Sudden Bloodhound

I am normally a bit oblivious

to many things;

if it doesn’t stink or scream

don’t expect me to notice it

(and even then, it’s got to stink pretty badly

to catch my attention).

But now I find myself

a sudden and unwilling bloodhound—

able to pick up on the tiniest scent

as I walk past the garbage can

or the kitchen sink.

The waft of the compost as I open the lid

hits me like colour—

a slime green wave riding the air

up into my nose.

Smells have become like warning signs

flashing across my vision,

sending me scuttling away in the opposite direction—

a sudden and unwilling bloodhound

lacking all desire to follow the scent

and solve the gruesome mystery

of its origins.

It’s a dog’s life,

early pregnancy,

so you’ll forgive me

if now and then

I throw back my head

and howl!

Reading Novels: A Creative Cure for Pregnancy Nausea

Summer Reading….one of the lovely things about taking the summer off school is doing a lot of it!

Sometimes with an ongoing difficulty, distraction is the best medicine…in the case of ongoing nausea in pregnancy, there are of course many things to be done. Eating small snacks and meals often, having enough protein, drinking ginger or peppermint tea, etc. But sometimes, despite best efforts, pregnancy can feel like a giant stomach flu whose only cure is constant eating…at the very time many foods seems repulsive.

Sometimes the best cure for feeling queasy is simply not thinking about it so much, but that is difficult to do by sheer will power alone. It helps instead, to be distracted and think of something else. This is where reading novels comes in. Or rereading them, as the case may be…almost all the books pictured above were rereads, because I love returning to familiar worlds whose characters I already “get along with” and whose adventures, despite all misadventures along the way, are comfortingly going to turn out well.

So why else do I think reading is great during pregnancy? Here’s a little list:

1. Reading is a great excuse to sit down, or lie down, and to take a quiet moment for yourself. Instead of telling your husband or kids, “I’m going to go stare at the ceiling and moan while my stomach churns,” you can say, “I’m going to go read my book for a little while while you guys play or watch a show.”

2. Sitting quietly and reading a book helps you take time to digest properly when your stomach is sensitive…instead of running around right after a meal cleaning up, which is a great way to lose your lunch.

3. There is so much focus on feeding your body well when pregnant, in order to help your baby be healthy, but what about feeding your soul? Reading novels that inspire you, make you laugh or cry, help you to love and to hope, is a way to feed your soul. Since your emotions and mental state affect your little one, you can see this reading as a way to build up your baby’s spirit.

4. What kind of books do I like? Because pregnancy is already a state of heightened emotion, I don’t recommend reading crazy thrillers or compelling tragedies, especially not the latter. I read the prequel to the Hunger Games (A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) this spring, before we got pregnant, and I’m glad. It was an extremely scary portrait of a narcissist and I’m glad the baby couldn’t feel me trembling as I read deep into the night. Definitely a must read for any Suzanne Collins fan who isn’t in a super sensitive state, though!

I tried reading an early Canadian wilderness adventure novel, but had to put it down when each chapter’s tragedy was worse than the last.

Another kind of book on my “no thanks list” during pregnancy is parenting books. While this may seem counterintuitive, I find that many books on parenting can be so strongly worded about the “right way” to do just about everything, that they can lead to a huge introspective mom-guilt session…the last thing you need when already generously sharing your very being to help create new life.

I do love rereading classics by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott. I also enjoyed rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy…while darker than the others, the urgency and adventure certainly distracted me from my own little woes. If Frodo and Sam could half-starve while traveling through the wastelands of Mordor on a mission to save the world from evil, I could surely handle laying in bed eating yogurt and reading a book in order to help bring a new little life into the world.

Our little Timbit is now about 12 weeks! Already cute little fingers and toes!

Quarantine Self-Care: In the Toilet!

I have a special button my sister gave me once; it says, “Mom Off Duty.” She gave it to me as a suggestion, rather than a joke, cause she knows I’m not the best at taking time to recharge my batteries. This morning I found the button in the toilet. Yes, actually in it–and that pretty much sums up how my self-care is at the moment.

I’m sure this is the case for many people…working long hours from home while parenting and homeschooling, or braving the front lines in the hospitals. I loved this image my mom sent me, because it’s so fitting. Real life superheroes walk the halls of every hospital right now! Thank you brave nurses and doctors and all health careworkers!

IMG_6856.JPG

There are so many heroes right now…but even Wonder Woman needs a bathroom break (alone!), or a shower, a quiet walk, or a few minutes for a favourite hobby to restore her weary soul a bit. These moments have been scarce for me, as I homeschool my seven kids and try to make magic from what remains of rice and dried in beans the cupboard until our next grocery order comes. The other day, for example, since we were out of bread and milk, we had homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and fishy crackers for breakfast, not that the kids objected much to that!

Anyway, as I’m not the queen of mamma self-care, I’m going to share a few ideas friends of mine have mentioned doing. Please comment and share your tips, too!

  1. Going for a quiet walk alone, and calling a friend to catch up.
  2. Having a daily time set aside to practice music alone, behind a locked door, without interruption “unless anyone’s eyeballs are bleeding!”
  3. Dates at home, while the kids babysit each other in another room. Snacks and a movie with your spouse, without your littlest kids climbing all over and talking the whole time.
  4. Walks with your spouse…if you’re lucky enough to have kids old enough to babysit that is. Some friends of mine in Saskatchewan even braved the rather chilly park for a lunch date!
  5. Visiting friends over Zoom, FaceTime or Skype, to have a laugh together and feel less alone. My friend Monique had a knitting date over Zoom, and I’m planning a writing one with my writer buddy Lisa Rumple, who bravely blogs about her mental health journey at The Resilient Catholic.
  6. Taking a class online to feed your mind and grow.
  7. Exercising. As a family, we like to do the daily workout with the Body Coach, Joe Wicks, on YouTube. He is funny and accessible, and requires no equipment for his 20 minute workout (30 minutes when you include the breaks). Even our toddler joins in, and likes doing jumping jacks, or as they call them in England “star jumps.” It helps that every Friday is Fancy Friday dress up day!

I think all these are great ideas to help release the pressure that builds up from being “on” 24/7. Sometimes it feels very spoiled to talk about being stressed right now, when some people are in situations that are so much more devastating. As my friend Laura asked, “When have people endured epidemic isolation from a place of such luxury and connection?”

While we are indeed so lucky to be able to connect with others from the safely of our homes, it also means that we are more aware of the suffering of others all around the world. This collective stress affects us all; I don’t see the use in pretending it doesn’t.

So we need to find ways of releasing that stress, so it doesn’t silently build up like the little bricks in Tetris, until they are almost at the top of the screen and falling faster by the minute. If like in the game, we can find ways to organize all the little bricks that cause anxiety into little rows, plugging in the empty spots, they can disappear and leave us more breathing room. It’s not that we won’t have more stress factors coming our way, but if we can acknowledge them and fit them into our life, maybe we can rob them of some of their destructive power.

Right now, some of the strange things like working and schooling from home, not being able to visit friends, travel freely or go out as a family to socialize are the new normal. It takes energy to readjust; we are mourning the loss of the innocence of a world where people didn’t hesitate to shake hands with strangers or hug a friend who stopped by.

So whatever your situation right now, however much you feel affected by this pandemic, I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, as well as others. Don’t drown in your to do lists. Try to pause and savour the little good things that happen each day. Pray for the grace to endure this storm, and to grow better from it, but little by little. Don’t be harsh with yourself.

And if it helps, and you’ve got insomnia, too, eat pumpkin pie ice cream at midnight, like me.

Big love to everyone!

Cereal Bathing

Since Christmas I’ve been floating in

periodic luxury…

the bath bombs my husband gave me from Lush–

enormous sparkling balls of colour

which fill our bedroom with exotic perfumes.

When you drop them in the water,

they careen around like drunken tennis balls,

spewing a fuzzy stream of technicolor bubbles.

The first one was coffee-scented,

and I had to laugh,

lying there in a giant creamy latté.

Another resembled a golden peach,

and out of its centre came floating

–unexpected up to my face–

a perfect little dried flower,

all pointy and crimson.

Why all this sweet madness of sparkling bubbles

from my often-away, hard-working husband?

They are a silent embrace from afar,

a wordless thank you for all you do,

an affirmation of my body’s goodness,

even, or maybe especially, when it’s exhausted.

So tonight, feeling frazzled and snappy

from too many sibling squabbles

and the sneaky migration of mismatched socks

all over the living room floor,

I threw in a big orange bath-bomb,

and read a delicious chapter of Before Green Gables

while the tub filled up.

Finally, I slid into this frothy carrot soup

and imagined I was floating in the sea,

bobbing up and down near the shore

with seagulls gliding high above the waves.

But…the tiny bubbles popping near my ears

made it sound like I was bathing

in a giant bowl of Rice Crispies instead.

At least, for once, with the toddler asleep,

no one was trying to steal my cereal!

Our New Book about Pregnancy, Birth, and Beyond

The last time I posted was over a month ago, a photo on Christmas Eve of my precocious four year old waiting in the stairway for Santa…fast asleep! After all the festivities, we’ve been busy getting back into the new homeschool year and working on various projects.

Besides being busy with my seven kids, here are three main reasons I’ve been absent from my blog:

1. I’ve been working really hard on my next poetry book, Velvet Flame, which I hope will come out later this year! 🙂

2. My friend Bonnie Way and I just finished our new e-book on pregnancy, birthing and early baby days, including mama self-care and the need for mom buddies, and it will be on sale in the Ultimate Bundles Women’s Wellness Bundle starting today!!

3. And in case you had any delusions of grandeur about me…the third reason I haven’t posted anything this year is that I lost my iPad under my bed for a month. A whole month. Yup. It had slipped down by the wall and was hiding behind my husband’s guitar case and some ferocious dust bunnies in a conniving attempt to prevent me from blogging….

But back to our new book, Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby! 🙂 There are so many pregnancy books out there, and sometimes reading them can be stressful…so what makes ours different?

Rather than being by a one step-removed professional, it’s written by real moms in the trenches of family life–vets in a way–because between us both we have experienced 13 pregnancies and births. So we have had lots of chances to struggle, make mistakes and learn better ways to manage, and want to share them with you.

These short, easy to read chapters represent the best advice we would honestly share with you if you came over for coffee…what worked for us, what was hard, and what helped, every step of the way. We are sharing the stories of our families with you, and encourage you to be the hero of your own story. Rest in what feels right; Mama knows best, for each baby.

Beginners Guide to Growing Baby is full of practical tips and tricks on surviving nausea, exhaustion and huge emotions, pregnancy-safe cures for colds and flu, how to get enough fibre, how to prevent or minimize tearing at birth, and how to adjust to early days of breastfeeding, including what to do if you get mastitis. Bonnie is also an avid researcher of natural remedies, and as an herbalist’s daughter, I’ve used many of them effectively myself, so we write about quite a few. We have experienced births with doctors, midwives, in the hospital and at home, so you can read about many possibilities. We hope learning about different options will empower you to make informed choices about what works for you and your baby.

May our stories of pregnancy, birthing, and early days of parenthood help give you courage on your journey to motherhood! We want you to know you’re not alone, but part of a huge sisterhood, here not to compare and compete, but to care for each other and cheer each other on.

If you’d like to check out the Women’s Wellness bundle this week (as it is only for sale from Feb. 5th-10th), and see all the e-books on health, diet, exercise, online courses on mama self-care, mental and emotional health, and many other resources it includes, here’s the link: Women’s Wellness Bundle.

 

Insecurity

There is the illusion

that ‘the woman next door’ has everything figured out–

that the insides of her underwear drawer

are as neat as her perfect front lawn–

illusion of insecurity.

There is the nagging feeling

that you should be more like her,

so confident and productive…

It eats you up inside

until your walls crumble and collapse

into emptiness.

Voices of self-doubt echo

in the hollow chamber of your head:

“Are you sure you’re good enough?

Can you really do this?

What gave you that silly idea?”

You’re tempted to crawl under the covers again

but that’s just where the demons are hiding–

alone in your head.

Instead, throw back those blankets and step into the sun,

don’t give up without a fight,

empty rooms are good for being filled with light.

Empty hands are good for holding little hands.

Empty hearts are good for being filled with love.

Empty heads are good for listening.

So, instead of dwelling alone

in the harsh prison of your self-judgement,

reach out,

be open to other people’s stories,

listen to their hopes and cries of pain.

Everyone has their struggle,

and everyone has their blue flame.

Realize you are not alone

in all your broken beauty…

like them you’re just a tiny little human

entrusted by God

with the great task of love.

Merry Christmas at last!

Merry Christmas finally from all of us here at Crazyland! My friend Leah gave me a funny note today that said, “Better late than later!” So while I drink my coffee and ponder whether to say I’m sick of being too tired to blog, or tired of being too sick to blog, I’ll begin.

We finished a busy month of redoing the basement suite just in time to decorate for Christmas. I tried really hard to fight my scatterbrained last-minute ways and do stuff ahead of time, so my tip of the season is this: pre-stuff the stockings a few days ahead and put them in a giant Tupperware tub so no tiny visitors (children move or other) will get into them.

It sure was awesome to not be filling the stockings in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve! Instead, I could just lay them on the kids’ beds (which we do to buy a little time in the morning) and head off to midnight Mass with my husband and the baby, while the kids slept with Grandma and Auntie Karen.

It was beautiful. Our parish florist always does an amazing job, and our choir is phenomenal. All the light and warmth in the darkness of night brings home the beauty of the Christmas message. Happily on the incense didn’t set off the fire alarms–until Christmas-day Mass the next day that is! Needless to say my 3 year old son was in his glory at the back of the church when the firemen came to check it out. He was still wearing his red fireman costume (to avoid a pre-Mass meltdown…plus…it’s red! Super Christmassy!).

Nice costume, buddy! Fist pump!

Best. Christmas. Ever.

But back to midnight Mass. When we got home around 3am (there was a celebration with treats after the Mass) we found out that the kids had already woken up, opened, partially consumed, and played with the contents of their stockings, and had gone back to sleep! Rascals! And they look so innocent…

Christmas Day was lovely. We had James’ mom and sister as well as my brother spending the day with us. “Gezellig” (cozy), as they say in Dutch, and everyone enjoyed spoiling each other a bit. My big surprise was opera tickets for La Boheme from my husband! 🙂 Date night, here we come!

I discovered that it’s really easy to cook a whole chicken in my Instant Pot (just add a cup of water or sauce and your flavourings…we put lemon, herbs, garlic and butter), and we made potatoes, yams with cinnamon and maple syrup, and Brussels sprouts, which apparently contain excellent health benefits, even if you only look at them! 😉 I can’t quite remember where I read that…

All was good until after pumpkin pie, when I totally crashed and fell asleep early. My Christmas duties were complete…so my body figured it was the perfect time to get the stomach flu that night! 😦 No fun. Thank goodness our relatives and James were still home the next day to hold the fort, because I could not move. All I really wanted for Christmas was a nap and a massage, but this was quite the price to pay…watch what you wish for!

As I lay there with a churning stomach, headache and sore muscles, I contemplated the Incarnation…how incredibly generous it was of God to enter our world as a tiny, vulnerable baby, unable to move or protect Himself from suffering. He could have remained aloof in the golden warmth of Heaven, safe from our sufferings, not subject to weakness, but chose instead to enter into our frail human existence to show us His love.

I will never comprehend the depths of His generosity!

Well, that’s about it for now! Normal life sure feels good after you’ve been sick. A breath of cold air when you can stand upright again is a real treat.

God bless you all, and best wishes for a beautiful 2019!!

My (Wonderfully) Clueless Husband

My husband is clueless. He has absolutely no idea how wonderful he is. He works day and night (literally) to support our family, and even though he is exhausted, makes a point of spending time with me…even if it’s just watching a stupid show in the wee hours so we can laugh together. Relationships matter to him. There’s nothing more precious than his family (ok, his books come a close second, but still).

Despite all this he often feels inadequate, because he can’t be the magical dad who is home at 5 pm helping cook dinner and then wrangling all the kids into bed. His work to-do list never ever ends, but without it, I couldn’t be home with the kids. I couldn’t be there for all the first steps and first words, for my five year old’s funny science questions (What if tongues didn’t stop growing?), for the impromptu ballet performances and puppet shows, for the discussions about novels and movies and what life is all about. All these things, my husband primarily has to miss so I can be there for them.

Thank you, honey. It’s crazy hard….your work, my work…but it’s a gift. Our family is a gift. I’m so grateful.

Right now, on the midst of all this business, you’ve taken a week off so I can have a break. So I can go on workshop to feed my mind and recharge my soul. Because even imperfect moms deserve a break. That means we all do. It’s hard to go away when I feel like there’s a million things I should be doing at home, but with your love and support I’m going. Sailing off to be a kid in school again for a week and study philosophical anthropology–what it is to be human and live a fulfilling life–and honestly, I can’t wait! 😉 As a homeschooling mom, it’s nice to take a turn being the student!

While there’s always so much to do, sometimes the best way to move forward is to step back and let go for a bit. So cheers to that, and thanks, honey for being amazing.

Love your Cake Maternity pjs and wear them, too! Or why busy moms deserve pretty pjs…

Today my new nursing chemise arrived from Cake Maternity. I was so excited to try it but I thought I’d wait for a special occasion and put on my regular bedtime attire…and old t-shirt and plaid pyjama pants.

This outfit lasted less than an hour as Miss Baby decided to decorate it with a rather generous helping of milk. This may not have been been the special occasion I was hoping for, being far too frequent to be deemed special in any way, but it was reason enough to change, so I decided to try my new nightie on.

I carefully snipped the Cake Maternity label off and put in on my bathroom shelf. I liked the motto: Love The Body You’re In. It was symbolic for me as a mom…love the body you’re in now, as it is, with all its changes, and similarly, love the life you’re in, now, as it is…embrace it and appreciate it…this time with tiny people running about and a chubby baby smiling on my hip or snuggling into my neck with her fuzzy peach head.

This also means embracing and appreciating myself. Not waiting for later to wear the smooth, comfortable chemise that had arrived wrapped so prettily in tissue paper as if it was a gift from a friend earlier that day. Saying, today is special enough, because everyone deserves to be treated with gentleness and love every day, even me, a mom…and perhaps, for mothers, who dedicate their lives to making others feel special, it is even more important that we fill our well and do things that make us feel special also...that we love the body that we are in…that we honour it as a place of generous creativity, a place of love and of life.

Yes, this is all a fancy way of saying that we moms deserve pretty pjs! But it’s because they symbolize something much greater…self-respect, feminine dignity, comfort…and the humility to know we are merely human and need to take care of ourselves in order to be able to serve our families.

While I pondered these things the baby began to squawk a bit and needed a snuggle dance to settle down. I discovered that the skirt flits about nicely just above the knees as I rocked the baby to sleep…and feels elegant and cheerful…as opposed to the tired old plaid pj pants which drag on the floor, in great danger of picking up stray Cheerios, dust bunnies or stickers.

With a sweet empire waist and easily adjustable shoulder straps, you can make it fit just right…whether you’re expecting a baby or already nursing one. And what makes this a nursing chemise is the fact that the straps have little hooks that open, just like a nursing bra, so you can nurse properly without having to stretch your pajamas out of shape…the sad fate of other non-nursing nighties.

The sporty back gives it a nice “I can do this!” feeling, which helps for night wakings or those endurance “please, go to sleep, baby” dances. Also, the straps can’t slide off your shoulders, so you never need extra hands to pull them back up, risking waking baby in the process.

It so helps that I could order the chemise online, rather than trying to buy clothes with my 7 kids in tow. Last time I bought pjs it was after about 2 hours of chasing kids through Value Village and another hour of waiting while they tried stuff on in the limited change rooms (my four eldest are girls!).

When it was “my turn” to find pajamas I just grabbed the first thing I thought could work and hurried to the cash, with my overflowing cart and procession of tired hungry kids. What I grabbed off the reject rack were soft orange and white striped capris joggers…or as the kids call them, my pirate pants. I usually wear them to bed with my black t-shirt that says, “Sarcasm loading…please wait.”

Charming right? So given that my options are looking like a sarcastic, washed up pirate or a sweet, elegant mother, I’m so glad to have my new chemise from Cake Maternity! Bed is my favourite place at the end of a long day–may as well dress up for it! 🙂

This lovely chemise was given to me in exchange for my honest review of it.

Thanks, Cake Maternity!

Can Breastfeeding Help to Prevent Breast Cancer?

I’m honoured to share with you a guest post by Tracey Montford of Cake Maternity. I had heard that breastfeeding could lower your chances of getting breast cancer, but didn’t know why. If you’d like to understand more about the amazing natural power of the female body, read below! 

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, apart from skin cancer.

Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast begin to multiply and form a tumour. If caught in time the chance of surviving breast cancer is much higher. It is imperative that you take the time to regularly check your breasts for any unusual lumps or bumps and that you attend scheduled doctor’s visits to screen for breast cancer.

Who is at risk?

Some studies have suggested that an unhealthy lifestyle; a diet high in processed and fatty foods, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs and stress are the leading causes of cancer.

On the other hand, some men and women are more genetically pre-disposed to developing breast cancer and will be aware of their Mother’s, Aunt’s, or Grandmother’s battles.

Does breastfeeding reduce my risk of getting Breast Cancer?

Thousands of women in recent years have participated in numerous studies conducted to investigate breast cancer and its cause. Each study reached the same conclusion. Breastfeeding does lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

Why does breastfeeding lower my risk of getting Breast Cancer?

It is thought that because lactating women have fewer menstrual cycles, they are less exposed to estrogen.  This hormone has been linked to the growth of some forms of breast cancer in cells.

Breastfeeding can make breast cells more resistant to mutations. It is during pregnancy and breastfeeding that your body sheds breast tissue.  The process of shedding can help to remove damaged cells with DNA prone to breast cancer.  This process can help to lower your risk of developing it.

Generally speaking, breastfeeding women tend to be more conscious about the food we eat.  Eating a well-balanced nutritious diet will help to ensure that a woman produces enough nutritious milk for her child. A healthy diet will also help to maintain a healthy weight, which is important as obesity has also been linked to cancer. It has also been said that breastfed children are less likely to become obese. Breastfeeding helps to reduce their chance of developing cancer, too.

Some studies suggest that women who take part in regular vigorous exercise lessen their chances of developing breast cancer.

Breastfeeding mothers are also less likely to consume alcohol, smoke or take drugs. Alcohol, smoking and taking recreational drugs can cause damage to the body and lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. An unhealthy body can be prone to developing cancer.

Breastfeeding

Whilst breastfeeding may take some time to get used to and the journey is difficult for some, it is always advised to push through the initial struggles. Breastfeed as long as your baby wants you to, or as long as you feel physically able to.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful gift that nature has provided us with to nourish our children.  Not only does breastfeeding provide our children with the best start in life, it also helps to protect our bodies.

For more information and a more in-depth read into the studies undertaken, click the links below:

The Lancet 2002

International Medicine Archives of 2009

Journal of National Cancer Institute

Like many women out there, Tracey Montford is an exceptional multi-tasker! Apart from steering a global business, managing 2 young boys & keeping the clan clean and fed, Tracey still finds time to provide creative inspiration and direction to the exceptional designs of Cake Maternity. From the branding, presentation and delivery, creativity is a big part of what Tracey does so naturally and effectively. Find out more at https:/ca.cakematernity.com or catch up with her on social @cakematernity