"Problems!" Michelle exclaimed as we stood in the nursery. She was pointing up at the new shelving unit I'd put in her room. "Problems!" she said again. She had been saying several two syllable words -- pretty, princess, running, towel, backwards, etc. She shocked me one day when she said my name out of the blue. "Ann Marie." Well it was more like "A-moo-ee" but I was impressed. Kids much older than her couldn't even say my name and I'd never even taught it to her. She'd heard my Mom and Dad and sister saying it so much I guess. "Mama Ann Marie," she added. It was cute. All she'd ever called me was Mama so it caught me off guard hearing her say my name. Then I thought I'd test her. "And what's YOUR name?" "Michelle," she replied perfectly with almost a French accent (Me-shell). "And what's Grampa's name?" "TONY!" she yelled, just like my Mom does. She even speaks in sentences: "I like it!" "Me want cheese." "More milk Mama." "Help me!" etc. Still I was a little surprised at her suddenly saying the word "problems." Maybe she'd heard me say it. Lord knows I've had enough. Life lately has been crazy. Michelle and I have been sick off and on. There's been a lot going on, things going wrong, the last couple of months certainly haven't been easy. I've been stressed to the max.
"Problems," she said again, starting to get frustrated that I wasn't getting it. Then I realized she was actually pointing at the photo albums on the top shelf. Pictures of Michelle as a newborn baby. I'd shown her a couple of times. "Oh," I said, finally understanding, "you mean PHOTO ALBUMS." She grinned from ear to ear. "PROBLEMS!" she shouted, as if I was a fool for not understanding her to begin with. Of course, Mama has lots of problems! Photography has always been a problem/addiction for me. I have this obsession with capturing every moment. For a while life has been so hectic that I haven't been able to take as many photos as usual but I definitely took a few (hundred!) at Christmas. I'm not sure why Michelle pronounces photo albums like "problems" though I guess it's pretty good for her first attempt. She does try to repeat almost everything she hears these days. And she comes up with words that astound me. I was trying to keep a list of the words she knows but I can't keep up. It seems to be 10 new words a day sometimes.
Michelle is growing so fast. Time is flying by. November was gone in the blink of an eye (I didn't even get to post a blog. I had planned to do at least one for the month but it wasn't in the cards. There was too much going on.) There have been some tough times but I'm grateful to my big crazy family for getting me through it all. I couldn't ask for a more amazing group of people to call my family and friends. I don't know what I'd do without them. I was so relieved my brother put Michelle's new car seat in for me. She was getting so big the straps were too tight. I almost couldn't get her in it. I couldn't even figure out how to take the old one out much less install the new one. My brother Mike had one out and the other in within a minute (mind you he's a pro. He's done it for three kids so far.) It's taking some adjusting with the new seat (no more carrying it and clicking it into the stroller when Michelle falls asleep in the car -- mind you it was getting awfully heavy to keep doing that. The first shopping trip with the new seat was disastrous. Michelle was cranky and wanted to run amok. Luckily the second trip went better. She fell asleep in the car and miraculously stayed asleep while I lifted her out and strapped her sitting up in the stroller and then put her back in the car! I guess kids adapt. I remember my sister lifting Reggie out of the car and carrying him into the house to lay him on the couch for his afternoon nap. The drive is often the only way that kids have a nap so you sure don't want to give that up.)
With all the chaos of Christmas (preparing for it and celebrating it) now December has disappeared in a flash too. Blink and it's another new year. My last post was in October. At that point I was dealing with weaning Michelle. She went from the breast to the bottle and shortly thereafter the bottle was gone too.
They say milk "does a body good" but I guess you can get too much of a good thing. Michelle was a milkaholic. She was drinking WAY too much. When I took her for her checkup and the doctor heard how much Michelle was actually consuming, she raised an eyebrow. My Mom was concerned Michelle might be diabetic. I didn't think babies could be diabetic. I asked the doctor about it. She said it's rare but she wanted to have Michelle checked out because she was drinking so much milk. She was drinking several bottles a day, including through the night and wetting through even the 12 hour overnight diapers. I was going through a 2 L carton of 3.25% milk every couple of days or so!
The doctor sent Michelle for a blood glucose test just to be sure. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was never a fan of needles but Michelle had a full scale MELTDOWN when they tried to give her one. She'd had her shots before (and they were no picnic either) but at least with them it's quick and they can stick the needle in her leg. Nothing like drawing blood from her arm. The first lab we went to, we waited an hour just to go in and have the nurse say that she refused to give Michelle a needle when she wouldn't sit still. She was screaming and squirming and you could not hold her arm steady. The nurse suggested another lab that was "really good with kids." I phoned ahead to tell the lab what I'd been through already so I wouldn't wait another hour. We still waited about 20-30 minutes before getting in. Even they were unable to get little Michelle's arm still enough to administer the needle. Two nurses and I couldn't hold her down. She screamed bloody murder and wriggled to get away. "Wow!" one of them said "She's really strong!" You'd think we were wrestling a small bear. They finally had to draw blood from her finger which is apparently a much more painful and lengthy process but it wasn't safe to use her arm. She screamed the entire time. It was breaking my heart. I was shaking and my eyes were welling up with tears. When we finally came out to the waiting room everyone was staring. "That just took at least two years off my life," I said. My Mom had been waiting for us and she said when they heard the screaming one person had remarked "Who would give a baby a needle?!" I was so afraid there would be something wrong with Michelle. God forbid if she had diabetes she'd have to get needles all the time! Thank Heaven when I called the doctor's office a few days later they said her blood was normal. There was nothing wrong with her. She just really liked milk. I think part of it was a comfort thing. She had given up nursing (which was her own choice) and I guess the bottle had become her comfort through the night. I tried watering down the milk to not give her as much and then I decided to make the transition to a sippy cup. One day in the car she threw her bottle (as she had a tendency to do.) I had been telling her to stop throwing it or she wouldn't get it back. Now I seized the opportunity to get rid of the bottle for good. She couldn't drink from it if it just wasn't there. "Your bottle is gone," I told her, "you threw it away. No more bottle." That night I expected a sleepless night with her begging for the bottle. She was a bit resistant to the sippy cup at first but by the next day she had adjusted to it and she didn't drink nearly as much. Not even a quarter as much milk as she used to from the bottle. Now she asked for her cup instead when she wanted milk. She didn't soak through her diapers anymore and I got a sippy cup that doesn't leak so I didn't have pillows soaked with milk anymore either. Great! At least one problem solved.
The transition to the cup went much more smoothly than I would have expected but there is still one transition I haven't been able to make and to be honest may never make unless absolutely necessary -- Michelle and I are still co-sleeping. Almost everyone has been on my case about sleep training and putting her in her crib and blah blah blah. I just can't bring myself to do it. Michelle and I have been through a lot, especially in the last while. She has lived through enough change and turmoil. I don't want to do that to her. Besides, I'm all she has and she's all I have. She's big enough now that she can climb in and out of bed so there's no danger of her falling. (I also removed the bed frame so it's right on the floor. It just made more sense.) Any time I have broken down and tried to put her in the crib she has screamed and I take her back out after a couple of minutes. People can lecture me all they want about her being too dependent etc but I think it's cruel to let a child scream all night. "Oh she wouldn't scream all night!" some of them try to say but they don't know Michelle. My Mom says she's just like me and I screamed all night in the crib.
I may not be a perfect parent but honestly I don't think anyone is. So how can anyone tell me what I'm doing is wrong? Every parent just does the best they can with what works for them. And considering that Michelle is happy, healthy and extremely bright, I think I must be doing OK at least. The doctor and everyone who's met her has said Michelle is very smart, far advanced for her age. She's 16 months about to turn 17 months. She says more than 500 words including speaking in sentences. She recites nursery rhymes and sings songs. She says the whole alphabet, counts from 1-20 and backwards from 10-1. She climbs the entire flight of stairs in seconds and knows enough not to try to go back down (well I put the gate up and don't let her.) She runs, dances and even walks on "tippytoe" and can say "tippytoe." She chatters away with gestures and everything. One man who saw/heard her asked how old she was and remarked "That's amazing. My grandson is 2 years old and can only say a couple of words." She's very sensitive and understands emotions -- happy, sad, mad, proud. She points to characters in books and says "happy" or "mad" depending on their expression. She still loves when I read to her and now she wants me to read longer books. She loves Dr. Seuss books -- "Green Eggs and Ham" and "The Cat in the Hat" (ones that she didn't have the patience to sit through before.) Sometimes she has me read a story over and over. I think she's trying to memorize it. A lot of the nursery rhymes she says right along with me. She used to rip the pages of paper books but now she can turn the pages nicely on her own. I think she likes to feel like she's reading herself. She's very independent and loves to do things for herself. She has started going on the potty (only pee so far and she keeps saying potty then sitting there and doing nothing half the time) and when she peed for the first time I said "Good girl! You make Mama so proud." She looked quite happy with herself and said "Proud!" Now she keeps asking me if I'm proud when she does something. "Proud Mama?" I am proud. When people try to put in their two cents and tell me what I'm doing wrong I just nod and smile. "Yeah, whatever." I think every parent has to do what feels right for them. Maybe if I had a partner there would have been more incentive to move her to a crib but as it stands now, she is my life. I've given up everything for her. It's my choice. I have to do what I feel is right for her. The first years of your life are crucial. I want Michelle to feel completely safe and loved. I never want her to feel like her needs aren't being met and I'm just ignoring her. The sleep training advocates claim it helps kids become more independent. I think if it toughens them up it just makes them cold and frankly there are enough cold, cruel people in the world with their hearts shut off. I want Michelle to stay the sweet, affectionate girl that she is.
Of course the dark side of having a sensitive, intelligent child is that she's also EXTREMELY demanding. (Now I admit it's partly my own fault for meeting her demands. She knows how to manipulate me.) She can also be VERY MOODY (Gee, I don't know where she gets it from! Her father and I were both such calm, easygoing folk!)You don't want to be around her when she doesn't get her way. Life with her isn't easy, but it's an adventure and I wouldn't trade it for the world. At her best she's a sheer joy -- bright, funny, sweet, loving, an absolute angel. At her worst, she's a monster -- a scary, screaming banshee. She's even started throwing herself on the floor. Full blown tantrums. The terrible twos already. I suppose it stands to reason that if she has the vocabulary of a two year old, she'd have the temperament too. She screams if I'm out of sight for a minute (and yes all those people who have been telling me to stick her in a crib would say "I told you so! You created a dependent child!" Yeah, whatever. Bite me.) She screams if she tries to do something and can't do it perfectly instantly (like trying to dress herself. She was trying to put a pair of pants on herself but having trouble since she was trying to put them on upside down -- ankles first -- and over another pair of pants). Screams if she sees a man with a beard. Speaking of which...
Yes, as I feared, our visit to Santa went over like a lead balloon. The first time we tried to see Santa, he took a half hour break right as I was heading with her to see him. I was livid. She had just awakened from a nap and I was racing to his post to grab a photo before she got cranky. He was supposed to be there from 2-5 pm. It was 4:15 and he was M.I.A. He works three hours and gets a half hour break right when I try to see him?! Figures. Michelle was already getting antsy so I just left. We came back on another day and we only had to wait a few minutes. Everything seemed perfect. Michelle was rested and in a good mood. She was smiling at other kids dressed in little green and red dresses and sweaters and mini Santa suits lining up to get their photos. I told her that just like the other kids she'd have her turn to sit on Santa's knee and get a picture. But when her time came, she was not having it. She wouldn't even let me put her on his lap. She screamed and clung to me for dear life. She was horrified. I was going to just leave but the photographer said "You can be in the photo with her." I wasn't fixed up. I would have tried to look presentable if I'd known I was getting in the picture but oh well I figured it was the only way I'd get a souvenir picture of her with Santa. As you can see I had to settle for a shot of a frightened Michelle and a smirking me crouching beside an exasperated Santa. I was determined to get a better Santa photo so I decided to try again at a different mall, with a different Santa. So one day when we were visiting my Mom we headed to her mall to see if we'd have better luck with the Santa there. As we got close to Santa we noticed an inordinate number of dogs in the mall. There were a whole fleet of service dogs. I thought it was sweet at first. Then I realized there were even people walking through the mall carrying little dogs. I didn't think animals were allowed in the mall. I was pretty sure the Chihuahua and the Shih Tzu weren't service dogs. I found it a bit odd but didn't think too much of it. Then we tried to line up to see Santa and were told "No. Sorry. It's dog day." Nice. Santa has gone to the dogs. Apparently it was in the paper or something but my Mom never noticed. I wouldn't have guessed in my wildest nightmares that the day I picked to take Michelle to Santa was the one day he was seeing canines instead. I guess they didn't want children sitting on Santa's lap on the same day as dogs for sanitary reasons (though there is probably as much danger from kids not being housebroken as dogs!) I couldn't believe it. I was so mad I was cursing Santa (aka Satan, maybe that's why he dresses in red...) that day. I finally had to give up. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. My dream of a perfect photo of Michelle smiling on Santa's knee just wasn't going to happen. Not in 2013 anyway. I was lucky to get one in 2012. We'll try again in 2014. Maybe. Or maybe I'll dress up and try to look presentable next time in case I end up having to get in the photo again. My Mom asked me "Why didn't you ask Santa if YOU could sit on his knee with Michelle?" Somehow that didn't seem appropriate. I guess I can't blame Michelle. I was afraid of Santa as a child too.
Michelle enjoyed Christmas celebrations with the whole family and with just her and I. She was saying "Christmas" "Christmas presents" "Christmas tree" and even said "Jesus" and "Baby Jesus." She let me read her "The Christmas Story," a miniature golden book of Jesus' birth in the manger. She kept asking me to read it over and over. After the Santa debacle my Mom said maybe it's just as well. The true meaning of Christmas isn't Santa Claus anyway, it's the birth of Jesus. It's about peace and love and light. About hope and giving.
Michelle was spoiled, of course. I lost count of how many monkeys, dolls, books, stuffies and toys she got. She's so easy (and fun!) to buy for that you really can't help picking things up when you see them. Before having Michelle I was somewhat disenchanted with the whole Christmas thing. Having a little girl to buy presents for brings back my childhood excitement and joy at Christmas. She hugged her stuffies and had fun playing with her new toys. One of her favourite gifts was only a dollar -- a little pink felt tiara. She put it on her head and went to check herself out in the mirror. My little girl is a princess for sure!
When we were at my sister's place before Christmas, Shannon asked what my favourite thing about Christmas is. I said that I love getting presents for Michelle and couldn't wait to see her open them. Shannon was glad that I got her a couple of toys as well. Even though she's older now, she's still a kid. Heck, I still like toys at my age! Shannon said that her favourite part of Christmas is being with family. I like that too of course. I am so happy to have a loving family and so grateful for the times we spend together. Michelle likes it too. She loves visiting Auntie May, Shannon and Reggie. She asks about them all the time. Family will always be the greatest gift we have.
When I was showing Michelle her baby albums she was pointing at everyone and saying their names. She didn't point to herself though so I asked, "And who is that?" "Baby," she said at first as though it were someone else, just a baby. "What's her name?" "Michelle."
It's hard to believe she was that small not too long ago. Now she's becoming more a little girl and less a baby every day. I have a lot of catching up to do with her photo albums. I haven't had photos printed since she was very small. I want to have albums spanning her life, the way my Mom did for us. Of course now with digital photos you can look at them on the computer without printing them but there's something special about having them in a book that you can cherish and flip through.
I kept waiting for life to get "easier." The truth is, life is full of problems. That's just how it is. Winston Churchill said the definition of history is "One damned thing after another." And that's life. You get one thing sorted out and there's something else to worry about. If you're a worrier that is. I guess if you're one of those laidback people who just doesn't care, it's a little easier. Things happen, you shrug and move on. Unfortunately too often I let things get to me. Stress takes its toll, physically, mentally, spiritually. The key is to look for the beauty and the joy in each day, even when things go wrong. There is always something that can make you smile. When you look back on your life, you will remember fondly all the good times, those happy moments smiling in photos with your loved ones. And that matters more than the stumbling blocks, the struggles along the way. In the end it's all worth it. Life is filled with memories, the good and the bad. It is your story and you have to cherish it. Photo albums, to me, are among the most precious of possessions. They are your history, a collection of your memories. Problems and all.
I'm not sure when I'll post another blog. Maybe when Michelle turns 18 months. I know that she's technically not a "baby" anymore but I don't want to give this baby blog up. I will try to write every now and then. I want to thank readers again for stopping by and following Michelle and I in our journey for the past couple of years. It hasn't been an easy journey but it's been a joyful one and I wouldn't trade it for the world.