I'm a homeschooling mom of 8 and write at "Just East of Crazy Land: Adventures in Parenting." My younger daughters share their art and writing at "The Passionate Pencil" and the older ones at "The Writing Sisters." Enjoy! :)
Even 2 am is a good time to stop and smell the flowers, and enjoy a still life moment of beauty when you’re up with the new baby, and away from the hectic rush of the day.
Having said all this, let’s hope my old pal insomnia will take a hike, so I can snuggle down with the little one, and catch a few more winks before my teenager gets up early for her first ballet competition later this morning.
To all the busy mamas of the world, who are also on the 24/7 shift, I salute you! 🎉🦸♀️🎉
More than one thing has been gestating during the past year of isolation at my place…and I’m excited to tell you that on the same day my son was born last week, my new book also made its way into the world, thanks to my friend and co-author Bonnie Way. Our Beginners Guide to Growing Baby: Tips to Help You Through All Four Trimesters is now available as an e-book on Amazon, with the paperback version to follow shortly.
Here’s our blurb about it:
To give you a better idea of all the things we wanted to share with you, here are the table of contents. We keep thinking of more and more chapters, because there are so many experiences we would like you to learn from faster than we did, but we had to stop somewhere, so here’s what we chose:
As you can see, something that makes our book a little more personal, besides the fact that all our advice is based on our personal experiences, rather than on theories, is that we share all our birth stories with you. Not some overdramatized movie versions of birth, but our honest, actual stories. Keeping’ it real.
Another tidbit I’m rather pleased about is a little surprise tucked in between each section, that is, one of my poems for each trimester, birth and beyond…because the beautiful, feminine mystery of giving birth is something beyond mere prose.
I hope Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby will be a helpful resource for both new and returning mamas and help empower them to make healthy informed decisions about what’s best for them and their babies. Bonnie and I are not medical experts, but after 14 births between us, we are certainly very experienced!
Other important credentials include the fact that as I lay cuddling my four day old infant, I am wearing an International Women’s day outfit worthy of a superhero…or at least some kind of fertility goddess/Star Wars fan gone wrong—Baby Yoda pj pants and a green cabbage bikini—see Fourth Trimester chapters on breastfeeding engorgement to learn why the heck I’m doing that!
If you’d like to be informed when the physical version of our pregnancy and baby book is available to order online, leave me a comment and let me know so I can keep you posted. I’ll also be ordering a box of copies, so if you know me personally and prefer to pick one up from me, let me know to add you to our pre-order list and save on shipping.
Bless all the bellies and babies out there! Time to give my little one a midnight milkshake. 😋
After a big wait, I’m happy to announce that my little baby boy was born last night, just before midnight. After a very slow pre-labour, things picked up with the help of some oxytocin (which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be) and we filled the birthing tub at the hospital. About 40 minutes after climbing into that warm embrace of water, and holding off as long as I could to let my body prepare to release him without tearing, I gave a few big pushes, and there he was. A tiny little snuggly darling all covered in white vernix and snuggling on my chest.
After a few wet kisses to the top of his head, he got passed to his Daddy, to hold swaddled while I got dried off and into bed. After some anti-bleed medicine and some pain meds for after cramps, I was ready to hold my baby and eat my midnight meal, amazingly dropped off by our sweet friends Peter and Sophia at the hospital at 10:30 pm that night!
Here we are!
It doesn’t take baby boy long to wake up and smell the milk…and within minutes, he’s nursing like a little pro. See how he’s rooting already? 🤣
At the beginning of Lent, I was chatting with a close friend on the phone and she told me that she and her husband planned to give up guilt for Lent, in favour of gratitude. By this they meant not guilt for actual wrongs done, the natural response to sin and hurting others, but rather shame—the feeling of unworthiness or unlovableness that we can sometimes fall prey to when we make a mistake or fail to prevent something out of our control.
Giving up such negative feelings, and looking for ways to turn difficult situations into opportunities to see the good and give thanks for it struck me as a great idea. So in the spirit of practicing gratitude, I will share a list of blessings I’m grateful for with you right now:
1. When my mother-in-law sent me birthday money this year, I decided to put it towards Kindle Unlimited, and have been enjoying reading lots of books on my iPad when I can’t sleep lately. Tonight I’m reading 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, and the first one they don’t do is indulge in pity parties! So I’ve put away the balloons and party hats, and brought out my gratitude list instead. 🥳
2. Various back aches and late pregnancy cramps made the midwives give me an ultimatum: no more vacuuming or carrying heavy things like the laundry basket to your outdoor laundry room under the stairs. What great things to give up for Lent! 🤣 I’m grateful my husband has taken over the laundry, and that he now has more first hand experience of this charming chore. “Is there more dirty laundry already? I feel like I just did a bunch!” Exactly honey. So it goes.
3. I had a nice outing to the dollar store with my daughter on the way home from ballet class, and bought cute socks for myself and the baby to put in our hospital bag. His have tiny blue stars, and mine say on the soles, “If you can see this, rub my feet.” Thought they might make the nurses laugh.
4. I’m also really grateful for Jenn Dean, a parenting coach from the Families Matter Most podcast. I first saw her speak at on online homeschool conference recently, and found her approach to fostering positive thinking though addressing core beliefs which influence our behaviour so compelling that I’ve started doing some coaching with her on Zoom. She’s great!
Jenn encouraged me to journal and keep track of my thought processes, especially when something goes wrong, so I can be aware of what core belief is affecting my response. Sometimes that belief could actually be a lie, such as “Such and such went wrong because I’m useless and mess up everything.” In this case, awareness of the lie is a necessary step to be freed from it and embrace the truth, which is simply that some days are harder than others, and tomorrow is a chance to try again. I liked this journal and got it for myself.
5. I’m also grateful for the sweet surprises my friends have brought me lately, which are such a tangible sign of their affection and support. Isabela and Claudio brought us pizza buns and homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, Lisa brought us tiny red velvet cupcakes made by a talented coworker, and tonight, Sister Corina brought us Purdy’s chocolates and a fruit topped cheesecake! Yes, this baby is destined to be chubby and cute, and everyone is ensuring their part in that! 🥰
6. I could just keep going, but this list is getting long, so the last one for tonight is my amazing neighbour Lorie, a retired nurse who does professional house cleaning part time. She has been a total Godsend, and has been helping us declutter and clean our house, one room at a time. First, we tackled the garage, and after hiring the great guys from Half-Price Rubbish Removal, we now have so much more space to store things in an organized way. Everything is being sorted and labelled, such a bins of clothes for various kids to grow into. We even strung up a rope in the garage to hang extra or off season coats, so I can see what we have before buying new ones.
Sometimes it’s a struggle emotionally to let someone else help me deal with my mess, but in those moments I’m trying to reframe things. Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get organized on my own cause I’m too sloppy,” I think, “Caring for all my kids and house is a big job, and I’m so grateful to have friends willing to pitch in and help.” Lorie does such and good job, and is so cheerful about it, that we call her our “Fairy Clean Mother,” whose super power is making things sparkle. The kids love her, too, and are inspired to help out more, which is a huge bonus!
It’s nearly 11pm. I’m sitting propped up in bed with tons of pillows behind me, and more under my legs to prop up my feet, slowly chewing a ginger candy to fight the heartburn that creeps up my throat and threatens to explode there when I lay down. The baby in my belly keeps stretching and fluttering, and having some kind of contest with himself about how far he can fit his little feet up under my ribs.
I’m so sleepy but at least I’ve already had a nap when I fell asleep with our toddler this evening, so the exhaustion isn’t so desperate as it was at dinner, when I could barely keep my eyes open. The little bean, now more like the size of a bunch of celery, seems to think I should wake up at 4 or 5 am and stay that way till morning, so the days are feeling awfully long.
I have appreciated having the quiet time alone to read or listen to audiobooks, but the hours aren’t exactly ideal for someone required to keep functioning normally in the day time. So as exhausting as the first few weeks with a new baby can be, I’m looking forward to resting in bed and taking naps with the little one. At least a cuddly newborn is better company than heartburn deep in the night!
I captured this moment on a rare early morning walk alone on Ash Wednesday. My luxurious excuse for alone time? A 35 week pregnancy blood test. Yup, living it up here.
But I must say, the peaceful morning bird song and the sight of their feathers illumined from below by early sunrise were a treat. Since my pace right now is best described as moseying, I tried to make the best of it by taking time to notice the beauty above the city streets.
Despite the barren lack of leaves in the trees, tiny signs of spring could also be found at my feet.
After another long pandemic winter, it’s nice to see hints of hope…warmer days coming, brighter days, and new things, like my baby, in about a month!
These brave crocuses in my garden even survived our recent snowfall! So while I feel pretty much ready to wave the white flag and give up—enough winter, enough covid, enough late pregnancy—I’ll try to be brave and keep looking up to find the sun, and looking forward to those precious newborn snuggles, and remembering the reason it will all be worth it come spring.
I miss you so much in ordinary little things…I’ll be deciding what to make for dinner, and thinking I’ll make something you like, and then suddenly remember that you can’t just drop in for dinner anymore. I will see someone in the corner of my eye wearing a reflective vest, and think for a second that it’s you, riding on your scooter. If a car goes by that looks like yours, my heart skips a beat, wondering if perhaps it’s you coming to visit. I still think, “Oh, maybe Dad can drive me to this appointment,” and then have to remember you can’t.
I was there when you were dying. I arranged your funeral and wept over your ashes when I picked up your urn from Kearney. I was there when you were buried, but my head and my heart are having a hard time catching up. It’s like I can’t really realize you’re gone. Often I say to myself, “I should really call Dad and catch up,” and then I remember that I disconnected your phone after you died, and why can’t I remember that? I feel like someone who is constantly waking up from a happy dream, only to have reality slap me in the face.
So many things remind me of you: the garden beds you built out front, filled with brave spring bulbs peeking out, and the planters in the backyard by the garage, your worksop, which contain the mournful remains of summer sunflowers and tomatoes, now scraggly and black, the little hooks on my cupboards which you hung up for my washcloths, and the many books on my homeschool bookshelves, which you were always bringing for the kids, whom you adored. It is hard to realize you’re gone because there are so many signs of your loving presence everywhere.
One night shortly after you died I couldn’t sleep, and went to read on the couch. I pulled a book from my Montgomery bookshelf: “Emily Climbs.” In it was an inscription from you to me as a child, “to my dearest ‘star,’ love + hugs–Dad.” Emily Starr was also very close to her gentle father, and lost him at a young age. Reading this always made me cry as a kid, because it felt like my pain in being separated from you after the divorce. I was four then, and now I’m forty, but I’ll always be your little girl, and being apart from you still hurts terribly, especially each time I momentarily forget, only to remember again.
Loving you always, and waiting to give you a huge hug in Heaven,
One of my best friends sent me a treasure last month: a Montgomery book I had not read before, not even once, let alone two or three times. The Blue Castle is one of the few books Montgomery wrote which has an adult heroine, rather than a young girl, and while it contains lots of classic Montgomery sparkle and rejoicing in the beauty of nature, it takes some time to get there.
The story is one of a woman named Valancy (a shockingly old maid of 29! 🤣) whose lacklustre existence is dominated by conformity to family pressure, lethargy, and fear…it is downright depressing at first. Montgomery really allows her readers to enter into the pain of a woman who feels that her life is not her own, and that no one really loves or even properly knows her. She constantly represses her honest reactions to conform to the strict standards of her unfeeling family, and even so is unable to please them. Everyone takes her for granted.
We could look back on her harshly, and speak of her weakness and dependence on her family in making all her decisions…but are we as a society truly more free? Our fetters may not be so much familial expectations, but what about the cages we build for ourselves online, the slavish fear that drives so many to keep up appearances and impress, or at least to fit in with the latest fads? How is living for the “likes” of strangers more free than living for the approval of those we know?
Everything changes one day when Valancy dares go to the doctor alone and gets a fatal diagnoses of her heart condition, and is given only a year to live. It is at this point that classic obliger rebellion, as described by happiness author Gretchen Rubin, kicks in. She decides to no longer live to please others at the cost of her own happiness and well-being.
Only by losing the fear of dying does Valancy cease being afraid to really live. Set free from the fear of her family’s opinions and the long dreary years ahead, she finally finds the courage to simply be herself, and discovers that life is so much more rich and beautiful when authentically embraced. At last she is able be herself and get comfortable in her own skin, which, as it turns out, is a pretty great place to be.
How would you live this year differently if you knew it could be your last? Perhaps with more courage, authenticity and joy? With more honesty, conviction, and simple delight in all life has to offer? With more generosity both towards yourself and others? Wherever you’re at in life, may you find your place of joy, your “blue castle” and embrace it fully.