October Garden

It is October. The garden sags under the weight of the year. Leaves wither and curl. Lupins droop and drag their seed pods on the ground. The Earth exposes her belly as the covering of plants dies away. Yet Winter has not yet wrapped her fingers around the life of this place. 

Japanese Lanterns hang every few inches, decorating the decay. Along the fence, clusters of flowers bloom. In the lawn, sprinkled with patches of weeds, dandelions hold up their heads to greet the sunshine. Bees still bumble about the garden, resting on the centre of the blossoms before taking off, legs covered in the fairy dust they will use to romance other blooms into existence. 

Just beyond the fence, cars whiz by. When the light turns, they idle in front of the house, their drivers unaware of the seasons turning in the garden, moving round and round, tunnelling through time like earthworms, causing everything near them to grow.

This was a little writing exercise I did for a wonderful creative writing course I’m taking with Jonathan Rogers called Writing with Anne of Green Gables . L.M. Montgomery is so talented at painting a visual scene with her words, but surprisingly, doesn’t rely that heavily on adjectives and adverbs. Rather, she uses really vibrant verbs and specific, concrete nouns. For our class we had to describe what we saw outside, but without using adjectives or adverbs. It’s a fun challenge!

And now, since this is my blog and not homework, here are some pictures of my garden! 🪴

Our New Pregnancy Book: A Gift From Moms To Moms

Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby

Happy Belated Mother’s Day everyone! I hope you all had good days…whether you have one child or ten, you deserve wonderful things! It’s a big, full-time job nurturing life.

My mom blogger buddy Bonnie Way and I have written a book on pregnancy, birthing and early days with a newborn and are offering it free this week until Thursday on Amazon kindle. With 14 kids between us both, we have plenty of experience, and hope our tips, experiences, and birth stories can help support you on your journey to motherhood!

You don’t need a Kindle device to read it—you can get the free Kindle app on your phone, iPad or tablet as well. Here’s the link:

Beginners guide to growing baby: tips to help you through all four trimesters

You may wonder why we say tips for all four trimesters, instead of three, but this is not a typo! During the first three months of a baby’s life, they are still so completely dependent on their mothers to keep them alive, safe and secure. There is nowhere my nine week old son prefers to be, than snuggling on my chest, sleeping to the drum of my heartbeat.

At the same time, a mother’s health and happiness depends a lot on her baby. If he is nursing well, sleeping well, and generally content, so will she be. That means her snacking lots to keep up her energy for nursing, eating well, and napping with the little one, because newborn days are pretty exhausting—but with gentle care—happy baby, happy mama. This is why we call it the fourth trimester…not so much a time to rush into getting “back to normal,” but a time to move slowly while you continue to nurture fragile new life, grow into this new role of being a mom, and find the rhythm and support you need as well.

Huge hugs to all my fellow mamas! I hope you enjoy reading our birth stories!

True Resilience Requires Rest

You know you’re working hard when your kitchen whisk breaks—actually snaps in half like mine and become garbage. This pandemic is pushing us all hard…but instead of scrambled eggs we’ve been dealing with a scrambled world, and for a long, long time. Over a year.

It’s an exhausting long haul, and none of us wants to snap like that whisk and become useless. Surviving covid is like being on a tour of duty that just won’t end, though we can hope it’s coming closer. So in light of all this I’ve been thinking about resilience…and what it really means. My sister’s professor said something really wise about resilience that I’ve been mulling over a lot:

“Our one prof spent the last afternoon talking to us about how most of us equate resilience with a stubborn determination to keep slogging but that rejuvenation should be valued just as much. If not more.”

Rejuvenation—becoming young again, refreshed, restored—not just grimly slogging on without stopping for water breaks. This is a more sustainable vision of resilience…one that doesn’t involve pushing oneself to the breaking point. It means not just having strength but also the humility to know that everyone needs breaks and gentle self-care, especially at times when life feels like a marathon.

This all makes so much sense, but can be hard to put into practice when you’ve been in emergency mode for a long time, as our world has. Despite everything we need to relax, play, enjoy little moments and rest.

Babies are good at this. They nap a lot, cause all their growing is exhausting, and they make sure to eat well and often. They ask for help whenever they need it. Sometimes they cry, and other times they coo, but most importantly, they trust that they are loved unconditionally. This is the part we adults most often forget.

I’m giving myself this lecture as much as you. When my dad got really sick with his cancer last fall, and I had the honour to care for him in his last weeks, I resolved to be strong. To be there for him. To do all that I could, despite wanting to crumble and break. When he died, I had to keep being strong. Plan the funeral. Bury my beloved father, who was my biggest cheerleader and one of my best friends.

After that, as his executor, months of paperwork. Serious responsibilities requiring me to be, you guessed it, strong. But now, almost six months after his death last year on November 9th, I wonder if part of me has become petrified—so strong it has turned to rock—and in that sense not fully alive. Avoiding the grief I couldn’t find time for. Fearing the tears that might cause these walls to crumble.

This is not true resilience. I know this. Having been through deep grief before when I lost my baby Josephine 6 years ago in labour, I know that recovery involves going through grief, not trying to put your emotions on pause. So I’m trying to give myself permission to feel sad sometimes, with the longing that is simply love prolonged. I’m trying to give myself permission seek serenity before productivity…which means taking little breaks to refill my cup, rather than always pushing myself to keep going.

This is hard for me. Do you struggle with this, too? Are you harsher on yourself than you’d ever be with those you love? Can you be brave enough to believe that you deserve rest, joy, and serenity just as much as anyone else? Perhaps if we all support each other, and encourage each other to be kind, even to ourselves, the world will be more filled with resilience and hope.

If you’d like more encouragement on this topic, check out Jenn Dean’s Families Matter Most podcast. It is awesome, and filled with simple, doable ideas: Three Things to Get Through Hard Times. Plus she is funny, warm and honest. Listening to her is like chatting with a great friend who builds you up. Cole’s notes version: every day, connect with your peace, your purpose and your people. The three P’s. Even I can remember that.

My new whisk! 😋

Wrestling with the Remote Control

Since the baby came certain things are on pause—

it’s hard to find time to write, to think,

to grieve, to pray

except through my body as I rock and sway,

rock and sway my little one to sleep.

Other things are going fast-forward—

there’s no stopping kids growing,

squabbling, questioning everything

and making messes everywhere I look.

In the anxious moments of early morning,

my mind tries to rewind,

to second-guess and over-analyze

but there’s no going back.

What I’m forgetting

as I grasp for control

and it slips like sand though my fingers

is the one button I need to press:

Play.

Play right now, as things are

in the mess and chaos of my 8 kids

doing silly dances and laughing,

finding a moment of togetherness.

Be right now—

allow myself to have a moment alone

walking under the cherry blossoms—

stopping to listen to the hummingbird

who sings above me

pointing it’s tiny beak heavenward,

little messenger of my Dad.

Embrace right now with its little inspirations to

to snuggle my down-soft baby

and write an imperfect poem,

unpausing my frozen voice which felt

unable to speak

unworthy of being heard

afraid to crack open bitter walls of strength

and cry.

Just press play.