Snapshot: Little Boy Reading

February 9th, 2018

We only found a few of the “My Little House books” to check out of the library for this year’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge – but Louis is loving this one:

Louis reading "County Fair"

County Fair, adapted from Farmer Boy

Heart outside my body

February 5th, 2018

Elizabeth Stone (whoever she is) once said that “making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

Most of the time, when I read this quote on a pretty background while scrolling through Pinterest, I roll my eyes. That is everything that is wrong with parenting these days, I think. Parents are just too absorbed in their children.

And then my baby gets her first cold.

All my children

I remember it with Tirzah Mae, a few weeks after she came home from the hospital. She was snuffling and gasping and we’d been trained into terror of RSV by the NICU staff.

We took her to our doctor, who smiled indulgently at these first time parents freaking out about a simple cold. He described the warning signs of something worse than just a cold and sent us home (thankfully, he didn’t /doesn’t subscribe to the “give a baby antibiotics just to ease troubled parents’ minds” line of thought.)

Even knowing that Tirzah Mae’s cold was just a cold, I still felt with every labored breath that my heart was rattling outside my chest – and that said heart was just about to break.

Somehow, it doesn’t get easier. Beth-Ellen was a term baby. Her objective risk of serious complications of a cold is lower than the other children’s risk was. I’m a more experienced mom and have weathered dozens of colds.

But when Beth-Ellen got a cold this weekend, at just shy of six weeks old, my heart was out there coughing. And when she lost her voice and could only squeak instead of screaming? My heart, oh my heart, squeezed until it’s crushed. And when she started wheezing with every breath in and out? I was sure she was dying – and that I was dying with her.

And just as I’m about to wake my husband and tell him we need to head to the ER (but am worried because, for some reason, it seems like every time we go to the ER, the problem resolves while we’re there and I look like a fool) – anyway, just as I’m about to wake Daniel and head off to the ER, I remember where my heart actually belongs.

My heart doesn’t belong in my children’s chests. It doesn’t even belong in mine. My heart belongs to God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV)

Sure, I’d prayed for Beth-Ellen at our evening devotions, and earlier when she’d come up in my prayer app. But during all this worrying? I hadn’t been entrusting her to the Lord.

I stopped. I confessed my lack of trust. I prayed for healing and for wisdom to know when to have Beth-Ellen seen. I entrusted my daughter to God’s care, entrusted my heart to him.

And the labored wheezing settled, the noisy breathing calmed, the restless sleep eased. My daughter slept in peace.

And I did too, my heart still walking outside my body, but this time walking with the one who holds it – and my daughter – so tenderly.

My heart and my daughter can find rest in God alone.

To paraphrase the Psalmist: Why so troubled, O my heart? Put your trust in God!

Tax Time, Now and Then

February 3rd, 2018

Now that it’s the beginning of February and everyone has gotten us our tax documents, it’s time for the Garcia household to do taxes.

So Louis and Papa sat down this morning to plug the numbers into Turbo Tax.

Louis sits in papa's lap, doing taxes

It got me reminiscing about tax time in my family growing up.

Growing up, Dad did the taxes with a paper form (when did electronic filing and tax software start? He probably started using TurboTax sometime in my teen years).

April 15 meant papers spread across the kitchen table as dad crunched numbers and filled out the form.

Why April 15? Well, no need to give the government your money any sooner than necessary. Let it sit in your own bank account earning you money. (Of course, this logic only applies if you’ll be paying taxes versus getting a refund for taxes already withheld.)

Around 11, it’d be time to slide the completed form into its envelope and carefully affix the stamp, flag flying upside down as a sign of distress.

Then to the car, to drive to the downtown post office, where uniformed employees stood beside the big blue mailboxes collecting tax forms from all of us to-the-wire filers. (Is that memory correct? Were there really people there collecting tax documents? Or were we so late that they were there counting down the time until midnight when they’d empty the mailbox and ding everyone after us as a late filer? Or am I just imagining the person in uniform standing beside the mailbox during those late night visits?)

Let’s just say that our children will have a very different experience of doing taxes than I did.

We love Laura

February 2nd, 2018

“We’re going to get some more books about Laura from the library,” I told Tirzah Mae.

“With Pa and Ma and Mary and Carrie?” she asked.

I answered yes.

Tirzah Mae knows and loves Laura and Ma and Pa and Mary and Carrie from the “My First Little House Book” Christmas in the Big Woods, which we had in our Christmas basket this year.

But our trip to the library only yielded three “My First Little House Books” – and of those three, two were about Almanzo rather than Laura. I sought to relieve Tirzah Mae’s obvious disappointment by promising that we could get mama’s Laura book from the basement and read it together.

It was already late and mama was busy with other things when we got back from the library, but Tirzah Mae reminded me of my promise again and again until, the next morning, we finally went down to the basement to get Little House in the Big Woods.

We started reading right away, reading the first part of the first chapter, until just before the pig butchering.

We were reading – are reading – Laura for Barbara H’s Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge.

I’ve also checked out a number of new-to-me children’s biographies of Laura, but I don’t know how much I’ll be able to read of them since my personal reading time is limited and Daniel and I have a couple books we’re trying to work our way through together.

However much we manage to get through, I’m so glad to join Barbara again for this challenge (the sixth year participating in the challenge and my second year participating with Tirzah Mae).

Because we love Laura.

Nightstand (January 2018)

January 31st, 2018

I’m late to the party for this month’s nightstand – and nearly all my books were actual read LAST MONTH. I’d checked them out of the library thinking I might have time to read while breastfeeding, but then I ended up reading them during that interminably long 2 week period between Beth-Ellen’s due date and when she actually showed up. Breastfeeding time has indeed ended up being quite fruitful on the reading front, but the reading has been almost entirely picture books. Tirzah Mae and Louis and I snuggle up and read five or ten or twenty picture books each day while I breastfeed Beth-Ellen (which is wonderful, but not so impressive for my nightstands :-P)

Books for Growing

  • Honey for a Woman’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
    It’s hard to categorize a book on books, but I’m going to call this one a book for growing. Hunt gives an apologetic for reading (and reading a variety of genres), but the real strength of this book is the mini-reviews on every page. I added quite a few books to my TBR list, particularly in the “Books for Seeing” (the world clearly) and “Books for Enjoying” categories – two categories that I often find myself struggling in (because I either get lost in fiction and feel it not particularly worth the time once I’m done or I get slogged down in “literary” reading that doesn’t fit well with my stage of life as a mother of very young children.)

Books for Knowing

  • The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
    A fascinating look at the massive secret city built practically from scratch to enrich uranium for the original atomic bomb. As the title suggests, this is primarily a look at the women who traveled from near and far to live in and staff this giant government undertaking. I put this on my “To Be Read” list way back in 2015 after reading Susan’s review – but once I started it, I just devoured it. It’s an excellent story, well-told. Take a look at Barbara H’s review for a more fleshed-out description of the story.

Books for Enjoying

  • Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway
    I read this based on Barbara H’s review and was so glad I did. Ms. Hathaway manages to avoid the twin pitfalls adaptations of great literature often fall into: either slavishly following the original story such that the adaptation adds nothing or taking such liberties with the storyline and characters that one can only wonder whether the author of the adaptation cares anything for the original work. Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits pays clear homage to Jane Austen’s work while managing to be unique. I also appreciated how the author has the main character, Shelby, (who is a Christian) act Christianly. Shelby prays for wisdom (or, just as often, for forgiveness when she acts unwisely), relates her life circumstances to things she’s reading in the Bible, and wonders about God’s purpose in things. The characterization was authentic without being preachy, something I don’t often see. I am greatly looking forward to reading more of Ms. Hathaway’s Austen adaptations.


  • All Natural by Nathanael Johnson
    I couldn’t figure out how to categorize this book. The subtitle “A skeptic’s quest to discover if the natural approach to diet, childbirth, healing, and the environment really keeps us healthier and happier” made me think this would fit my “books for knowing” category. But, given that this was published by Rodale, I should perhaps have had a clue that the author is less skeptical than the cover would suggest – and that the content would be less science-based than I’d have liked. It was enjoyable to read about Johnson’s exploration of the “natural” arguments and the “technological” arguments on a variety of issues, but the book was long on feelings and short on evidence.

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Unintentionally snarky

January 27th, 2018

The man in front of us at church introduced himself, asked about Beth-Ellen and Tirzah Mae.

Yes, Beth-Ellen is a month old, Tirzah Mae is three. We’ve got another – eighteen-month-old Louis is in the nursery.

“Oh you’ve been busy.”

It was an innocuous sort of comment, it didn’t feel snarky at all. I was thinking of the busy life that is being the mother of three three and under when I responded.

“But what a fun thing to be busy with.”

The moment the words were out of my mouth, I realized how snarky they must have sounded (and how totally not polite-conversation-at-church.)

But the deed was done and the musicians started singing and all I could do was contemplate what a bummer it was that the one time I managed a great comeback to a snarky comment was when a) the comment wasn’t meant snarkily and b) neither was my response.

One month

January 25th, 2018

Beth-Ellen is one month old today.

I’m no Instagram or Facebook savvy mom with a fancy blackboard listing my one month old’s accomplishments. I wasn’t that on top of it for baby number one or baby number two. And I’m not for baby number three, either.

But I’ve got a blog, and it is fun to keep a record of these oh-so-fleeting moments.


At one month old, Beth-Ellen is…

Tirzah Mae holds Beth-Ellen's hand

She sleeps four to five hours at a time, breastfeeds, and then goes back to sleep! In her bassinet! And stays asleep when I fall asleep! It’s an absolute miracle.

She loves her mama’s milk and has only ever had it “straight from the tap” with no adulterations.

Beth-Ellen makes faces at mama

Her mother is something of a skeptic when it comes to when a baby first gives a truly social smile, but even this skeptical mama is claiming these smiles (after all, they’re clearly in response to mama’s own smiles.)

The days of calmly sleeping through absolutely everything are already gone. Beth-Ellen wants to see. If she’s awake in the MOBY, she’ll turn her head until you wonder if it’s screwed on backward so she can look at everything that’s going on around her. And if turning her head from side to side doesn’t work, she’ll lean herself back to look at the ceiling. She just wants to take everything in.

Louis gives Beth-Ellen a hug

Is it possible for a baby to be more loved? I’m not sure. Beth-Ellen’s big sister and brother are enamored with her. The moment she’s anywhere except being worn by me, both of her siblings are at her side. They’re patting her, stroking her, giving her hugs and kisses. They’re turning on the vibration for her bouncy seat or providing a little mechanical bouncing action. They’re soothing her or singing to her or telling her that “I love you, baby.” She is very, very loved.

The kids maul Beth-Ellen

Oh, the weather outside’s…

January 24th, 2018


After a month of mostly bitterly cold weather, our January thaw has arrived. The temperature has gotten into the 50s for the past couple of days – and since we happened to be at home today, we took advantage of the weather.

The kids put on their jackets and played with their bike, lawnmower, and wheelbarrow in the front lawn. I grabbed a blanket for Beth-Ellen and sat on the porch swing (a Christmas present to the family from Daniel), swinging and nursing her and working on this week’s menu.

Nursing done, we got the mail and took the compost back to the pile.

We went inside just long enough to put the compost pails on the counter and to heat up some leftovers for lunch. Then we were back outside to eat our lunch on the porch table.

After our rest time (and a bit of this and that for mama), we returned to the porch table for afternoon tea. Papa came home as we were finishing up and he and I had our “couch time” on the porch swing.

Yes, the weather today was delightful.

Thank you, Lord, for these tastes of spring, these glimmers of warmth amidst the cold.

Book Review: No Milk! by Jennifer A. Ericsson, illustrated by Ora-Eitan

January 23rd, 2018

Reviewed by Tirzah Mae:

“There was no milk because he didn’t know that you need to squeeze the cow’s udders for the milk to come out. Because he was a city boy.”

No Milk!

And that’s the gist of it.

Truly a delightful little book, although it isn’t quite as explicit as Tirzah Mae’s explanation makes it sound. Parents of city boys and girls (like my own city-born Tirzah Mae) will have to explain why all the things the city boy tried resulted in “No milk!” and why “A little pat? A little squeeze? A little tug? Could it be?” finally produced milk.

A favorite of Tirzah Mae and Louis alike (and I don’t hate it, so there’s that.)

Reading the Bible as a Book

January 19th, 2018

I’ve been following Peter Krol’s Knowable Word blog for a while now – and he’s been reviewing some of the now-intensely-popular reader’s Bibles.

I’ve been curious about them, but nothing I read was enough to convince me to get yet another Bible. After all, Daniel and I already have an entire shelf full of Bibles.

Beth-Ellen and I snuggle as I read my Bible in the morning.

Beth-Ellen and I snuggle as I read my Bible in the morning

But then Krol reviewed the NIV Sola Scriptura Reader’s Bible. His absolutely glowing review convinced me. I had some gift money that had been sitting around waiting for just the right thing to strike my eye – so I bought myself a copy.

I read in the morning as I nurse Beth-Ellen. I read until I reach a natural break in the narrative. I start over if I get lost in the middle of a paragraph. I read page after page after page, without thinking of checking off chapters and verses.

I read it like I’d read a book.

The rest of the children join us in bed - putting an end to the reading!

The rest of the children join us in bed – putting an end to the reading!

Game changer.