.
It was OK. Any pool is a let down after the beautiful heated Nelson Park Pool. The water was cold. Even after all the unbearably hot days we'd had the water still seemed cold to me. It was small and crowded too. But it was all good. I could cross it off the list. Michelle got to go everywhere she wanted. I was able to say "yes" to everything.
I called after her as Michelle ran by, laughing.
Michelle, unlike Mama, does not worry. She just has fun.
Shannon was a volunteer for the event. It was such a hot day that one of the volunteers' duties was walking around with a bottle of water to spray exhibitors and visitors if they were getting overheated. It was HOT. So hot I was surprised the paint didn't melt right off the canvases. It was beautiful though and I was glad that I went. I even got to meet some of the artists. It was really cool. I love art. Whether creating it or admiring it, art really does nourish my soul.
It was sad though. The art show was cut short. There was no hope of the rain letting up. Artists started packing up their canvases to leave. Shane had dropped us off and would be picking us up. We didn't even have an umbrella. Shannon had a rain poncho so she was covered at least. I was wishing I had one of those garbage bag Maid of the Mist ponchos that always seemed tacky but would be really practical when you're stuck in a thunderstorm.
Michelle looked forward to her weekly play dates with her friend. They had so much fun together even though sometimes his little brother was a bit of a handful. Like one time he licked her leg or something? I'm not sure. Anyway, she survived. And not having siblings I think it was good experience for her to be around four kids of varying ages -- a newborn, a toddler, a 4 year old and a fellow 6 year old. She always had fun there and never wanted to leave. I usually wound up sticking around a long time talking to her friend's Mom anyway. Sometimes I even held the baby and helped rock him to sleep. There is something so comforting about holding a baby. It makes you feel for a moment like all is right in the world. Babies are so new and innocent. I can't believe my baby girl is growing up so fast. She was a newborn in my arms not long ago...
I simply can not resist a cheesy photo op! I look like a slice of Hell here but Michelle is adorable so I still like this picture. I think we were standing right in front of a sign that said please don't try on the hats but I have a slight rebellious streak, especially if it involves a photo op. Sorry guys. I usually do follow the rules. Unless I can't.
I was almost tempted to buy the hat but it would really just be a prop for photos and I'd already taken the photo so now I didn't need to buy it!
I was going to take my artwork down the last time I was at the open stage but the staff convinced me to leave it a few more days and I figured that gave more people a chance to see it. Maybe someone would buy one of my paintings after all. Nope. Nada. It was OK. I was a little sad though. It's tough as an artist to put yourself out there and be rejected. Not that people were telling me it was bad or throwing tomatoes or anything. But no one wanted to buy them. The thing is, I'm not everyone's cup of tea. It would have to be the right person. We don't all like the same things. You can never please everyone and that's OK. You do you and if people appreciate it, great and if they don't? Oh well. Don't worry. Just let them do them. Easier said than done. I wish I didn't worry about what anyone thought or seek their approval but to some degree I still do, whether I always admit it to myself or not. Of course the only approval I should need is from me but I can be my most merciless critic.
After my artwork was down there was less incentive to go to the open stage. I went one last time and made the mistake of singing a song about my life. It was a little too real and I broke into tears in the middle of the song. I was so embarrassed I never went back.
We got together with our friends from the Butterfly Conservatory for a play date. We met at Mastermind and then went to a local park. I love Mastermind but it's dangerous. So many cool and adorable toys. It's hard for me to say no to Michelle. I didn't want to spoil her too much, especially when I had another Mom with me who would probably think I was nuts.
Michelle had fun with her friend and his sister (who hadn't been at the Conservatory that day.) I had a nice conversation with my new friend. She suggested a book for me to read. I wound up ordering it. A lot of it covered the exercises I had been doing in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy.) Having a text book was comforting somehow. It's like I was in school again. Only this time it was a course in myself. Becoming a better me. I had a lot of work to do!
"I want to do experiments, Mama!" I told her she should write down her observations so she wrote a couple of cute things but mostly she just enjoyed making a mess I think.
I got tickets for Michelle to try the bouncy castles. She loved the shark the best. They talked me into getting the unlimited bracelet and we got more than our money's worth because Michelle went on it like a bajillion times!
"Just one more time!" she would say and I didn't believe her.
Sure enough after that time she'd say "Just ONE more time!" It was too fun and there was no lineup. It was like a kid's dream. I was almost tempted to slide down the enormous inflatable shark's throat myself.
"Can we leave yet?"
"ONE MORE TIME!"
Her parents wanted to leave as well. At least now I had reinforcements.
"OK," I told them, "if you go it will give me a stronger case to get Michelle out of here too!"
They were cute together though. They were having a ball.
Sometimes I think how lucky Michelle is. I would have been thrilled to have the life she's living now when I was a kid. I guess it's natural for parents to want to give their kids a better life than they had. I never want her to struggle the way I did.
Michelle's face was red after all her running amok and jumping and sliding. I didn't know how she could have the energy to exert herself in that heat. I was just standing around and I was sweating buckets. They had a cooling station by the exit so we made use of it to cool off.
Michelle picked out a fancy pair of shoes at Payless and insisted on wearing them right away even though I told her they're just supposed to be when she's dressed up and were not practical for walking. I can't imagine when she's a teenager. She's already such a Diva. Parading around in heels. God help me.
Michelle wanted to hold the baby again. This is so sweet. He even looked right at me! ADORABLE! This is PHOTO GOLD!
Each time we went back I would think "This could be the last time this year." But it wouldn't be. The weather would stay warm even into the Fall. We would be back again and again. Still each time we'd say goodbye to the beach and I'd think about Summer ending it made me melancholy. I didn't want Summer to end. At least in this blog it doesn't have to. In this post we will be on the beach forever, smiling. It will stay Summer and we will be frozen in our little rectangles.
I was so glad that I was able to do this for Michelle. I wanted to support and encourage her creativity in any way I could. I would never force her into anything but if there's something she wants to pursue I will support her any way I can. It was my dream as a child. I can at least give her that.
There were unicorn headbands and kitty headbands and then there was the unikitty headband! I love this one! So precious! Michelle and me dressed up for our trip to the Dream Home. I figured if you're walking around a million dollar home you might as well dress up a bit for it. It was an annual tradition for my Mom, my sister and me to go to the Dream Home. I never won anything in the lottery. My Mom and sister had won small prizes here and there but me? Nada! Still I kept thinking my luck's got to change sometime. Plus the proceeds went to a good cause -- cancer research. So I could feel good about getting a ticket regardless. Michelle liked looking at the Dream homes too. She'd always say something like "I wish we lived here! I hope we win!"
I was trying to get a selfie and it wasn't working out so a kind stranger took our photo for us. We were meeting May there but she wasn't there yet. The Dream Home was beautiful, as always. Some years are better than others. Sometimes they include features that really don't suit me but you could always change it. Really it would be amazing to win regardless! Even if you didn't live there and wound up selling it. Of course you'd pretty much have to sell it because even if you won it you couldn't afford the property taxes unless you were already a millionaire!
Our lives are like a bubble in the grand scheme of things. Beautiful and brief. Fragile and fleeting. We're here and we're gone. But we're magic for a few seconds anyway.
Michelle looks adorable as a little mouse! Look how huge her eyes are! She's like a little doll! Or a cartoon character. It's just too cute for words. I look a little goofy but she looks like a perfect little animal. Meanwhile for some reason Reggie is glaring at us in the background. Maybe he's angry that he didn't get to turn into a mouse too? Hey bro, don't be a hater! Or maybe he just didn't realize he was in the photo too? It should be a rule that if you're going to photo bomb someone you have to at least smile.
Sew what? Michelle wanted to have a sewing day. It was her idea. Out of nowhere she wanted to learn to sew and for us to make our own stuffies. So we went to Lens Mill to pick out fabrics and buttons and threads and get some stuffing and then we drew our designs and pinned them to the fabric and cut around it and sewed. I'm not an expert by any means. My skills are basic at best but I tried to teach Michelle what I know (which isn't much!) It was nerve-wracking to me to hand Michelle a sharp object. It seemed wrong somehow. I mean, is she old enough? What if she stabs herself with the needle?! Part of me thought it sounded like a monumentally bad idea but it made her happy so I thought I'd let her try. It would be a learning experience. She actually did really well for her first attempt! I had to fix a couple of spots where she left a gap in the stitching but aside from that she did it all by herself! She made a stuffed orange cat and named her "Ginger."
I made a stuffed cat too. Mine was gold. I think hers actually turned out better than mine. My fabric was actually inside out but I liked the gold part better than the paisley print that was supposed to be on the outside. Michelle was so happy with her little cat that she made all by herself! I was proud of her too. She did well for her first time with a sewing needle. She didn't even stab herself. No blood at all. (In fact I think I pricked myself with needles more than she did! She just barely poked herself a bit but not enough to break the skin.) She had a lot of fun and I was glad that we shared that together.
I had a new therapist on my team now. Sort of a life coach to meet me at home and to discuss strategies and give me tools to conquer my anxiety and move forward. She was very nice. I was grateful to have my therapist(s) in my corner but part of me felt guilty -- like I'm getting all this help and there are people with far more serious issues that may not even get help. As my coach pointed out however, there are people who may need help but would never admit it or reach out for it so I can't feel guilty about making my mental health a priority and doing all that I can to feel better. I am a work in progress and I am doing everything I can to be OK. I have to be for Michelle's sake.
So many stores are losing business to online stores. To me, there is no comparison to going into a store and picking things out.
Toys R Us in the United States went bankrupt and closed down. The Canadian ones seem to be OK so far (maybe because I'm single handedly keeping them in business! I'm sort of joking. But not.) Toys R Us Canada knows how to use marketing. They have kid's events to get people into the store because once you're in the store you're more likely to buy something. Especially if you're like me and have a weakness for cute things.
It had been a while. For most of the Summer we either went to the beach or stayed inside. It was just too hot to try to do anything else outside. Mowing the lawn was a killer but it had to be done. Aside from that I wanted to stay in air conditioned areas as much as possible.
Michelle had fun on the swings. She seemed so big on the swing even though I think it said it could fit kids up to 7 or 8. Michelle already wears size 8, she's very tall for her age. The "big kid" swings were all taken so she had to take the little kid one.
I was NOT looking forward to September. It depressed me. I wanted to rewind and live the Summer over again. Not head into Fall. Though in some ways it would be a relief, to have some time to myself, to scratch some things off my to do list, I would miss Michelle terribly. This year was harder than ever because not only was she going back to school, she was going into GRADE ONE! My little girl was growing up. It would be different. She wouldn't be in a safe little penned in area like she was in Kindergarten. She'd be going into the main doors with all the other big kids. The control freak in me was panicked about the whole thing. I wasn't a fan of change.
It's tough summarizing (Summer-izing) an entire Summer in a blog post. It's hard when you take a million photographs. Each time I tell myself "OK just include a few pictures. Then I go to upload them and I can't decide and I just use all of them. It's a lot."
"Why do you do it?!" my Mom keeps asking me.
"I don't know. It gives me comfort somehow. I just have to."
She said she wouldn't want to put her life on display. She's not even on the internet period. I've gotten into this habit of sharing my life online and it's a tough habit to break. And now in a weird way it helps me. To make sense of my life. To focus on the good parts. To find meaning in it all.
This isn't done and I apologize if you're seeing this in a state of disarray (half finished/full of errors/a bit of a mess -- kind of like me!) but I'm going to hit Publish and finish it later. Because I wanted it to be done in November and I've run out of time. Hopefully I get it done before anyone actually reads it!
It was bittersweet being at the beach for the last time in August. Knowing that Michelle would be starting school soon. Knowing that Summer was ending and life just keeps going by way too fast.
You can't stop time but you can enjoy the time you have and snap a million photos to freeze it. You can capture and keep that perfect moment when the sun is shining and life is beautiful. And you can cherish those fleeting moments and those smiles forever. The moment doesn't last but at least you had it. And you have the proof. And on the days when you can't find your smile you can look back at the times that you did and remind yourself that yes life is difficult sometimes but there are still these moments of joy and they are what you need to hold on to...