Recapping Morning Time (2021-2022)

We officially called wraps on the 2021-2022 school year in the middle of June – we’ll be back at it next week, Lord willing. But even once we were officially “done”, we continued morning time – it’s something of an anchor for our days.

For us, morning time has been a matter of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I started doing morning time as soon as I finished breakfast but while the kids were still dawdling over it sometime in the 2019-2020 school year and it has continued to work well for us.

Morning Worship

We start morning time with the Scriptures. I open with “Let’s hear what God’s Word says” and then read a passage, closing with “This is the Word of the LORD”, to which we all reply “Thanks be to God.” This is our church’s customary formula for Scripture readings and we want our children to be comfortable with the format.

I added Scripture memory to our rotation in January – I had been intending to do so but had a hard time arriving at a perfect system. Finally, I decided that, despite not having a perfect system we were going to just jump in. We practice the children’s current memory verses from Sunday school daily and then practice 2 “back verses” from the preschool repertoire at church and 2 back verses from the ones that go along with Tirzah Mae and Louis’s Sunday school class.

Also in January, we started working on the New City Catechism as a family during our evening worship, so I review a couple of back questions and answers and we listen to and sing along with the song for the current question.

Daniel and I have long agreed that we think memorizing extended passages of Scripture is ideal for retention, understanding, and application, so for our last interval, I added a longer Scripture passage for us to memorize. We practiced Psalm 1 right after our Scripture reading – and there’s little more delightful than hearing Shiloh leading the others in “are like chaff, which the wind drives away.” This seemed to work well and I hope to memorize one short passage per interval in our next school year.

This year, we read the Psalms and Proverbs, memorized Psalm 1, and memorized the first 22 questions of the New City Catechism.

Poetry and Nonsense

Our next section is on the silly side. We start with a nursery rhyme, then read a poem, then a few jokes, and end with some trivia.

We’ve read all of the nursery rhyme collections our library owns, so I’m just cycling through the three I own and enjoy: Kate Greenaway Nursery Rhyme Classics, Tomie DePaola’s Mother Goose,, and The Glorious Mother Goose. We got through all three this year.

For our poetry, I check out a book of poems from the library (Dewey Decimal system 811, Children’s Nonfiction). When we finish, I check out another. If I happen to not have another queued up when we finish one book, I grab a collection we own and read the next poem in that collection until we’ve got another library book to peruse.

Poetry Read:

  • R is for Rhyme: A Poetry Alphabet by Judy Young
  • Lots of Spots by Lois Ehlert
  • You and Me: Poems of Friendship by Sally Mavor
  • Dinosaur Dances by Jane Yolen
  • Animal Fare by Jane Yolen
  • Sleigh Bells and Snowflakes compiled by Linda Bronson
  • The Stable Rat and other Christmas Poems by Julia Cunningham
  • The Glorious Christmas Songbook by Cooper Edens and Benjamin Darling
  • At Christmastime by Valerie Worth
  • Bird Watch by Jane Yolen
  • Water Music by Jane Yolen
  • Dear Mother, Dear Daughter by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple
  • Birds of a Feather by Jane Yolen
  • A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

Reading jokes at morning time began when Daniel was traveling at the end of 2020 and would send the kids voice messages with knock knock jokes. The kids enjoyed them and I realized that puns are a pretty great learning opportunity too (hearing Louis giggle at a joke as he says “It should be ‘joke’ instead of ‘yolk'” is pretty great.) Just like with the poems, I check a book out of the library, we read it, and then I check another out. If I happen to plan poorly and run out of jokes, we just go without.

Joke Books Read:

  • My First Knock-Knock Jokes by Jimmy Niro
  • Bell Buzzers: A Book of Knock-Knock Jokes by Michael Dahl
  • Nutty Neighbors: A Book of Knock-Knock by Michael Dahl
  • Doctor, Doctor: A Book of Doctor Jokes by Michael Dahl
  • Family Funnies: A Book of Family Jokes by Michael Dahl
  • School Buzz: Classy and Funny Jokes about School by Michael Dahl
  • Teacher Says: A Book of Teacher Jokes by Michael Dahl
  • The Classroom Zone: Jokes, Riddles, Tongue Twisters & “Daffynitions” by Gary Chmielewski
  • Let’s Eat in the Funny Zone: Jokes, Riddles, Tongue Twisters & “Daffynitions” by Gary Chmielewski
  • The Medical Zone: Jokes, Riddles, Tongue Twisters & “Daffynitions” by Gary Chmielewski
  • The Science Zone: Jokes, Riddles, Tongue Twisters & “Daffynitions” by Gary Chmielewski
  • Ribbit Riddles by Katy Hall and Lisa Eisenberg
  • ABC Animal Riddles by Susan Joyce
  • Otter Nonsense by Norton Juster

Finally, we enjoy some trivia. I’m not sure when or how we started, but we began reading a “did you know” book at the end of morning time and discovered that we really enjoyed learning random little things. We’ve mostly been writing through the National Geographic Kids series “Little Kids First Big Book of…”

Trivia Read

  • National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Big Book of Why 2 by Jill Esbaum
  • National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Big Book of Why by Amy Shields
  • National Geographic Kids Little Kids First Big Book of Science by Kathleen Weiner Zoehfeld

So What’s Next?

When we start up again, I plan to continue on as we have been with only a couple of adjustments. We’re going to add some extra memory work between our catechism review and nursery rhymes (we practiced my phone number and our address during our last interval and I think we’ll start with the books of the Bible for the next school year.) I also feel like morning time sometimes ends with a whimper when attention starts to wane on our trivia – I’d like to finish off more decisively with a hymn. Then there’s a clear “we’re done” to mark the transition from the table and to chores.

Notes from Lift by Daniel Kuntz

In The Liberal Arts Tradition, Clark and Jain argue that the ancients considered gymnastics and music to be an essential component of early education (perhaps even THE essential components of early education.)

As a mother of many young children and a not-particularly-gymnasticly-oriented person, I have lots of questions. What do the ancients mean by gymnastic? Of what benefit is gymnastic training? How does a gymnastic education fit into the whole idea of a liberal arts education (that is, an education fit for free men)? And, in what manner did the medievals interpret the classical emphasis on gymnastic training?

Cover of Lift by Daniel Kunitz

When I saw Daniel Kunitz’s Lift: Fitness Culture from Naked Greeks and Acrobats to Jazzercise and Ninja Warriors in my local library’s catalog, I hoped it could help in answering these questions.

Alas, it was not to be.

Kunitz seems much more interested in telling the story of his beloved Crossfit and creating an ancient mythology for it than in uncovering a historical understanding of fitness. He mentions that “In Athens, the three great gymnasia – Plato’s Akademy, Aristotle’s Lykeion, and the Cynosarges – were also sites of the era’s three major philosophical traditions, directed by philosopher-athletes” but offers no assistance in understanding the interplay between philosophy and athletics.

For an understanding of the early Christian attitude toward athletics, Kunitz falls even further short, stating without reference that “Christian denigration of the body as inherently sinful… certainly contributed significantly to the deterioration of athletics in the Roman era as well as in the Middle Ages” and leaving the whole Christian conception of the body there.

Kunitz does somewhat better at detailing a history of modern fitness, but his own obsession with Crossfit and the “New Fitness Frontier” clouds his ability to tell a clean story. He derides an emphasis on fitness for the sake of slimming down, but fails to make a good case for why fitness for the sake of looking like Hercules is better. He is dismissive of jogging and other aerobic pursuits as pointless (despite advocates stated desire to either improve cardiovascular health or to attain or maintain healthy weight), but fails to make a compelling case for the endless improvement (always seeking a new personal best) that he considers the ideal.

The optimization of the body is Kunitz’s goal – and perhaps the goal of fellow members of the New Fitness Frontier – but such a goal falls flat to my mind. The body is not an end in itself. It exists for a higher goal – the glory of God. So, for me, fitness is not about achieving my body’s greatest potential but about being fit to accomplish the purposes I know God has for me: fit to serve as my husband’s helpmeet, fit to mother and educate my children, fit to serve within my church and community however God should lead, and so forth.

Which means my search to better understand the meaning and value of “gymnastic education” as conceived by either the ancients or the medievals continues.

The Big Bad Plants: Kansas Invasive Transformers

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have frequently been frustrated by the dearth of good information regarding locally invasive plants. Attempts to find a comprehensive list for Kansas have been met with failure after failure until I found the document entitled “Coefficients of Conservativism for Kansas Vascular Plants (2021).” This has it all – every plant in Kansas, complete with native and non-native species and a ranking of the invasiveness of each non-native species (along with a whole lot more). But it’s not super user-friendly for someone who just wants to know which baddies to avoid – which is why I’ve pulled out just the worst of the non-natives here: the invasive transformers.

Invasive transformers produce offspring far from their parent plants and they also dominate and transform the natural spaces that they invade. They “can change the character, condition, form or nature of ecosystems over a substantial area relative to extent of ecosystem.” (Brian Obermeyer, quoted from here)

These are the biggest, baddest guys on Kansas’s block. If you’ve got them on your property, you should get rid of them posthaste (I tell myself as I sigh – I’ve got my work cut out for me since we have at least five species of these guys on our lot!)

When available, I have linked to the description of the plant on Mike Haddock’s incredibly helpful Kansas Wildflowers and Grasses website. Otherwise, links are to a variety of sites where information on the plant can be found.

Invasive transformer multiflora rose sprawling under our one intact stand of mature American elm

Herbaceous weeds

Latin Name
Common NameNotes
Alliaria petiolatacommon garlic mustard
Carduus nutansmusk-thistleThis is a category C noxious weed in Kansas, which means it is well-established throughout the state and has a control program in place
Centaurea solstitialisyellow star-thistle
Cirsium arvenseCanadian thistleThis is a category B noxious weed in Kansas, which means it is well-established in parts of the state and has a control program in place
Convolvulus arvensisfield bindweedThis is a category C noxious weed in Kansas, which means it is well-established throughout the state and has a control program in place
Dipsacus fullonumfuller’s teaselThis is a county option noxious weed in Elk, Franklin, Greenwood, Linn, and Woodson counties and has a control program in place
Dipsacus laciniatuscut-leaf teaselThis is a county option noxious weed in Elk, Franklin, Linn, and Woodson counties and has a control program in place
Lespedeza cuneatasericea bush-cloverThis is a category C noxious weed in Kansas, which means it is well-established throughout the state.
Lythrum salicariapurple loosestrifeKansas has a quarantine forbidding bringing this species into the state or propogating it within the state
Securigera variacommon crown-vetch

Grassy Weeds

Fields of invasive-transformer smooth brome. We are currently working on eradicating brome from our prairie restoration site.

Latin Name
Common NameNotes
Bothriochloa bladhiiCaucasian bluestemThis is a county option noxious weed in Greenwood county
Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songaricaKeng Turkestan bluestem
Bromus inermissmooth brome
Bromus japonicusJapanese brome
Bromus tectorumdowny brome

Bushes and Trees

Invasive transformer Callery pear in the middle of our prairie restoration site.
Latin NameCommon NameNotes
Elaeagnus angustifoliaRussian olive
Elaeagnus umbellataautumn-olive
Lonicera japonicaJapanese honeysuckleThe Kansas Forestry Service has provided information on controlling Asian bush honeysuckles
Lonicera maackiiAmur honeysuckleThe Kansas Forestry Service has provided information on controlling Asian bush honeysuckles
Lonicera tataricaTartarian honeysuckleThe Kansas Forestry Service has provided information on controlling Asian bush honeysuckles
Pyrus calleryanaBradford pear or Callery pearThe Kansas Forestry Service has information regarding controlling Callery pear; the Dyck Arboretum blog also details the problems with Callery pear
Rhamnus catharticacommon buckthorn
Rosa multifloramultiflora rose
Tamarix parviflorasmall-flower tamariskKansas has a quarantine forbidding bringing this species into the state or propogating it within the state
Tamarix ramosissimasalt-cedarKansas has a quarantine forbidding bringing this species into the state or propogating it within the state
This Russian olive survived the tornado, even as all three sheds around it (and the Siberian Elm and Eastern Red Cedar behind it) were destroyed

Aquatic Plants

Latin NameCommon NameNotes
Hydrilla verticillataRoyle hydrilla
Lythrum salicariapurple loosestrifeKansas has a quarantine forbidding bringing this species into the state or propagating it within the state
Myriophyllum spicatumEurasian water-milfoil

What plants really are invasive in Kansas?

Since moving to Kansas, and especially to Prairie Elms, I’ve become something of a fan-girl of the Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. Their “Prairie Notes” blog has been formative in my growing understanding of the prairie ecosystem and the multifaceted value of “playing nicely” within our native plant communities.

I love that, while they’re focused on native plant communities, the folks over at the Arboretum aren’t native-nazis – they even sell some non-native plants at their twice-yearly plant sale.

I’d like to think I’ve internalized some of their philosophy, planting mostly native plants around my home and making plans for a little prairie restoration towards the back of our lot.

But as I’ve been busy identifying plants on our property, attempting to eradicate the invasives, and plant or support the “goodies”, I’ve grown frustrated at the lack of information and the contradictory information about invasive plants.

Virginia Creeper growing on a fence between us and our neighbor. An aggressive grower? Yes. A weed? Depends on who you talk to. Invasive? It’s a native – we might or might not like it, but this is its home turf (whatever Chace may say.)

Most recently, I borrowed How to Eradicate Invasive Plants by Teri Dunn Chace from the library – and then felt like throwing it against the wall. Chace classifies pretty much anything that spreads on its own as invasive, regardless of its nativity or impact on ecosystems as a whole – so bee balm (Monarda), a native that self-sows and spreads via rhizomes (especially in a cultivated garden environment), is lumped in with Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), an Asian import that is actively transforming the prairie, crowding out numerous native species and offering only substandard nutrition to the birds that are feeding on its berries and dropping them everywhere.

Chace declares this spearmint to be an invasive (it is a ready spreader – which is why I’ve planted it in my tire planter) – but Freeman’s document says spearmint is a casual alien (with very little impact on Kansas’ native ecosystem)

This sent me (yet again) on a quest to find a truly useful tool for evaluating the friendliness or thuggishness of various plants within Kansas. And, this time I finally hit paydirt. (What did I do differently this time as compared to the dozens of times I’ve searched for the same information? I have no idea.)

I found a presentation by Brian Obermeyer (pdf link) of the Kansas Nature Conservancy which stewards the nation’s largest prairie remnant, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Obermeyer describes a four part invasiveness index and references Craig Freeman of the University of Kansas. I followed the Craig Freeman thread and found it – a list of all plant species in Kansas (pdf link) with invasiveness index for each! Jackpot! (I realized after the fact that Freeman is also co-author of one of my favorite plant field guides: Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines in Kansas.)

The invasiveness index (as described by Obermeyer in the above linked presentation) is as follows:

  1. Casual alien
  2. Naturalized non-invasive
  3. Invasive non-transformer
  4. Invasive transformer

Casual Alien

Sweet William is one of a very few non-native perennials I’ve planted here at Prairie Elms. It’s a casual alien within the state.

These are non-natives that grow in Kansas but “do not form self-replacing populations”. Examples include Kansas’s field crops of wheat (Triticum aestivum), soybeans (Fabaceae Glycine) and cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). These exist in Kansas because of man’s continued inputs. Planting these will not harm Kansas ecosystems (that is, apart from what you might be destroying to cultivate them).

Naturalized Non-invasive

My aunt shared these daffodils with me – they’ve filled in a bit since I took this photo three years ago. Daffodils are naturalized in Kansas.

These consistently sustain a population in Kansas without human cultivation but “typically do not invade semi-natural or natural habitats”. Daughter plants are typically near their parents. Examples include grape hyacinth (Muscari botryoides), Bachelor’s button (Centaurea cyanus), and dwarf bearded iris (Iris pumila) – garden plants that have a tendency to self-sow or spread via vegetative means. Depending on your goals, you may or may not want these in your garden. If you want a monoculture lawn, for example, these may not be your friend. If you want to fill a large space with pretty flowers without spending a lot of money or huge amounts of time, these may be just the ticket. Either way, they are not destroying Kansas’s native ecosystem (whatever Chace may say).

Invasive Non-Transformer

Flower bed enemy number 1 at Prairie Elms, the invasive non-transformer Bermudagrass. I think Bermudagrass is what God spoke of in Genesis 3:18 when he said “[the ground] will produce thorns and thistles for you.” (ESV)

Now we’re starting to get to what the US government is talking about when they use the term “invasive” – these plants are “invading” semi-natural and natural areas and disrupting them. They “produce offspring, often in large numbers, at large distances from site(s) of introduction”. Because they spread at a large distance from where they are initially planted, the choice to plant these has impacts beyond one’s own yard and that of his next door neighbors. These are plants like common periwinkle (Vinca minor), dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis), bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon var. dactylon), and Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila). In the interest of preserving Kansas’s native ecosystem, I don’t want to be planting these. (Side note: of the dozen or so trees that we lost in the recent tornado, most were the Siberian elms for which Prairie Elms was named. Thankfully, our recently planted American elm escaped damage, as did the small stand of American elms toward the middle of our property.)

Invasive Transformers

Amur honeysuckle, center midground, is the big baddie (invasive transformer) that worries me most at present. That wasn’t there four years ago when our power company cleaned up the space under our power line.

These are the big, bad boys. Like the invasive non-transformers, they are producing offspring far from their parent plants – but they’re also dominating and transforming the natural spaces that they are invading. They “can change the character, condition, form or nature of ecosystems over a substantial area relative to extent of ecosystem.” These include Bradford/Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana), smooth brome (Bromus inermis), Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), and Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). The responsible Kansas gardener will not only not plant these, but will work to eradicate them from their land posthaste. (We have all four of the above named species here at Prairie Elms and have only just begun the fight.)

For my own purposes (prioritizing the removal of the most harmful non-native species and ensuring that I’m not planting species that are invasive in my area), I am preparing a list of all of Kansas’s invasive transformers and non-tranformer invasives along with links to their identification.

I will link those here once I have them complete.

It was here. We were there.

Frank and I were sitting on the couch in front of our picture window.

The house started whistling, my ears were a-popping, and then I heard what seemed to be the whole neighborhood’s trees coming down. The tree directly behind us snapped off about 15 feet up, dropping the crown ten or so feet short of where we were sitting.

Maybe 15 seconds later, the power went out and the emergency alerts came on.

A tornado had been sighted.

We grabbed the kids and took cover, waiting until the warning was over, watching our phones all along for news.

The more I read, the more it seemed like we must have been awfully close to where that tornado first touched down.

We got the kids settled back into bed, went into our unfinished second floor to try to mitigate the damage to the rest of the house from a couple sheets of sheathing and a whole lotta shingles gone from the roof.

We finally were ready to inspect the damage to the rest of property around midnight. The sheds behind our house were obliterated (don’t worry – we are glad to see them go – they were leftovers from the hoarder who owned the place before us.) I started thinking maybe our property was actually in the path of the tornado.

I kept checking the news, hoping to see info on the exact path of the tornado, but no one was reporting.

This morning, my next door neighbor confirmed. When I thought the whole neighborhood’s trees were coming down? She was watching a tornado touch down on my back sheds.

So, you know, I was just feeding my baby while a tornado touched down 50 feet away.

Is not God gracious?

The tornado was here. We were right there.

We are alive and well and slept (well, some of the kids slept) in our own beds.

In 15 Years

At the beginning of the summer of 2006, 15 years ago, I returned every single book I had checked out from my local library. I packed my bags, and with them just one book: my Bible. I was heading to Jacksonville Florida for a Summer Training Program with the Navigators and had purposed that I would be, for that summer, a woman of one book.

My summer in Jacksonville was a fruitful time, life-changing in fact. God used the focused time in his word to cut through some key misunderstandings I had about the gospel and my standing before God. I wouldn’t trade that summer for anything.

But I did miss my library.

I returned home and went under the knife, getting a long-awaited septoplasty to help me breathe better. But that septoplasty left me recovering from surgery with NO LIBRARY BOOKS!

My library shelf (not all books shown - dozens more on my nightstand!)
My library shelf (not all books shown – dozens more on my nightstand!)

I hatched perhaps the craziest, most ambitious plan of my life – I would attempt to read every book in my local library. (Okay, I’m just realizing that maybe the craziest, most ambitious plan of my life has been to keep having children after all we’ve been through…I’ll have to think about which is crazier :-P)

I embarked 15 years ago, on September 5, 2006.

Reading Since September 5, 2006 (15 years)

CategoryItems in 2020-2021Total ItemsNotes
Juvenile Picture Books3722880My goal for 2021 has been to read at least one picture book a day – and I’ve been cruising right along. So far, I’ve closed out picture books author last name AA-EL and X (totally cheating because my library of record only has one picture book with an author last name X!)
Juvenile Board Books0558I closed these out in 2018 and, with pandemic going on, have chosen to only read our personal collection rather than borrowing board books from the library this past year. I *did* review my logs of board books read in the past to request favorites to be added to our collection as Christmas presents to Shiloh.
Juvenile First Readers47127I purposed to read one of these a week with Tirzah Mae during 2021, but have been disappointed to find that I’ve not been able to find decodable readers – everything is leveled readers, which don’t follow the best science for teahing reading but instead encourage kids to guess vs. decoding words. I’m still reading by myself but I’ve found precious little the Tirzah Mae can read to me as of yet (she’s getting close though – once we get to r controlled vowels soon her decoding ability will explode.)
Juvenile Fiction42452Between whole-family read-alouds during morning time, individual read-alouds with each of the three older children during their “special times”, and a bit of independent reading of my own, juvenile fiction reading has really picked up this year.
Juvenile Nonfiction54522I think we peaked on these pre-pandemic when the kids adored picking out their own nonfiction when we went into the library in person. My guess is we’ll increase again over time as we start doing more science and history work with our homeschool.
Teen Fiction1264One of my 2021 goals was to read a teen fiction book each month – Daniel found Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books and we’ve both been enjoying those this year.
Teen Nonfiction05This is barely a category at the library, but it does have a few titles.
Adult Fiction8511My 2021 goal is one a month – and I’ve been keeping up (barely), which means I didn’t read any in the last quarter of 2020 :-)
Adult Nonfiction531084I don’t need a goal to keep my nonfiction reading up – this is the kind of reading I find easy to do in the 10-15 minute segments I have available (generally while exercising, using the restroom, or winding down before bed.)
Audio CDs4652243This really inflates my numbers – I listen to one to two albums per day, one album from each Library of Congress classification before looping back around to the beginning. In this way, we listen to a broad variety of music throughout the course of a week or month.
Juvenile DVD1280We’ve been enjoying watching the “Signing Time” videos, slowly (very slowly) building up our vocabulary in American Sign Language
Adult Fiction DVDs9128Daniel and I are watching (sometimes rewatching) the Marvel movies in chronological order – and, of course, we’re borrowing the DVDs or BluRay from the library to complete our watching
Adult Nonfiction DVDs1892SO. Many. Dinosaur. Documentaries.
Periodicals12143I’m reading “Women’s Health” this year – and I continue to hold to my opinion that all popular health media is a bunch of hot air carrying a thin veneer of science.
3.0 items/ day1.2 items/ day

I only have annual data for 2010 and then 2016 through now, but it’s interesting to see trends in my reading makeup over the course of the years. I have reason to believe that 2010 was actually an outlier as far as picture book intake – I believe I was trying in a concentrated way to make my way through the picture book collection at my library that year in a way I didn’t do before or after until I had children. Of the more recent data, you can see that my “grown up” reading tanked in 2018, the same year my children’s book reading really took off and I started getting serious about listening to CDs from the library. Is it a coincidence that this was the year that I had a three year old, a one year old, and was expecting baby #3? I’m guessing not :-)

When I look at the non-media, non-picture book reading I’ve done on an annual basis, I’m a little surprised at the variability of the past four years. Though if I think of it…

…2018 I hit board books hard, trying to finish the category (I didn’t succeed until just a bit into 2019)

…2019 we were at the library in person on a weekly basis and the kids were picking up dozens of nonfiction picture books every chance they could get

…2020 was pandemic and I had to read on a device or nothing for months while the library was closed (Ugh.)

…2021 has been my year to focus on “balancing” my consumption between library categories. Each day, I’ve tried to read one picture book and listen to one CD. Each week, I’ve tried to read one early reader, one juvenile nonfiction book, and one juvenile fiction book. Each month, I’ve tried to read one adult fiction and one teen fiction, watch one children’s DVD and one adult fiction and nonfiction DVD, and read one magazine. Nonfiction I read at will, which is lots :-)

So there we have it. 15 years of reading, right there.

My Breech Boys

Each time we did a biophysical profile and the ultrasound tech let me know that baby was head down, I marveled a little internally that this time it didn’t matter.

Having a head-down baby really mattered when I was aiming for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans). But presentation means next to nothing when you’re planning a pre-labor cesarean due to complete placenta previa.

Brand new baby Frank

But then my blood pressure rose to severe ranges and I headed to the hospital.

Hospital staff were getting everything prepped for our c-section when they rolled in the ultrasound to take one last look at the placenta. It’d been three weeks since we’d looked at it directly – it hadn’t moved in the dozen weeks before that and we felt sure it wasn’t going to. What’s more, a regular ultrasound a couple weeks before had the ultrasound tech cautiously feeling out whether I knew the placenta was not going to let me VBAC this time. The previa was a done deal. It wasn’t moving. But it’d still be good to take a good look before we head to surgery.

But the tech couldn’t find the placenta on transvaginal ultrasound. It wasn’t over my cervix anymore. A regular abdominal ultrasound showed the placenta four centimeters behind my cervix. No previa.

And baby was head down, which suddenly mattered again. I no longer had an absolute contraindication for vaginal delivery! I was free to “TOLAC” again (trial of labor after cesarean).

So we started an induction. After an hour or two (maybe?), my blood pressure wasn’t coming down with IV labetalol so we decided to start an epidural sooner rather than later in hopes that it would bring my blood pressure down (I had already planned to get an epidural this time around since it would be an induced labor, which generally means more pain, and because I wanted the “insurance” of an epidural in place in case we needed to rapidly transition to a cesarean.) So we got the epidural in.

“Woo-ooo,” I let the anesthesiologist know that I was feeling woozy. The blood pressure cuff that had been inflating and deflating on my arm since admission confirmed that my blood pressure had dropped, quite low. The staff laid me down; they pushed fluids through my IV ports; they gave me medicine. I stabilized.

They rearranged the belly monitors, trying to get baby’s heart rate back on the monitor – but they couldn’t find it. Quick, bring in a ultrasound – oh, that explains it. Heart’s beating just fine, but baby is breech now. “What’s his presenting part?” I asked. “Foot” was the response.

A footling breech. Not even my doc, who does deliver breech babies vaginally under some circumstances, would deliver a footling breech vaginally.

For the second time that day, we began preparations for a c-section.

In the half hour it took my doctor to get from his west side office (of course this all had to happen when he wasn’t just across the street like he is at the beginning of the week!) back to the hospital to perform the c-section, Frank had flipped again, this time to transverse (lying across my belly rather than up and down).

Meeting Baby Frank

And so Frank was born, via a plan D c-section for breech positioning. He broke a collarbone on the way out (gotta be careful with those gymnastics!) but it hasn’t seemed to have bothered him.

I can’t help thinking of the parallels and perpendicularities between Louis’s birth and Frank’s.

With both, I developed preeclampsia which subsequently developed severe features which necessitated delivery. With Louis, I was determined to do anything possible to avoid a repeat c-section – with Frank I had come to peace with the reality that vaginal delivery was completely out of the question. When our “last ditch” ultrasound showed Louis still transverse, we called in the specialist and did a version. Our “last ditch” ultrasound with Frank started us off on a surprise TOLAC. But Louis bobbed quickly head down and back up to transverse on his version and Frank flipped footling and transverse just because.

Frank at one week

And both my breech boys were born via c-section, with stories specially written by a gracious God.

The newest model

Frank Orval Pierce Garcia joined the outside world on Thursday August 26.

His birth blew all our expectations out of the water – beginning with the surprise discovery that the placenta was no longer over my cervix (as we prepared to head to OR when my preeclampsia developed severe features) and continuing on through a surprise rotation to breech (as we started an epidural for the surprise vaginal delivery attempt).

Frank was born at 36 weeks exactly, weighed 5 lbs on the dot, and has not needed a NICU stay. Thus far, my c-section and preeclampsia recovery has been uncomplicated. We both expect to return home tomorrow.

God has been gracious to us again and again and again – and we praise him for this newest evidence of grace.

Will you do it for us?

Last year, recognizing that while we were at low risk for death or serious illness from COVID-19 you might not be, our family masked up, socially distanced, and got our vaccines.

My children have masked every time they’ve been in public since the CDC started recommending it (which means Daniel and I have also masked whenever our children have been in public, even during the brief period that CDC dropped the recommendation for masking for vaccinated individuals). My children missed a year of Sunday school (their primary interaction with other children) so their mother could continue to teach Sunday school without putting others at risk.

We did this not because we are particularly vulnerable to COVID but because the grandparents of my Sunday school students, the person who stands behind me at the grocery store, and the fellow taking my money at the McDonald’s drive-through might be.

This year, though, as Delta ramps up, filling our local hospitals once again and as lowered mitigation practices have started “respiratory season” months early (really months late since we basically skipped it last fall and winter), I feel particularly vulnerable.

Because this year, my family is at risk.

While preeclampsia is the immediate concern for me and baby, preeclampsia isn’t the only thing going on. I have complete placenta previa, which means that baby’s placenta completely covers my cervix. If my cervix starts to dilate and the placenta begins to detach early, baby could die. I could bleed out. It’s not a pretty possibility. This is why we’ll be delivering early, via c-section, no matter what happens with the preeclampsia.

But even if there’s no cervical dilation, no placental detatchment prior to our c-section, we’re not out of the woods yet. We are grateful that ultrasounds show no evidence of accreta – abnormal embedding of the placenta into my uterus. But even without any ultrasound evidence, there is still a significant risk, given my history of two prior sections and the presence of complete previa, that the placenta won’t detach cleanly and I’ll need an emergency hysterectomy and lots of transfused blood.

This year, given placenta previa and the risk of accreta, it matters to my family that our hospital is adequately staffed and equipped to handle desperate situations. We might well be that desperate situation.

But say God graciously grants us reprieve from early labor, from accreta, from hemorrhage. We’re still having a preemie. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. This baby will be born before term. We’re going to try to get as close to term as safely possible, but “safely possible” is no later than 37 weeks, 5 days.

And, as we know from past experience, preemies are particularly susceptible to respiratory viruses. In fact, we were strongly encouraged to distance our preemies by keeping them away from all crowds (including grocery stores and church) and all other children until they were a year of age because of their risk for rehospitalization if infected by RSV (the “respiratory season” currently going on that we skipped last year is largely RSV).

But our baby won’t be able to stay away from all other children – he’s blessed with four big siblings. Instead, our children will likely have to spend a second year in a row isolated from other people – last year, to protect those others, this year to protect their baby brother or sister.

And should baby end up getting sick and ending up back in the hospital? It matters to our family that the hospital be adequately staffed and equipped to handle that situation.

Which means that this year, it matters to us personally that we as a society get COVID under control.

Maybe it doesn’t matter to you personally. You consider the risk to yourself to be fairly low. But if you get COVID and spread it and community levels stay high, my children face another year of isolation. If you get it and spread it and our hospitals stay full, I and our new baby may be unable to get the care we might need.

So please, even if you won’t do it for you, will you do it for us? Will you consider laying down some of your rights to help us? Get vaccinated if you haven’t already been. Wear a mask when you’re around other people, especially if you’re unvaccinated or your community has high levels of transmission. Choose not to go out at all if you’re sick.

Will you do it for us?