Daffodils at 2 am

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! 🎉🦸‍♀️🎉

Double birthday: new baby book and new baby born!

COVID Bucket List:

Have a baby ✅

Write a book ✅

Welcome both to the world on the same day ✅

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.

Good job, Mom! You’ve been busy!

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!

Party on, Mom!

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. 😋

36 1/2 Weeks and Counting…

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.

Who knew celery could be so wiggly and active?

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.

The littlest big sister to be, asleep in her nest of stuffies.

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!

Cookies and Milk at 3 am

Of course, after admonishing our kids not to wake up too early for Christmas (they once woke up at midnight to open the stockings on the ends of their beds) it would be me, their mom, who woke up at 2:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. So silly, as the kids and I had worked so hard to prepare ahead, had finished wrapping and had even stuffed the stockings and stowed them in a box days ago, so I wouldn’t have to burn the midnight oil playing Mrs Clause. Yet I woke up. Was it pregnancy heartburn, excitement, or insomnia?

Whatever it was, I decided Santa’s tradition of the post-midnight snack was a good idea and got up to have an angel sugar cookie and a glass of milk. I’d say I had a snack with Santa, but you’d know from Google Santa Tracker that he was already safely back home in the North Pole by this hour.

So while I’m up, I thought I’d take this quiet moment chance to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, despite everything, and a lot of hope for better things to come in 2021. Thank you so much to all our family and friends who supported us from afar this year, as we went through the pandemic, and through the illness and loss of my Dad, Bob, to cancer. Your loving words, encouragement, cards, flowers or food dropped at our door have meant a lot.

Shortly after my Dad passed away, in the morning of November 9th, it began snowing, which is rare on the rainy coast. “Mum, Mum,” said the kids with excitement, “Grandpa is sending us snow from Heaven with Josephine!” It’s amazing how positive and resilient kids can be in the face of loss. Here are a few pictures from our house, where we have tried to find all the joy and sparkle we can this Advent.

May God in his humble nearness at Christmas surround you with blessings and give you the eyes to see them, so the little hidden miracles of each day can shine and bring you hope.

Lots of love from all the Eastlands here at Just East of Crazy Land! Thanks for being here, making me feel less alone as I eat cookies and milk at 3 am, and await the sparkly madness of Christmas morning with 7 kids! ✨🌲✨🎁✨🌲✨

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!

Back-Alley Beauty

In this time

when my heart is breaking

from so much pain in the world

I’ve been choking on silence

not knowing what to say

I felt that it was a time

for only words weighty with wisdom

words of solemn importance

and sorrow

But maybe in this time

when my heart is breaking

from so much pain in the world

it is precisely the time

to celebrate every bit of happiness

the day affords

To rejoice in each little buttercup

and bouquet of back-alley beauty

my children clutch in eager hands

and bring me while I cook dinner

And to wish and pray

with all my strength

many such simple pleasures

and calm moments of sweetness

upon each precious person

who walks the face of this earth

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!

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    Misadventures in Housekeeping, Part 2: Magical Hummus Goes “Poof!”

    Lately, I’ve been trying to be resourceful about using up the food at the back of the cupboard, since our grocery delivery service is so busy they can usually only make it once every two weeks, and we are trying to avoid going out as much as possible. If our pretending we live in our little house in the big woods, and making homemade bread instead of running to get some can, help less people get sick, then we are going to do it.

    So, even though we actually live in a big house in the city, with seven kids instead of three, I’ve been trying to find my inner “Ma Ingalls,” because she could make do with almost no stores and make everything from scratch. With varying results–my attempts that is! The most explosive result, so far, came from making homemade hummus.

    If you know my husband at all, you will know he is a hummus connoisseur. Yes, that’s actually a thing. Having been to Israel, and tasted the real deal, he is pretty hard to impress. Not that he won’t eat store-bought or homemade hummus quite cheerfully, but he will often make reference to the truly amazing hummus he had in the Middle East. Probably it’s partly just nostalgia. Doesn’t everything taste better overseas?

    However, like the rebellious obliger that I am, I felt two things:

    1. A challenge to create a really great hummus at home, so it’s not always just “alright.”

    2. The pressure to make it good enough to compete with holiday memory hummus.

    Kinda silly the whole thing. In any case, all we had was dried chick peas, so I soaked them over night. Then, I followed the instructions for “Magical Hummus” from my husband’s Israeli cookbook step by step. Mostly. Ish. After rinsing off the soaked chickpeas, I was supposed to cook them in a pot with baking soda for 40 minutes or so, until super soft and soupy, all the while skimming off the foam bubbles in the top.

    I don’t have time for that; I’ll just do it in my instant pot.

    Famous last words. Normally, I absolutely love my instant pot. It’s so handy! You can whip up dinner all in one pot in less an half an hour, even if things are frozen, and it comes out tender and delicious. It’s the closest thing to having another woman in the kitchen without polygamy.

    But! I shouldn’t have ignored the instructions about scooping off the foam…and when I flicked open the pressure release valve to let the steam out after cooking the chickpeas for 25 minutes, out came sputtering hot and foul smelling yellow scum!! Aaaagggghhh!!

    I had to throw a towel over the pot to close the pressure valve without getting burned by my hissing, volcanic pot. After wiping chick pea scum off the cupboards and floor, and letting the pressure release naturally, which is what I should have done, I opened the lid to see a mass of bubbly, frothy soupy greyish chick peas, and to smell…. awfulness!!

    Mom, what’s that gross smell?! Eeewww!! Are you making fart soup??

    The house did indeed smell like one giant diaper; the kids weren’t even exaggerating. So I went around laughing like an idiot and opening all the windows and doors and putting the fans on. My poor neighbours!!

    That Eastland family, what are they up to now?

    I thought this attempt at homemakerliness was going to be a total fail, but here’s the suprising part: after I partly drained, then blended the chick peas with lots of tahini, some lemon, garlic, and salt, it turned out great! Except quite a bit too salty…as I was worrying about masking the imagined awful taste…but after I added some water, more lemon and olive oil, it was lovely. And it made a great dressing for homemade falafel, the next day, which surprisingly, turned out just fine, and even satisfied my Middle Eastern loving hubby.

    All’s well that ends well. Sometimes it just really stinks along the way!