The Bold Heart by Josephine Phelan (Great Stories of Canada #10)

One of the challenges of using Ambleside Online is that the curriculum is made for American students. Because of that, I’ve spent the last six months or so thinking a lot about how to include living books on Canadian history into our homeschool. Personally, I found Canadian history dreadfully boring back when I was in high school! Our teacher would go through a chapter of an uninspiring textbook, we’d fill in a worksheet, and another day of ‘learning’ was checked off. Yeah, that is NOT what Charlotte Mason had in mind for history!

While searching about for engaging, well-written accounts of Canada’s story, I came across the Great Stories of Canada series . . . and so far (I’ve read two of the thirty-three titles), they live up to their name! I thought I’d include a few book reviews on my blog in case other Charlotte Mason homeschoolers are looking for excellent historical literature to read with their children. The book review template I’m using comes from the blog of another AO homeschooling mom, Nelleke Plouffe,  I’ve found her blog invaluable when it comes to hunting down good Canadian resources!

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Title: The Bold Heart: The Story of Father Lacombe by Josephine Phelan
Great Stories of Canada #10
Macmillan, 1956
Availability: Out of print, but available used online via Book Finder

Time Period: 1850 – 1900 AD
Setting: Western Canada, particularly the Alberta region
Grade Level:
probably Year 4 or Year 5 + 
Heartily recommended! 
Rating: ★★★★★

bold heart

1. What is the story about?
The Bold Heart is a biography of Father Albert Lacombe (1827-1916), a French-Canadian Catholic missionary priest in western Canada. The book begins in 1853 with Father Lacombe moving from the Red River to the North West Territory (modern day Alberta), and the first half of the book chronicles his various interactions with the Cree and Blackfoot tribes. In the second half of the book, Father Lacombe is given many other assignments – chaplain to a railway building crew, partaking in treaty negotiations, traveling to Europe on behalf of a bishop, setting up schools, fundraising, working as a parish priest in small towns, and so forth.

2. Is it written by a single author with a passion for his/her subject?
Yes! The Bold Heart was written by Josephine Phelan, a woman whose first love is history. It shows in her writing. Father Lacombe’s life was varied, rugged, and interesting, and her biography does it justice.

3. Does it have ideas, not just facts?
Yes. I found this book fascinating; there were so many different ideas to ponder, especially with regards to the First Nations people of Canada! First, a caveat. The book does use outdated language (for example, referring to the Metis people as ‘half-breeds’, First Nations people as ‘Indians’ and First Nations women as ‘squaws’), and, seeing as it’s a book about Father Lacombe, tells the story from the point of view of the settlers of Canada.

Some of the thought-provoking ideas brought up by The Bold Heart include:
– What a good missionary looks like.
Father Lacombe worked hard to learn the language of the Cree and Blackfoot, shared the gospel, nursed the sick during epidemics, and was unfailingly generous. “Everything that came into his possession was either loaned or given away. Even the clothes he didn’t happen to be wearing were at the disposal of any poor traveller who arrived cold or wet at his mission house. His pass on the Canadian Pacific Railway was no exception to this rule. He loaned it more freely to others than he used it himself and his right to do so was never questioned.”
– How the sale of Rupert’s Land to the government of Canada meant an end to the First Nation peoples’ way of life.
The settlers poured in after the sale, just as they had done in the USA. I felt such sympathy for the First Nations who were losing their way of life, and couldn’t do anything about it! The book also talks about how around the year 1880 the buffalo just disappeared, and how the tribes would talk hopefully about when the buffalo would return. I think we can all sympathize (to a lesser degree, most of the time) with that hunger for the way things were.
– The Hunting Life vs. The Agricultural Life
There were two sections of the book that particularly memorable. One described a long winter journey Father Lacombe made with a small group of starving First Nations people. This group had suffered poor hunting all autumn, and were now without ammunition and hope. Father Lacombe and the small group traveled for nine days with only a rotten, diseased buffalo carcass to eat.
The second section described the First Nations people adjusting to post-treaty life on the reservation.  “The Indians were uneasy and unhappy in their new life. They didn’t like the white man’s food. It was neither as good nor as plentiful as they had expected. They didn’t understand or like farming, although the idea was slowly getting through to them that that was part of the bargain they had made. They were to learn to be farmers and grow their food. Even the young boys found this humiliating. When an old warrior passed they would drop their hoes and stand with empty hands, ashamed to be seen at this unmanly work.” That last line about young boys dropping their hoes, ashamed, is a picture I can’t forget.
– How the Canadian Pacific Railway changed Canada.
Father Lacombe worked as a chaplain on the railway for two years, and Josephine Phelan painted a vivid picture of the railway workers’ culture of swearing and rough edges.
–  The complexity of understanding a different culture.
One thing that stood out was how Father Lacombe called himself an Indian. He loved, loved, loved being among the First Nations people. He loved their simple way of life and learned their languages, and the Blackfoot in return befriended and respected him and named him, Arsous Kitsi Rapi, the man of good heart. At one point, when he’d been appointed parish priest in Winnipeg, Father Lacombe wrote, “I continue to do penance by remaining in the midst of modern civilization. More than ever I long for the Indian missions.” But he didn’t totally understand the First Nations people. He kept trying to teach them farming when they were committed to their hunter-gatherer lifestyle. He also built boarding schools to which the Blackfoot refused to send their children.

4. Is it well-written?
Yes, it is engaging and well written. Here’s an example of a description of Father Lacombe during his travels to Europe: “The French Oblates were full of curiosity about the Canadian missionary. They found him not quite as they had expected. It is true he had the piercing eagle eye, the forthright manner of the plainsman. But his silvery white hair, his kind and lively face suggested a personality distinguished and fine, not at all the stern disposition they had expected in a man whom Indian chiefs called brother. But his speech! Who in France had ever heard such speech? To his native Quebecois accent he had added the racy, picturesque phrases of the trappers and voyageurs. The French found him enchanting, but drole, n’est-ce pas?”

Josephine Phelan also occasionally quotes delightful snippets from Father Lacombe’s journal: “Notwithstanding all the beautiful things which I have seen in this France and England, I have looked on sights as fine in the beautiful valley of the Saskatchewan… I am writing you today from a nobleman’s palace but it is not as precious as my poetic tent in the wilderness, where I wrote on my knees my sermons in Cree and Blackfoot.”

5. Is it inspiring?
Absolutely. Father Lacombe lived a busy, dynamic life! (See above.)

6. For what age group would this book be a good fit?
This is a tricky question for me, as my children are 7 years old and under. I would guess this would work well for students in Year 4 or Year 5 and above.

7. What noteworthy historical events occur during the story?
– the sale of Rupert’s Land to the Canadian government, and subsequent settling of the West
– treaties made between First Nations tribes and the Canadian government
– the Riel Rebellion
– the building of the Canadian Pacific railway



Summer Days

Hello there! Summer seems to be wrapping up, doesn’t it? The weather has cooled down here (yay!), the smoky skies have cleared (also yay!), and it seems like autumnal days are just around the corner.

We started school about five weeks ago, but then spent a few days at my parents’ place while they were on holidays. It was very, very smoky. And rainy! Our kids are such BC children – they just adore the rain!


Then we spent ten days at the River House, one of my favourite places to be. The Chilliwack River runs by the back yard and it is LOUD, freezing cold, and gorgeous. To the south and the east majestic mountains rise. Waking up to this view just never gets old!







My sisters came by one day, Kristi in the morning, Renae and Tanya in the afternoon. What a delight to catch up and enjoy the surroundings together!


We hopped over to Chilliwack Lake one morning and enjoyed the sandy beach and lovely views.




Jeremy took James on an overnight salmon fishing trip with his cousins. James gave it two extremely enthusiastic thumbs up.




When we returned home, the children found the feather of a northern flicker in our yard. I guess it has taken a liking to our maple tree, because it’s been leaving quite a few feathers around it lately!


This week we’ve been getting back into the swing of things school-wise. Leo’s been going through a growth spurt, I think, and is waking up 3-4 times a night again – hopefully that ends soon and we can both be a little less bleary-eyed!

Today we popped over to a nearby lake where Renae and Jon and their children are camping. A few hours of digging in the sand = happy children all around!

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We were just reading about castles in A Child’s History of the World today, so James pointed out the keep, the serf’s houses and the moat. 🙂

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And a few photos from around our home…

Getting some good mileage out that exersaucer these days!

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This little one loves her little brother so.

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And so does this little one. 🙂

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Summer Days

We’ve had an excellent start to our summer so far! Just before Jeremy’s last week of school, we slipped out to North Barriere Lake for a short vacation with his family. It was so beautiful there! We had a little cabin on a bluff overlooking the lake – what a sight to wake up to every morning!



It was a bit cooler than expected, with cloudy days and mist-shrouded mountains. Beautiful!



Our kids had a great time playing with their cousins!


Roasting enormous marshmallows.



Ha! I just had to include this photo of my dear husband smiling for the camera! I was taking a picture of him and he was just looking at me with the faintest crook to his lip. It couldn’t even be called a smile. “Oh come now!” I chided, “Can’t you smile a little bit more?” This picture makes me laugh out loud every time I see it! Why yes, he can! Such verve!


My favourite part of the trip was kayaking on the lake one evening. The water was so calm, the light of the day was fading, and the mountains looked simply splendid. Along the shores little campfires were burning and everything looked so homey and beautiful.


Family photo:


We did get eaten badly by mosquitoes and no-seeums, but we won’t dwell on that little fact.

After Jeremy completed his school year (hurrah!), we packed up and skedaddled to the Fraser Valley. We borrowed my mom and dad’s motorhome and went camping at Rolley Lake for a while. (In my opinion, tents and babies just don’t belong in the same sentence.) It’s a beautiful place – there are so many impressive, tall trees in that neck of the woods! We walked around the lake, checked out the (unbearably crowded) beach, walked to some waterfalls . . .



Jeremy is an excellent and efficient camper. He takes care of the fires, the camp stove, the arranging of the gear, etc. Here h’s teaching the kids how to properly start a fire:


James started his own fire! Success! He was VERY pleased.



Leo was quite grumpy during our stay at Barriere, but did much better at Rolley.


Enjoying a visit with Opa and Oma!


After our camping trip, I drove down to Camano Island to visit with a dear friend who was visiting from Australia! Megan is one of the kindest, sincerest and most enthusiastic people I know, and it was delightful to catch up with her.


Leo and I then spent four days at the River House. It was so quiet, so peaceful, so relaxing! While I was there, the kids rambled, explored, and generally had a fabulous time at Grandpa and Grandma’s.

James (and Jeremy) went flying in a Cessna with his Uncle Anthony! It was, in his words, “amazing.”



And now we’re home again, back to regular life . . .

Alice’s birthday . . .



She loved going to the beach!



Oh, just a little bit of lightning off in the distance! 🙂


Leo = not a fan of having his toes dipped in Okanagan Lake!


That’s it for today! Hope your summer is off to a lovely beginning as well! Tot ziens!

Alice’s 3rd Birthday

Our little Alice Genevieve turned three yesterday! She is a sweet, happy little girl who brings so much joy to our lives! Alice and I went to Mass together in the morning and then we went to splash park with some friends. It was roasting hot yesterday (37 degrees), so in the evening we took our dinner to the beach and the kids swam in the lake while a lightning storm flashed on the horizon. It was wonderful!





I did a little birthday interview with Alice today; here it is!

Q: How old are you now, Alice?
A: Three!

Q: What are some things you can do now that you’re three?
A: That… it’s my birthday!
Q: Anything else that you can do?
A: Play in the playroom! Yeah, that’s what I can do.

Q: What did you do for your birthday yesterday?
A: I had some cake, and you read some books for me.
Q: Did you go anywhere special?
A: Yes! To church with you!!
Q: Oh, right. And did we go anywhere else/
A: And to the splash park! It was so fun!

Q: What are some things you did at Grandpa and Grandma’s place last week?
A: Played with the toys! Playing on the tramp, playing in the rain, yep.

Q: What are some things you enjoy doing, Alice?
A. Playing with my Picasso Tiles in the playroom, playing with my balloons, playing with Leo!
Q: Those are fun things. Is there anything else you enjoy doing?
A: Playing with pencils. Playing “Warrior” with the pencils.

Q: What’s your favourite song?
A: “Ik zag twee beren!”
(Alice loves incorporating a bit of Dutch into our days. She calls Leo a little liefje (sweetheart), says “lekker slaapen!” at bedtime, and loves, loves, loves singing this song!)

Q: What’s your favourite book?
A: One of my new books. (Points to The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes which we haven’t read yet!)
Q: What sort of stories do you enjoy hearing about?
A: These ones.

Q: What are some things that you like to do with June and James?
A: Play with them.

Q: What do you and I do together?
A: Play with each other, and go to church with each other.

Q: What are some things that you and dad do together?
A: Play with my Picasso Tiles.

Q: What is your favourite thing to eat, Alice?
A: German pancakes, and this (oatmeal with peaches and plain yogurt)!

Q: What makes you happy?
A: Leo’s little baby noises makes me happy! And I like playing with you in the playroom!

Q: What’s something scary?
A: Dragons!
Q: Oh, dragons are pretty scary! Anything else?
A: Monsters are scary.

Q: What are you really good at?
A: I’m really good at… BREAKFAST!
Q: Oh! What else are you really good at?
A: Making Picasso Tile houses.

Q: What do you want to do when you grow up?
A: Play with dad.
Q: Oh! Anything else you’d like to do?
A: Play with James, and June. And be an adult!

Q: What do you think about before you fall asleep?
A: (Says in a whisper) Be quiet.

Q: What do you love about God?
A: I like seeing him.
Q: Pardon? Where do you see God?
A: Up in the sky.
Q: What else do you like about Jesus?
A: Jesus is my best friend.

Looking Back: Our 2017-2018 Homeschool Year

Our subjects for the past year included: biographies, art, Bible, composers, copywork, foreign language, free reading, geography, handicrafts, history, literature, math, music, natural history, nature study, picture study, poetry, reading, recitation and timeline. We used Ambleside Online as our curriculum, and you can head on over there to read all about Year 1!

Here’s how things went with all those subjects this past year . . .

American/Canadian History Biography: we read a number of delightful biographies this past year. We read D’Aulaire’s Buffalo Bill and Columbus as free reads, and then I scheduled in Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence for our third term. I’ve only just recently figured out what I’m doing, big picture-wise, with Canadian history, and I added this book in before I sorted that out – and it was a flop. Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence is a lengthy picture book with lovely language, quotations from Cartier’s own journals, and compelling illustrations – but half of it sailed over James’s head. I’d recommend it for Year 3 or Year 4 students instead.

Art: We tried some art instruction this past year, but it was crushing to my little perfectionist student, so we left it alone. He enjoys free-hand work (treasure maps, drawing pictures for his aunts’/uncles’/cousins’ birthday cards) but has a really difficult time drawing things he sees or finds in nature.

Bible: we read a Bible story 4-5 times a week. We used the Dore Bible Illustrations book as a guide, and covered many, many OT stories. We also regularly read the Bible after supper as part of our family devotions. This year, we read through Revelation, Maccabees and the gospel of Mark.

Composer: our favourite composer study this year was Handel’s Messiah. We listened to it over Advent using Genie Shaw’s Awaiting the Messiah e-book – I heartily recommend this resource! We listened to our daily selection, and then the kids would ask for their favourite pieces. June loved “For He is Like a Refiner’s Fire” (so passionate!), and James loved “All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray” and “Glory to God.” A few months late, I still caught them singing little snippets. We also listened to some selections by Dvorak in Terms 2 and 3. Maybe I’ll have to get back into listening to classical music at dinner time, because without a set time I find it’s something that easily gets skipped.

Copywork: For copywork, I chose poems or selections of beautiful and/or interesting passages from James’s school readings, and he copied one line a day. While this was never his favourite part of the day, I did see progress in neatness and accuracy over the school year. Hurrah!

Foreign language: we studied French this year. To be honest, I don’t like the sound of the French language and was not very enthusiastic about learning it, and looking back I’m afraid that showed. We started out using the French with Miss Mason book, and did not get far. The audio tracks did not work well for us, and my pronunciation is too poor to repeat the series without guidance. We also tried The ULAT (online video series), but the verb conjugations totally confused James. So we settled for listening to and learning some French songs. We’ll be switching to Dutch next year and I’m very, very excited! My parents are Dutch and I grew up hearing them speak the language to one another, so at least I know how it’s supposed to sound. There aren’t a lot of resources out there, but James will at least be able to practice by chatting with his grandparents via FaceTime!

Free Reading: reading together remains one of our favourite things to do! I really appreciate the AO selection of free reads; we loved each and every one of the books from their list! Over the course of the school year we read:

Peter Pan by JM Barrie
King of the Golden River by John Ruskin
The Red Fairy Book by Arthur Lang
The Grey Fairy Book by Arthur Lang
St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pocahontas by the D’Aulaires
Redwall, Mossflower, and Outcast of Redwall by Brian Jacques
My Book House #6
Buffalo Bill, Columbus, and Pocahontas by the D’Aulaires
And lately we’ve begun reading Greek Myths by the D’Aulaires which is very entertaining. And of course we’ve read many, many picture books as well.

Geography: we read Paddle to the Sea and mapped Paddle’s journey through the Great Lakes. I found James’s narrations of the events in Paddle mediocre, but he seemed to really enjoy thinking about Paddle’s journey as a whole, and the Great Lakes are like familiar faces on maps now. 🙂

Handicrafts: James knit two toques in the first term, and he made a potholder on our potholder loom during our second term. And since Leo was born, we’ve focused more on household chores, like unpacking the dishwasher, emptying the recycling bin, and vacuuming.

History (early history from 55BC – 1066AD): one of my favourite parts of homeschooling this past year was reading the wonderfully descriptive and moving stories of saints in Britain from Our Island Saints. What a beautiful book, and what beautiful, holy men and women! We also read about world history from Our Island Story (chapters 1-21), Fifty Famous Stories Retold (nearly all the stories) and Viking Tales (first half). James narrated these stories well.

Literature: we read many Aesop’s Fables, four plays from Shakespeare (Lamb’s children’s version), several stories from the Blue Fairy Book, and most of Kipling’s Just So Stories. James LOVED Just So Stories! He howled while I read them and gave very dramatic retellings afterwards, and often asked if I could read the stories again. We also read two stories from Parables of Nature, which he also really enjoyed. Excellent narrations.

Math: we got half way through Right Start Level B before switching to Math-U-See. Switching was a good choice for us! Math-U-See really emphasizes place value and it’s been great to see James understand that concept better. On the recommendation of someone on the AO forum, I also purchased an Extreme Dot to Dot book; these books have puzzles with 600-1200 dots. James loves these and will chant the numbers aloud as he connects the dots: “One hundred ninety-eight, one hundred ninety-nine, TWO HUNDRED! Mom, I’m at two hundred already!” These puzzles have helped him develop a stronger number sense, improve his understanding of place value, and have helped him recognize some of the number reversals he was making.

Music Appreciation: we learned a new folksong every month. I really didn’t like how using YouTube videos for our folksongs became a crutch; we didn’t really sing the songs unless we were singing along to the music. We’ll have to figure out a better way to sing the songs independently next year. We also learned several new psalms and hymns. I started a routine where we sing one psalm and one hymn before we eat breakfast, and that worked really well; we rarely missed a day!

Natural History: we read James Herriot’s Treasury, as well as many stories from the Burgess Bird Book. James will sometimes perch on the couch and watch birds from the living room window and narrate their activities to me. He was very ticked off to find robins eating cherries from our cherry tree; “Robins. That’s why they have their name! They’re ROBBing us of our cherries!”

Nature Study: our structured nature study was quite often pushed to the side this past year because I didn’t have a vehicle, and because of all the snow, and because of the newest member of our family being born; but, on the upside, the kids loved seeing what was going on in our new backyard this past spring. They’d dash inside saying, “Mom, the rose bush is blooming! Come see!” or “The first little cherry is on the tree!” James drew some pictures of birds this year that corresponded with our Burgess Bird Book readings. He also drew a few things he found/saw in nature. Mostly he got really, really frustrated with his drawings not matching his expectations.

Picture Study: we studied the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer and the gorgeous paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo. We also read Michelangelo by Diane Stanley. I loved picture study this past year! One of my favourite school activities!

Poetry: we read a poem daily. We read RL Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, Now We Are Six by AA Milne; and many poems from Favourite Poems Old and New edited by Helen Ferris.

Reading Practice: For the first half of the year we used the McGuffey Eclectic Readers (lovely books from the late 1800s that begin with simple stories and increase in complexity) for James’s reading practice. They’re a bit preachy at times, but they’re also wholesome and fairly interesting. This past term James started reading various books from our shelves aloud to me, like The Boxcar Children, Billy and Blaze, and The Adventures of Tim. And just recently he’s become interested in reading for pleasure and I’ll sometimes find him on his bed, perusing a book from his bookshelf. (As an avid reader, I’ve been waiting for this moment!) Books he’s enjoyed so far include easy readers like Owl at Home and Sam the Minuteman, and some more complex books like The Book of Indians by Holling and Trolls by the D’Aulaires.

Recitation: James learned a good number of poems off by heart this year – mostly ones I wasn’t trying to teach him. He especially loves the poetry in Farjeon’s Kings and Queens and Heroes and Heroines, and can be heard waltzing around saying, “Henry was a wild lad, fond of fun and fooling / When he was the Prince of Wales he made a hash of schooling” and then adding little asides about how he is also wild and fond of fun and fooling. Ha! I’m looking forward to reading those poems next year as we dive into British history after the Norman invasion. James also learned several parables by heart and was able to recite them clearly.

Timeline: we made every-other-weekly entries in James’s timeline binder. He did not enjoy the extra copywork, and I did not enjoy the timeline being tucked away in his binder; I’d prefer it to be out in the open where we can see it regularly. Still trying to decide where to put it . . .

Overall, it was a pretty great year! I’m really looking forward to what Year 2 has to offer!

Leo’s Birth Story

I read a wonderful blog post the other day about calling to mind the miracles of your life. I can think of a few just off the top of my head:
– the way we found a rental home in Kelowna three days before we had to move, a home that was spacious, affordable (astonishing!), and next to great neighbours
– Jeremy finding a suitable job posting on the day his novena (nine-day prayer) ended

And the more I think about it, Leo’s birth going as smoothly as it did was a miracle, too. He was born extraordinarily quickly, and without any medical personnel in attendance; a lot of things could have gone wrong – but they didn’t. So I thought I’d share his birth story today, and I hope you’ll thank God with me for the way He protected both our lives!

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Towards the end of my pregnancy with Leo, I kept wondering how the birth would go. That’s the thing about birth; you don’t have much control over how things will go – you mostly just roll with what you’re given!

So questions abounded: would we have moved into our new home already? Would I go nine days overdue like I did with Alice? (Blah! The horror!) Would the baby be born at home, or in the hospital? (I couldn’t quite decide.) Would the labour be short and sweet, or would it drag out? My labour with Alice had been brisk; I’d woken up at 0600 with the first contraction and our little girl entered the world at 0703! I wondered if things would go even faster the fourth time around, or if I should expect a slower labour.

So I read many, many birth stories online to see what other women had experienced, and my extensive ‘research’ showed that one speedy labour does not guarantee you a subsequent speedy labour. A lot of stories went like this: “I had an unexpected home birth last time, so I counted on this birth being speedy, too . . . and instead it dragged on and on!” So, mentally I prepared myself for a) going overdue for the fourth time and b) having a longer labour.

I prayed a fair bit about the birth: that the baby and I would both be safe; that if the baby was born at home, the birth wouldn’t cause a huge mess; and that the baby would arrive after we’d moved.

Now, I have admit that I was not a particularly pleasant person to be around those last few weeks. My back was sore, the baby was sitting low in my pelvis, and restless legs/pregnancy insomnia made falling asleep difficult. One evening when I was feeling particularly cantankerous, I mentioned my irritability to Jeremy as a possible sign of impending labour. He gently pointed out that I’d been just as crabby for the past fortnight. Ha! When moving day came and went, and we finished unpacking most of our belongings, I sighed in relief that the little one had stayed put till then.

My parents popped by for a quick visit shortly after we moved in and fixed up a few things around our new home. My mom repainted a wall full of holes, my dad fixed closet doors that wouldn’t close, and put hooks in the front closet for the kids’ jackets, etc. By that weekend, our home felt cozy, comfortable, and functional, and after they’d gone home, Jeremy said to me, “It’d be awesome if the baby came tonight!”

Just thinking about the baby possibly arriving made me zip about in a tidying frenzy! I moved a bunch of things cluttering up the fireplace mantle, and we made the living room neat. Then I popped out to Home Sense and bought some things we needed like living room curtains and bedside lamps. After bustling about for half an hour put everything in its place, Jeremy convinced me to settle down and watch a movie. I don’t even remember what we watched, I just remember feeling tired and going to bed half way through it.

That night I awoke around 1am having period-like cramps that came every three minutes. They weren’t painful, just uncomfortable enough not to sleep through. So I took some acetaminophen and ibuprofen in the hopes that I’d be able to rest some more. I really wanted to tidy something up, so I went downstairs thinking I’d fold a load of laundry, but Alice stirred when she heard me tiptoeing past her, so I just went back to my room and prayed for a bit, then twiddled my thumbs for a while. I fell back asleep a while later and slept soundly.

Maybe a bit too soundly? June climbed into bed with me at 0615 (bad habit at that time) and I woke up and looked at the time and thought, Oh dear, the cramps must have stopped, and I’m not in labour. And then as she snuggled up beside me, I had a much stronger contraction. It was strong enough that I bolted out of bed, put on my bathrobe, and hurried into our en suite bathroom where I had two more contractions. I felt uncomfortable having June hear me breathe through them, so I went to the main bathroom instead. (“Mom, where are you going?” her little voice inquired as I bustled away.) I breathed through several contractions there while trying to figure out how serious they were… because, first of all, I had slept for nearly 3.5 hours and hadn’t felt anything… and secondly, the contractions were weird in that they put lots of pressure on my bladder. I hadn’t had that before in any of my labours, nor had I ever heard someone in labour mention it. I wasn’t sure what it meant. (In case you’re wondering, it’s what you feel when your posterior baby is rapidly descending.)

At 0630, I went to the kitchen for a drink of orange juice, woke Jeremy up and told him what was going on. He asked sleepily, “Should you page the midwife?” and I replied that I wasn’t sure. It had only been 15 minutes, and I wasn’t sure what was going on with the pressure-on-the-bladder contractions yet. He brought me the cell phone in the bathroom and I tried to page them but the last thing I could focus on was a piece of paper and I misdialed. The kids were up at this time and were curious about what was going on. Jeremy sent them to the basement and they played there happily, only once stealthily climbing the stairs to see if they could figure out what was happening (turkeys!). I hopped into the bathtub (which, if I was going to have a homebirth is where I wanted to deliver the baby, its virtue being that it’s easy to clean) and had one or two contractions there while leaning forward. They weren’t intense, but I thought maybe the pressure on the bladder feeling was from the baby descending, so I asked Jeremy to page the midwives. I grabbed a towel and laid it on the bottom of the bathtub, just in case. He paged them at 0637.

And just then it felt like the baby was coming! I said so to Jeremy, and he said, “Okay” really calmly, and he helped me sit back and whoosh, our little baby just came out all at once! I don’t even think I pushed; he just came out! He cried right away, and Jeremy noticed the cord was wrapped around his neck, so he unwrapped that. I think he must have emerged sunny side up, because he was laying on his back when he was born and I noticed his male gender right away. I was shocked! “What?!!! He’s a boy??!” I’d been so, so certain during my pregnancy that the baby was a girl that I’d only purchased girl clothes! Jeremy laughed in response. “I knew it!” he exclaimed, and picked up our son and gave him to me to hold. We dried him off with the towel together and I looked at our little one, astonished at this dear little BOY in my arms, and nearly as astonished at how quickly he’d entered the world. I asked Jeremy, “Is this a dream? Did this really just happen?!” Our little boy was born at 0638, twenty-three minutes after I woke up, and eight minutes after I woke up Jeremy!

The midwife called back right away and Jeremy explained the baby had already been born. She made sure everything was fine with both of us and said she’d be on her way. I just sat in the bathtub snuggling with our little one for the next while – it was peaceful and wonderful! I had snuck some cord clamps from the hospital while working there, so after about fifteen minutes I used those to clamp Leo’s cord and Jeremy cut it with a pair of kitchen scissors. The kids had been even more curious ever since hearing him cry when we was born, so we covered up the “debris” with some towels and invited them in for a minute to meet Leo. They came in together and looked at him with wide eyes for a few minutes before Jeremy shooed them out again.

When the midwives arrived, they helped me up, the placenta came out, I freshened up a bit, and then nursed Leo in the master bedroom while they, in answer to my prayer of having very little mess, tidied up the bathroom. They did some routine checks on Leo and me (blood pressure, etc.) and left after about two hours. Then Jeremy and I hashed out Leo’s name. We’d decided on our baby names a month or two before Leo was born, but because I was so sure that the baby was a girl (ha!), I hadn’t given the boy name much thought. The name we’d chosen didn’t seem quite right, so we talked about baby names again for a while, reviewed our baby name consultation, and eventually decided to give him the name Leo Ignatius (or, as our kids like to jokingly say, Leo Tenacious). He was named after Pope St. Leo the Great, who defended the early church against heresy, and St. Ignatius, whose writings were influential in Jeremy becoming Catholic.

So that’s it! Leo was born, he got checked over by the midwives, and has been doing great ever since! Praise be to God!


Newborn Leo

June 2018-5

June and Leo (3.5 months old)

Quotable Kids

June, just before Leo was born: “Mom, could you pleeeeeease name the baby Sparkle Flower when it is born? It would please me sooooooo much!”

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June, exasperated: “James, you scoundrel!!”

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When I brought June to bed, I mentioned that Jeremy and I would be FaceTiming with our friends, the Shepherds, in a few minutes.
June, as we’re FaceTiming: “Mom, can I please come say hello to the Wise Men?”

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James: “When I grow up, I think I might want to be a hermit . . . or maybe a police officer.”

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James, just prior to losing his first tooth: “Well, Peter Pan had better come quickly to my window at night, or I’ll be too old to go to Neverland!!!”

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James, after tiptoeing into Leo’s room to fetch something: “I tiptoed so quietly I almost didn’t even know I was there!”

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I zipped up Alice’s coat and gave her a kiss before she went outside.
Alice, seriously: “Mom, it’s a rainstorm. It’s not going to eat me up.”