Sensory Delights

There was something stinky in the kitchen trash, but kids were already sitting down for breakfast and I wasn’t wearing shoes to take it out, so we opted to diffuse some essential oils to mask the smell.

It being fall (at last!), we decided to try some fall scents – and arrived at a blend that delighted us all day long.

See my diffuser there? I’m no essential oil enthusiast (MLM + uber-questionable health advice = Rebekah’s not a fan) but I’m allergic to a lot of fragrances, so blending my own smells lets me screen out the stuff that gives me sneezes!

I liked it so much, I put it in again today just for the joy of it (no stinky trash needed.)

In case I forget, it was 4 drops cedarwood, 4 drops cinnamon bark, 2 drops cloves, and 10 drops orange.


A Berry Nice Arrangement

It’s been two years now since I last taught the Fall of Mankind (I was having a baby around this time last year so I took a year off teaching 3-year-old Sunday School.)

In the meantime, my berries – used to pantomime forbidden fruit – have gone missing. So I was off to the store yesterday to find something in the floral section. Unlike the last time I went searching (five years ago?), I couldn’t find anything that was almost exclusively berries. All the berries were a part of a bigger arrangement of flowers.

It just so happened, though, that several arrangements were in the basic colorway of our main living space – and so I did a bit of impulse buying.

A couple of minutes snipping and arranging the three sprays of artificially flowers I bought and now I have a pretty arrangement above the china hutch.

My new floral arrangement

And some forbidden fruit. I also have the forbidden fruit I was looking for.


A 5th Wheel and 3rd Time’s a Charm

Shiloh and Frank had eye appointments today. I needed to take all the kids because Daniel had already gone into work late so I could take Tirzah Mae to an orthodontist appointment this morning.

I was SO on top of it. The kids were in the car and we were on the way in time to be there 15 minutes early. I was rocking this.

We went over some train tracks with a jolt. The cement truck behind us started acting weird.

We stopped at a stoplight.

A woman with a construction vest knocked on my window. She was the cement truck driver. “I’m sorry, but you lost your spare tire back there.”

Yep. I took a U-turn and put on my hazards. Grabbed the tire and rolled it to the back of the van. Hefted it in. Turned back around.

About a block off from the eye office, I had a hunch. When I pulled in, I checked my phone. Yep, the reminder text was not from this location.

Good thing I was still ten minutes early despite the tire. The other location was about ten minutes away.

I took another U-turn (since the parking lot wouldn’t let me take a left). I drove down the road I thought the other location was on – and passed where it should be.

I pulled off onto a side road. Checked Google maps. The other location is a mile north – but didn’t the text reminder say this street?

By that time, I was already on my way to location 2. I won’t get the kids out until I know for sure I’m at the right place.

I ran in and the receptionist confirmed – the right location was a mile south and five miles west. He’ll call and let them know I’m on my way.

Got out to find the big kids had been super helpful and unbuckled their younger siblings. We only arrived at the correct location a half hour late.

The eye doctor saw us lickety-split. Both kids see just fine.

We made it home with only planned stops and no U-turns, despite Louis’s fear that I wouldn’t be able to find my way home and would instead route us through England!


Recapping 1st Grade (2021-2022)

Tirzah Mae has now finished up her first official year of school as compulsory education in the State of Kansas begins at age 6 (and she was six as of September 2021.) For the most part, we continued on with what we’d been doing for her kindergarten year, except that now she wasn’t the only student working (which somewhat dampened the cries of “not fair”, albeit not as much as I would have liked.)

As previously mentioned, we do the majority of our “subject work” together as a family, with only the “skill subjects” of reading, writing, and arithmetic done individually.

Phonics and Reading: American Language Series K (part 2)

I learned to read using this program, then called Little Patriots Read. My mom had me do it all in my kindergarten year, but I chose to slow it way down with Tirzah Mae. The ALS-K order of phoneme introduction is single letters (CVC), consonant digraphs and blends, mother E words, r-controlled vowels, vowel digraphs, and then diphthongs. We completed all the short vowel work in kindergarten and did the rest (mother E words on) here in 1st grade. I also opted to do only the phonics and readers without the spelling, writing, and vocabulary workbook.

I spent way too much energy the first semester trying to make sure we were reading the stories that matched the phonics lesson (really using skills that had been taught several days or weeks prior) and asking the provided “comprehension questions.” Midspring, I finally came to my senses and just had her read and narrate whatever stories came next.

Handwriting

I started the year giving some instruction on the placement of letters on three-lined paper (you know, with the dots in the middle) since we’d focused on letter formation without the use of lined paper in kindergarten.

Then it was copywork, copywork, copywork. She copied the autobiography she’d (spontaneously) written in kindergarten (with mama’s edits for legibility.) She copied the ten commandments. She copied some catechism questions and answers. And she copied lots of happy birthday greetings for cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.

Mathematics: Math Mammoth 1

I won an electronic copy of the entire sequence of leveled Math Mammoth worktexts back before I’d started schooling any of the kids. I was impressed by what I saw – a well-organized mastery-approach curriculum that I am able to print for about $25 per year at The Homeschool Printing Company. I had intended to switch to Math Mammoth once the kids finished the Shiller Math kit 1 (somewhere around 3-4th grade), but Tirzah Mae’s “wanna do a workbook” from last year made me bite the bullet and get her started on it this year. I did have her use some of the unit cubes from the Shiller Kit to help her conceptualize things a little better (rearranging is easier with 3D objects vs drawings on a page!) – but found that the 1st Grade workbooks are pretty good at making math concrete.

So What’s Next?

Now that Tirzah Mae has finished all six of her ALS-K readers, she is also the proud owner of her own library card (I remember well when I finally completed Sounds of Joy and could get my own card!)

1st Grade was mostly a continuation of kindergarten for Tirzah Mae – but next year we’ll be using all new curriculum. She’ll be learning cursive with Logic of English’s (LOE) Rhythm of Handwriting, doing phonics/grammar/spelling/vocabulary/etc. using LOE’s Essentials, and doing writing using projects/ideas from Brave Writer’s The Writer’s Jungle. She’ll be reading to me, to her younger siblings, and on her own for reading fluency practice. For math, she’ll be continuing on with Math Mammoth AND doing some Shiller Math kit 1 (because she saw the Shiller stuff at the Great Homeschool Convention and regretted giving it up.) She and Louis will also work together through the Core Knowledge book What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know.


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.


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.


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?