Thursday, May 29, 2014

We're HOME!!!

Monday, the Nurse Practitioner told us that she felt dh should stay in the hospital "a couple more days" to continue drawing off fluids and make sure the cough was gone. So, we decided it made sense for me to head up to my parents' house to see the girls.

Tuesday morning I'd just put laundry in, and the girls and I were getting ready to head to a friend's house when dh called and said they were doing the paperwork to discharge him that day! UUURRGGH! While we were THRILLED to go home, the girls were pretty disappointed to not get to see our friends, and I was frustrated at the inaccurate information. Still, it was, what it was, so I quickly re-packed, arranged for my mom to finish the current laundry and send it home with the girls when my dad brought them home (he planned to leave to bring them up once we were actually on our way home, just in case there was a last minute change of plans), and headed back to the hospital, where we sat around waiting for a few more hours before finally heading home Tuesday afternoon!

Got home, my dad and the girls got here, my dad did a couple projects around here that we needed one, and headed home yesterday afternoon.

We've settled in nicely. Still trying to find a new normal, in between visits from the home health nurse, physical therapist, and occupational therapist, but we're getting there . . .

As you can see above, dh is even taking walks outside (otherwise, his daily "walks" would be an awful lot of pacing up and down our living room LOL)! Soo good to be home! While dh still feels "foggy" from the anesthesia and/or meds he's on, he continues to improve, and did I mention, it's good to be HOME!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Apologia - What On Earth Can I Do?

A couple of years ago, Apologia Educational Ministries gave us the opportunity to review their Book #3 of their Worldview Training, Who Is My Neighbor? We LOVED it! So were more than happy to help them out by reviewing the newest book in the Curriculum, Book #4, What On Earth Can I Do?

Apologia ReviewWe received the following:
What On Earth Can I Do? (textbook) $39
What on Earth Can I Do? Notebooking Journal $24
What on Earth Can I Do? Junior Notebooking Journal $24
What on Earth Can I Do? Coloring Book $8

What On Earth Can I Do? is a Bible curriculum that teaches the Biblical Worldview of Stewardship to children in grades 1-6. As you will note below, my 5 year old is enjoying it as well. The best way to get a feel for this curriculum is to check out the excellent, .pdf samples available for download on the website.

It is suggested that the Junior Notebooking Journal can be used with newer writes, generally ages 6-9. With the Notebooking Journal for more fluent writers and the coloring book can be a way to include younger, pre-writing children in the lesson.

Since I have two 11 year olds and a 5 year old, I decided to have each use one of the workbooks. I let Lexie and Ashlyn choose who would use the Notebooking Journal and who would use the Junior Notebooking Journal. Ashlyn, the artist, chose the Junior Notebooking Journal because it includes coloring pages, whereas the Notebooking Journal replaces the coloring pages with comprehension questions.  Otherwise, the 2 journals seem similar, with the Junior Journal using the "handwriting paper" and expecting shorter answers and less writing. There are .pdf samples of all but the Junior Notebooking Journal on the Apologia site.

Apologia Review
As soon as I told Little Bit, age 5, that she had her OWN book to do Bible with her big sisters, she was sooo excited! She happily colored pictures while I read and discussed the first lesson with the big girls, even asking a few of her own questions, so she didn't feel left out!  The next day, as soon as she got up, while I was still drinking my coffee, she said "Mommy, is it time for Bible?!?!" and proceeded to wake up her sister and beg for us to Bible before breakfast! I wondered if she just wanted to color (because, while she has plenty of other coloring stuff, I won't let her color THAT book except during Bible time), but when she needed to go upstairs to get some other colored pencils, she wanted me to stop reading until she came back.

When we first got this review, while the big girls remembered enjoying Who is My Neighbor? they were abit torn because they have been thoroughly enjoying the straight Bible study that we've been doing for Bible this year and didn't like having to "pause" it. However, after the first couple days, they re-remembered how much they love this series, and declared emphatically that we have to finish the whole book!

Apologia ReviewFor the first part of the review period, we used this each morning for Bible. I would read while Little Bit and Ashlyn colored (and Lexie did whatever, while listening, since her Notebooking Journal didn't have coloring pages). After I finished reading, Lexie and Ashlyn would do the rest of their Notebooking Journal assignments on their own. Since we tend to not be "workbook" people, I also gave them the freedom to choose, if some of the assignments didn't appeal to them, they didn't have to do everything.

In the past, it has been a minor annoyance to me that Apologia puts the assignment schedules in the Notebooking Journals instead of in the textbook. However, this time (I guess because the girls are older?), I found it works great because I have just made placed all the responsibility onto the kids. We sit down for Bible, I ask one of them to tell me what pages I'm supposed to read, they read those pages, and then tell them to do the rest of their assignment as independent work.

Partway through the review period, my husband was scheduled for heart surgery. The PLAN, as described by the surgeon, made it sound like I'd only need to be away from the girls for a few days so I figured we'd be fine to just skip Bible, along with other school, for those days. However, Lexie suggested that, since Little Bit was enjoying it too, they could continue without me, with Lexie reading the assignments aloud for Ashlyn and Little Bit to listen to, while coloring. As things turned out, I didn't see the kids at all (they were at their grandparents' house, in good hands) for 10 days, and even after that, only saw them occasionally. So I was thankful that we had arranged things such that at least some parts of school, including Bible, could continue without me. They didn't do Bible every day I was gone, since the schedule is different when they're not at home, but at least they could continue moving forward.  Now I'll have to go back and read the story to see what I missed LOL.
As I expected, I like this book! It is easy to use, with essentially no parent prep required. Especially with children at the upper edge of the grade range, they can see what their assignments are and work quite independently at this. One thing to be aware of, the amount of reading varies quite dramatically from day to day. Some days it's only a couple pages, other days it's 10 or more. Not a big deal, except it can be a time management issue. I would guess with some, younger students, the days with large amounts of reading would need to be split into 2 days. If it were important to me that Little Bit really understand all of this, I'd want to do that for her, but since this is more of an easing her into joining her sisters for Bible, I'm not stressing about it.
Apologia Review
We have found a few typos. At least once the lesson plans in one of the books skipped pages, since we had both Notebooking journals, it was easy to figure out that the one was a typo, but might be more confusing if you only had that one. And, a bigger issue to me, one of the early copywork assignments spelled Ephesians wrong. Ashlyn actually caught it, and asked me about it, but especially since this was the in the junior journal, many children wouldn't catch it, and it would be teaching them to spell it wrong.

Overall it's a great curriculum!

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Monday, May 26, 2014

It's All About the Attitude!

Soon after dh moved to his current unit at the hospital, I noticed one of the "housekeeping staff" (I think they have some other, more "PC" title now, but I don't remember what it is). I first noticed her because she was whistling, and my cell phone's ring tone right now is someone whistling a tune, so I kind of glanced around to make sure it wasn't my phone. . . and then I was struck with what a great attitude she had to be whistling at work.

Because, quite frankly, I can't think of many "good sides" to cleaning a hospital, shudder! She's been here close to, if not every, day we've been here and has always greeted us with a smile! I've heard her singing and whistling other times too.

The day the girls came to visit Daddy, she popped into the room and drew a cute "get well" picture on the (dry erase) cabinet door.

One morning, as she walked by the room she waved and I asked "are you ALWAYS here?" She said pretty much. I told her how much I appreciated how happy she always seemed and she admitted that it's not a "fun" job (duh!), but it pays the bills and she has certainly learned the benefit of making the best of things. She commented that at least she gets to interact with the patients, and she likes that.

What a great attitude! We hear so much about how unappreciative and "spoiled" today's young people are, and sadly, that seems true of so many of them. But here's a young (maybe mid-20s) woman, working a pretty gross job, and doing it with a smile and cheery word for everyone she meets!

I think we could all learn a thing or 2 from her :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up 5/25

Another week spent at the hospital, and we're still here, but unlike a week ago, dh is walking and talking and joking around and glaring at the camera and . . . himself!!

Since my last update, he's continued to walk every day. He figure out that he can sleep more comfortably in the recliner, and has gotten some quality sleep, which he said has made a world of difference mentally.

Eating was a slow start . . . his throat and jaw were SOO sore from the breathing tube, that for a few days there he lived on plain yogurt and cottage cheese (he doesn't eat anything at all sweet, and pretty much all of the hospital's "soft" foods were sweet). Yesterday was the first day that he ate full meals, but he did, including a turkey sandwich, without it hurting, so that is a huge improvement!

He still has lots of puffiness on his legs and feet, especially if he doesn't keep them elevated enough, but I don't think there's any puffiness left in his arms and hands.

He's coughing quite abit and still has some fluid and/or "gunk" in his left lower lung. Walking, using the little breathing exerciser gadgets they've given him, and just focusing on breathing in deeply and slowly, is really all there is to do for that.

He is apparently either having less pain than most people experience or he has a higher pain tolerance, or some of both, because he's not really on any pain meds and the nurses and nurse practitioners seem abit confused about that LOL. He said it's not painless, but it's not unbearable so he'd rather not add even more "fuzzy medicine head" (he has enough of that from all the other meds they have him on) by taking pain meds unless he really needs them.

On Friday, the Home Health dept of the hospital called and said that the word they had gotten was that he MIGHT go home over the long, holiday weekend. So, since they don't work weekends, they confirmed our contact information to be able to set up home health visits once we're home. So far, nothing definitive from the nurses or doctors about when we're going home, but we're hoping for soon! and the nurse said his guess is tomorrow or Tuesday. Most of what we're doing now could be done at home, and he could sleep alot more comfortably, and our family could be together again and such.

In other news, the girls are continuing to do well at my parents' house. As mentioned in my last update, I went up there Monday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon. It was good to see them! They were all abit more . . . snuggley than is their norm, but otherwise did fine, with me being there, and then leaving.  Not sure if it's just the age, or if spending time with Papa, the answerer of all questions on how things work, but Little Bit's "question button" has been pushed. She is now keeping up nicely with her sisters on asking questions about everything!

My dad was surprised, one evening he "owed" her a piece of candy for something she'd done, and he asked her if she wanted one piece of candy right then, or to wait until morning and get 5 pieces of candy Said she didn't even hesitate, and waited until morning. When he was telling me about it, with her there, she was kind of like "well duh, I got MORE candy that way!". Smart kid :) I was also proud of her, when she lost her second tooth the "tooth fairy" (which is much more generous at Mama and Papa's house, than at home LOL), gave her 3 pieces of candy (yes, I gave dad a hard time about the irony of the TOOTH fairy giving out candy LOL), and she shared them with her sisters "because there were 3 candies, and there are 3 girls". I love how generous she is!

The big girls continue to help my mom with meals, and to help watch my grandma, who has started wandering off abit, and sometimes tries to do more than she safely can. The girls trade off just kind of hanging close to where Grandma is, so that someone will see if she tries to go somewhere or do something that isn't safe.

Thursday my dad brought all 3 girls down to the hospital to see their Daddy (and me). They did great, just hung out with us for a little while, asked a gazillion questions, and then happily took home the big bouquet of balloons that dh's office had sent. Little Bit has had great fun playing with them :)

So that's about it. SOOOO thankful that things are looking so much better, Now we're just hoping to get home soon!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

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In If I Had Lunch With C. S. Lewis, Alister McGrath imagines the kinds of conversations that one could have over lunch with C. S. Lewis. He uses Lewis's prolific writings, as well as research that he's done into Lewis's life, to determine how Lewis might answer questions on various deep topics ranging from whether God exists, to Heaven, to death . . .

I have been a big fan of C. S. Lewis since I was a teenager. One of my favorite college classes, was a literature class on his writings. But, it's been many years since I've read his works, and this book was a great "refresher" on just why, I've always loved Lewis's writings. I felt that McGrath did a good job of providing important background information on Lewis's life to help us understand how he thought, and why he wrote what he wrote.  I came away from this book feeling that I knew C. S. Lewis, the person, a little better, and with a renewed interest in going back and re-reading many of his books. This is a great read for anyone who already loves Lewis's writings, or is interested in learning more about him and his writings.

I received a free copy of the above mentioned book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. I'm disclosing this in compliance with FTC regulations.

Hubby Update!

Things are definitely moving in the right directions!

On Monday afternoon they pulled hubby's feeding tube. I had left SIL with him while I went to see our girls, but she said he was talking non-stop, he was so glad to be able to talk again.

The next morning they pulled the feeding tube and catheter (that was a mixed blessing since they're still giving him diuretics to try to get rid of all the extra water, LOL) and changed the heart monitor thingys to be monitored by a little pack around his neck. By that evening (or the next morning?) they'd pulled the line in his neck . . . so now, other than occasional IV medications and some oxygen through his nose, he's "wire free".

Tuesday afternoon they moved him out of ICU onto the cardiovascular progressive care unit. Being back on a specifically heart-related unit is VERY GOOD (we ended up, at some point, being moved from the Cardiac Surgery ICU to a general ICU because they didn't have enough beds in the Cardiac one) the nurses here know what he should and shouldn't do to protect the broken sternum. And they know how to help him get up and down.

He still gets short of breath, and panicky. His throat and jaw are really sore from the breathing tube, but he's talking, and making friends with all the nurses, and is WORLDS better than he was on Saturday!

Today his big accomplishment was going for 2 walks, each one was around half of the 30-some bed unit. He used the IV pole as a "walker" of sorts, and the first time, I followed behind with a wheel chair in case he needed to sit down, but he did fine.

So, still a ways to go, but SOOO much improvement. He's talking and joking and can stand up and walk to the bathroom and is antsy as all get out to get OUT of here!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Trident iPad Case

When we bought our iPad, it was a birthday gift for ME! But pretty much from day one, Little Bit has claimed it. Don't get me wrong, I use it tons and "couldn't live without it" but she uses it tons TOO and definitely feels some ownership. Because it was "mine" I went with a thin, inexpensive, but not super protective, case for it. And thankfully it survived the last couple years in that case. BUT I'll admit, I've thought, several times, about the need for something more protective when one of the main users happens to be a rather spirited preschooler.  So, when Trident Case offered to let us review their KRAKEN A.M.S. Case for Apple IPad 2/3/4, I was thrilled!!! And happily chose purple :)

As soon as it got here, I opened it up and immediately put it on the iPad! One thing that I wish they did differently, the directions for putting it on the iPad are INSIDE the case, and the trickiest part, for me, was figuring out how to open it up, which I had to do to get TO the directions that would have told me how to open it up. So I definitely think it would make more sense for the directions to be more accessible, but it only took me a few minutes to figure it out.

One I had my new case on my iPad, it took a few more minutes of just kind of wiggling things around to make sure that all the buttons lined up properly, but since then, it's been no problem!

So, what exactly IS the KRAKEN A.M.S.? Well, the product page explains it all way better than I could, but a few highlights . . . hardened polycarbonate shell . . . built-in screen protector (that one kind of worried me when I first got the case, it seemed so thick, for the touch screen to work through it, but it works fine!), controls and ports are also protected, protection from dust, rain, and wind . . .

One reason I'd avoided getting this type of a case was I was concerned about how bulky it might be. I was pleasantly surprised at how little bulk it adds!

I've noticed, the "rubbery" (probably silicone LOL), corners seem to attract Little Bit's fidgety fingers, and she picks at them, sometimes she manages to get them a little bit loose and I have to push them back together. Since I personally, would be choosing this type of a case to protect a device from kids, and the company says these cases are intended for all ages, the "pickable" thing seems like a downside, but it's more an annoyance than a serious problem. And if it's being used by an adult, or older child, they can probably remember not to pick at those nice squish corners.

This case doesn't have a cover that closes over the touch screen, so when tossing it into my purse or backpack, it sometimes gets bumped on and random things get opened accidentally, I think it depends how a person uses their device whether or not this would be an issue.

So, how did I use this case? Well, I pretty much turned Little Bit lose with it to see how it would hold up :) Lexie and Ashlyn thought we should REALLY test it, by trying all the things that the website says it protects against (like 7.9 in of rain per hour with 40 mph winds), but I vetoed that idea LOL (would love to hear about OTHERS testing this, but not going to go there with MY iPad thankyouverymuch!).  Overall, other than the above mentioned picking at the corners, it did well. Crumbs and general kid stickyness wipes easily off the screen protector. The cover over the charging port tends to fall open. I'm not sure if that's from Little Bit's "picking" or just because it gets opened and closed daily AND is at the bottom of the case so gravity wants it open. . . to me, that's not a big deal unless you really ARE planning to subject your device to heavy water/wind/sand exposure THEN you want to make sure that little piece of silicone is securely fastened, I'm sure :)

As things turned out, during the review period, my husband surprised me with a 7" android tablet so that I'd have one to use while he's in the hospital, since he knew I was planning to let Little Bit have the iPad with her at the grandparents' house. So now the iPad is really, truly, unless I need to borrow it, Little Bit's tablet and I'm thrilled to have the peace of mind of a more sturdy case on it!

The case is $69.95 and comes in several color choices. The company also offers similar cases for various other tablets and smart phones, several of which were reviewed by other crew members, click on the banner, below.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - Of Sorts - May 18

My week can pretty much be summed up as "Hubby's surgery" . . . and that's an on-going saga, though he is, slowly, improving . . .

Since my last update, he's been slowly getting better about breathing with/around the breathing tube, which is what has to happen before they can remove it. . . someone today said they might try removing it tomorrow, we'll see how he does.

They've also gotten rid of a TON of fluid. His hands finally are back to normal size, which is a great indication that he doesn't have so much fluid causing swelling that's restricting his breathing.

Last night he seemed to be really "awake" for the first time . . . he wanted me to talk to him, and seemed to be actually hearing me and interested. He started wanting to ask questions, so we played a really slow game where I'd go through the alphabet and he'd squeeze my hand when I got to the right letter. . .

He also watched tv some, and just generally seemed to be "awake". . .
She decided
Today he's been writing what he wants. The nurse gave him paper and a marker, but he was going to go through tons of paper because he kept wanting to write things, so I opened up "Skitch" on my tablet and he's been writing on it with his finger. It let's him tell me what he needs instead of me having to play 20 questions.

The physical therapist has been working with him some. Yesterday he couldn't even lift his arms and legs off the bed, though he could lift/move them when she held them off the bed. Today not only could he do all of yesterday's stuff much more easily, but she actually had him sitting on the side of the bed, supported, but still, sitting!

The physical therapist decided he'd be more comfortable in a different kind of recliner/chair than what's in the room already so didn't try to move him into that, she's ordering the other one.

This evening the fever that he's had off and on spiked higher, so he's pretty miserable with that. They just gave him some tylanol, which means his body can't use the fever as effectively to fight, but he'll be more comfortable.

Other than the fever kicking his butt at the moment, he's been much better today, kinda makes me feel like there might be an end in sight . . . he's been coughing more today, I think being more active, and sitting up for those few minutes, knocked some "gunk" loose, which makes me even more anxious to get that tube out so he can just cough gunk up instead of having it come up into the tube and have to be suctioned off.

So that's the surgery update.

The girls continue to enjoy Camp Mama and Papa. My dad's been keeping them out of trouble, and the older girls have been helping Mama with meals and by "babysitting" my grandma, who's 96, and kind of confused and needs some watching . . . I think she enjoys the girls being there chattering at her and such :) I'm hoping in the next couple of days, to have Rodney's sister come stay with him for a day while I go up to give my mom a break, see the girls, and do laundry (and get a shower, though I found a bathroom here where the sink is in the stall, so paper towel baths are working ok until then).

Some of this might be repeat from the last update because the days all run together and I've been trying to write this post all day and need to get it DONE so I'm not going to go back and read the other one. . . My dad lowered the seats on his and mom's bikes as low as they'd go and Lexie and Ashlyn are just barely tall enough to ride them. One day this past week Dad gave them a challenge: see how many times they could ride to grandma's house and back (a nice long driveway between the 2 houses) in half an hour. They ended up riding 6 miles!

Meanwhile, Dad was cleaning out/sorting through some junk and Little Bit was "helping". She found a box of parts of old doorknobs, all tossed together in a box. She sat and played with them and examined them and managed to find 2 pieces that went together to make a complete doorknob. Dad was pretty impressed with that . . . she's Little Miss Observant and Details :)

Little Bit's been having fun biking too, and Dad raised the training wheels somewhat on her bike so she's learning to ride with it abit more "wobbly".

The girls have also been busy helping my mom in the kitchen (hopefully they're "helping" not just adding to the chaos) and also keeping my grandma company, especially when she wants to sit outside.

So, that's pretty much all I know about my kids' week. Seems weird to have not seen them for over a week! I'm so thankful they're safe, and happy and in good hands right now though.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Micro Business for Teens

When Micro Business for Teens showed up on the list of possible review items, I have to admit, I dismissed them as one that wasn't for us. Afterall, I don't have any teenagers!!! But then, when we actually got the information on the review, I found out that the products up for review, Starting a Micro BusinessRunning a Micro Business and Micro Business for Teens Workbook are ideal for ages 10-18, and much as I hate to admit that my kids are growing up so fast, I most definitely DO have children in that age range.

I mentioned the option to Lexie and Ashlyn (11), and they were SOOO excited!! They have alot of their Daddy in them, and have been plotting "business plans" practically since birth. We requested the ebook version of these books so that both girls could read them, on their iPods, computer, or my iPad, and I could print 2 copies of the workbook for them.
Micro Business for Teens Review

As the titles indicate, Starting a Micro Business ($9.95 for paperback, $4.95 for ebook) is a short, easy to follow book, written by CPA, Carol Topp, that walks teens, or really anyone, through the steps of starting a micro business. A micro business is smaller than a small business, typically it has few, if any employees, requires very little start-up expense, and is small enough to close down easily if needed. It can include typical "teen businesses" such as babysitting and lawn mowing, but also might include selling items, offering services, such as computer support or graphics design, etc.

Micro Business for Teens Review
Running a Micro Business ($9.95 for paperback, $4.95 for ebook) is the "sequel" so-to-speak, and goes more specifically into the things a person needs to do to run a micro business, once you've decided on a business.

The Micro Business for Teens Workbook ($14.95 for paperback, $9.95 for ebook) ties in with the first book and walks the teen through what to think about, consider, and do, for each chapter, from brainstorming the type of business you might want, to writing up a business plan, etc.

When we got the downloads, the girls were anxious to jump right in. I loaded the first book onto their iPods and the computer and let them start reading it, while I quickly read it on the iPad. It's a very quick read, which was nice, I could quickly read it and then know what to expect from the girls as they read through it. One thing I noticed, the book seems to be written to assume that the reader will make each decision and do the things on each step, as they read the book, however, it seemed more logical to me, after reading through the whole book, to have the girls read through the whole book and then go BACK through it, with the workbook, and start actually brainstorming and otherwise making decisions about what business, if any, they wanted to start.

One thing that I had liked about this whole idea, was the thought of Lexie and Ashlyn being able to work together on a business. However, this book never really address, or even seem to consider, the possibility of siblings working together on a venture like this. It speaks quite strongly, and rightly so, about not going into partnerships with others (friends, etc) because of the possible pitfalls inherent in that, however, I feel that a sibling situation is different, and should at least be addressed. We chose to discuss that, in light of the book's suggestions against partnerships, on our own.

Both girls, are currently abit obsessed with needle felting, so I wasn't too surprised when they quickly decided that making, and selling needle felted products was the path they'd like to pursue. They've always had lots of "big ideas" about starting businesses, and these books were a great way to get them to be more methodical about it. As they began looking into what's involved with selling items online (using, they realized that, while they love their iPods, if they're going to run a business, they need the greater functionality of an actual computer. My husband and I had been talking about getting them a computer to use for school projects anyway, but this got them on board and not just asking for one, but asking about how much one cost, and really thinking about what they NEEDED and were willing to pay for. In the end, their dad helped them choose a small laptop, and they each contributed to the cost of purchasing it.

We've also been discussing the time commitment of starting, and running a business. I pointed out that whenever fun things come along, they tell me they don't have time for their chores, and if they really don't have time for the basics, then they definitely don't have time for a business too. So, right now their "job" is to show us that they can keep up with their chores, even when other life happens. Meanwhile they are also researching the best place to buy wool, and other supplies, and whether it's a better choice to purchase wool already colored, or to purchase white wool and dye it themselves.

This has been a wonderful, educational experience for them, and it has been soo much better to have "the book" telling them to consider possible problems, and move through the process methodically instead of just having Mommy tell them they need to think about these things.  One thing I'd caution parents about, in the book, she recommends, rather early in the process, in my opinion, meeting with a CPA, and offers her own services, "for a reasonable fee". I felt that, given the target audience of teens, it would have been better if she'd suggested discussing with their parents, the need to meet with a CPA. In our case, since I AM a CPA and their dad is also an accountant, it was pretty easy for them to fulfill that requirement for free, but in most cases, that would be something to be aware of and perhaps steer your children to doing more research on their own to make sure they are going to move forward with the business, before spending money talking to a CPA.

I highly recommend these books for anyone whose teens or tweens, like mine, are itching to make their own money with every bright idea that pops into their heads. Even if your child isn't quite so . . . inventive, this can still be a good way to start them thinking in that direction, and even if a business doesn't actually materialize from these books, the thought process involved in considering it, is a wonderful learning experience for all teens!

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Quick Update on My Husband's Surgery

I kept hoping to be able to post a nice up-beat update with pictures of him looking good, and all that . . . but I think I'll go ahead and post a quick update of where things are now.

We got to the hospital Monday, and he went into surgery pretty much on schedule. The surgery was LONG, but I was really impressed with the system at this hospital, they have a specific surgery waiting area (not surprising) and when you get there, while the patient checks in, the "family member" does her own check in where she's given a patient number to be able to check his progress on a monitor in the waiting room (in surgery, out of surgery, in recovery, in ICU, family can go back . . . ) and they asked for my cell phone number, and asked that, if I left to get lunch or anything more than going to the restroom, that I just let them know.  I also was asked at least 2 other times by other employees for my cell phone number in case they needed to get in touch with me.

During surgery, a nurse called from the OR, every hour and a half (roughly) or at major points (he's ready to start, he's off the bi-pass machine, etc) to update me as to how things were going (they used a phone in the waiting area for that). After surgery, the surgeon came and met with me and told me how things had gone.

Long story short, as a precaution, he wanted to do another heart cath to double check that there weren't any blockages or kinks, before closing the chest cavity, so for Monday night they had closed over the top layer (or done dressings, or something, I never saw his chest during that phase) but hadn't closed the chest cavity.

Tuesday morning they did the heart cath, as planned, and everything looked fine, but then, due to scheduling issues, they weren't able to close his chest cavity until Wednesday afternoon. Because of it being open, they kept him sedated that entire time as well. So Tuesday was a very long day of just sitting and watching him sleep . . .

Last night, they woke him enough to make sure he could follow instructions and move his extremities but he was very disoriented, and REALLY didn't like the breathing tube that was in, so they kept him lightly sedated overnight, with plans to remove the breathing tube today.

This morning, things seemed to be on track. He was awake, but still hated the breathing tube and not being able to talk. He wanted me right with him though, so I spent the morning standing by the bed holding his hand, nice after 2 days of him being kind of "gone". . . Late morning, they made the decision to remove the chest tube, and all seemed to be well, but when i came back from lunch he was complaining that he "couldn't breath" and they found that his blood oxygen levels had dropped.

He had been difficult to intubate in the first place, so they were nervous about waiting and getting to a point where they needed to re-intubate him NOW, and not  being able to get it done quickly enough, so they decided to re-intubate him abit earlier than they might otherwise have, just to be safe.

So now things are back to pretty much how they were last night. He's sedated, and intubated, but resting peacefully. While they were intubating, they checked and confirmed there's no fluids in his lungs, so that's good, and the PA said that he's recovering very well from the surgery itself, so really the only concern right now is the breathing issue.

The current plan is to try again tomorrow, but have him breath with the chest tube, but no extra oxygen, for a little while first, to make sure he can handle it ok.

So, that's where things are at. Our original time line had figured he'd only be in the hospital around a week, and we'd figured that, by this point, he'd be doing well enough that I could spend some time at the hospital with him, but also spend some time with the kids, but so far that hasn't worked out.  Thankfully, the kids, even Little Bit (who was quite apprehensive about being without me) are doing great! I've been e-mailing frequent updates on my husband's condition to the older girls, along with his mother and sister and a few friends, and Ashlyn replies to every e-mail with a long list of questions for more clarification.

Little Bit has lost both front bottom teeth while I've been gone. And apparently can't wait to show her Sabbath School teacher at the church there, hee hee. My dad said he raised the training wheels on her bike and she's having fun practicing riding with it abit more wobbly, and he lowered the seats on his and mom's bikes as low as they'd go and the big girls have been riding those, so sounds like lots of fun going on up there, and thankfully they're doing ok without me. (well, mom might be going crazy, guess I haven't asked her about that LOL).

So that's where things are around here. Not a great, fun, post, but life is, what it is . . . hopefully my next update can include pictures of hubby up and moving around abit, and, no doubt, glaring at me for taking pictures :)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Golden Prairie Press

As you've probably noticed, history is a BIG part of homeschooling in our house, and something all of us, except Little Bit, enjoy thoroughly! After spending the last 3 years studying American History, we are currently learning about Ancient World History, but when we were asked to review Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum from Golden Prairie Press, I figured we could take a few weeks and do some more American History.

Golden Prairie Press Review
Heroes and Heroines of the Past covers American History, from 1000 AD to Present in one year (30 week) for grades 1-6. This curriculum is a digital download consisting of the "textbook" (divided into 2 ebooks), additional materials downloads (printable worksheets, etc), a Historical Skits ebook, "Sing Some History" audio download (containing some of the songs mentioned in the curriculum), and "Listen to Some U.S.History" audio download (containing some original speeches, etc. mentioned in the curriculum).  It should be noted that in some cases, the songs and speeches mentioned in the textbook must be accessed through links on the vendor's website. This download package is available for $98.99.  There is also an optional literature package sold separately for 5th and 6th grade students. The curriculum can be used without this, and we did not receive it as part of our review. Some of the books included in the literature package can be found free for Kindle or other places online, however it is my understanding that the books included in the literature package have been re-edited to modernize some things and remove some possibly objectionable content, so the author recommends purchasing the literature package if you plan to include these optional books in your studies.

The curriculum is designed to be used 5 days a week. Accordingly, the textbooks are divided into 30 Sections, one for each week, with each Section divided into 5 lessons, one for each day.

Each day begins with a few pages of text to use either as a read aloud, or to assign the child to read. In some
lessons, the first page is a shorter, more summary level, read-aloud for 1st and 2nd graders, and the rest of the reading goes into more detail for 3rd-6th graders. Other lessons are the same reading for all students. After the reading, there are various activities, including timeline activities, map activities, copywork or dictation, artwork or music from the time period, famous speeches to listen to, cooking activities, writing topics or craft projects.

In addition to the curriculum package, and the optional literature package if you choose, you will need various basic craft supply and cooking supplies, in order to complete the end-of-lesson activities. While I didn't read through all the activities, in the section we were using, the author had made sure to keep things simple, using easy-to-find ingredients (for example, when the historic recipe called for barley flour, the author adapted the recipe to use regular flour, though in that case, my children insisted we needed to be more authentic and get barley flour LOL).

Since we had ended our American History studies, last year, at the start of World War I, when we were asked to review this curriculum, we decided to start up where we had left off, and study World War I and II during the review period. As I expected, this curriculum went into much less detail than what my children are used to (did I mention that we spent 3 years and only made it to the start of WWI, obviously a one year curriculum would need to summarize more).

I considered having the girls read the text independently, but in the end, decided it was easier to just read it to them, so that all 3 of us could hear it at once. The reading was short, and easy enough that they would have been able to read it independently without any problem. An advantage of having the child read the book on her own would be being able to see the pictures and captions throughout each chapter. After reading the day's assignment, we discussed any timeline, art, music, or map activities included in the end-of-lesson section. We also listened to any famous speeches, etc, that were assigned. For the more time consuming hands-on activities, such as cooking, skits, crafts, etc. I had the girls choose one or two per week instead of trying to do them all.

I realized, going into this review, that any curriculum that covers all of American history in one year, wouldn't provide enough detail and specifics for Lexie and Ashlyn. They LOVE history, they love the details, as do I. However, I liked the idea of at least giving them an overview of WWI and WWII since we haven't really covered that time period yet. I made it clear to them, going into the review, that this wasn't going to cover the time period in depth, we will spend much more time on this time period when we get to this point in World History, but this seems like a great way to get a general idea of what happened, and they were agreeable to the idea.  Unfortunately, the lessons that gave an overview seemed to take more of a "bullet point" approach, that left my 5th graders scratching their heads in confusion, instead of understanding the wars better. On a positive note, it's encouraged them to show more interest in other books on the topic, to better understand the things mentioned in the lessons.

We did enjoy the cooking, and other hands-on projects. I had to laugh, my children are very big into "everything must be authentic" so were horrified when the "Libherty Cake" recipe had been adapted to use easier to find ingredients. Conveniently (I think) the original recipe was also shown, so I humored them and hunted down barley flour and maple sugar to make it authentic. It WAS yummy!

Listening to the musical selections from the time period was fun, and interesting . . . and left my girls scratching their heads . . . people LIKED that music? WHY?!?! Hee hee.

I was excited to see that art from each time period was also included, and expected that to be something that Ashlyn would especially like. We were both disappointed to find that there was no information provided about artists or art techniques. The art for this time period were mostly war posters, which could still be interesting, but unfortunately, no real information about the artwork was provided and the "discussion questions" for the artwork were simply asking the children to find things, like the soldier's hat, in the pictures.

The skits, that were suggested for the lessons we covered during the review period, required more participants than my 2 girls, so, while I included them as a possible hands-on project each week, my girls always chose other options. I think the skits could be a fun aspect for larger families and/or a co-op group.

While the map and timeline activities were easy enough to do, my girls felt they were "boring" and didn't encourage them to want to dig more deeply into the topics. Nor did they feel these activities would help them remember much about the time period.

All 3 of us preferred the lessons where the reading focused on a single topic, such as the nurses who were at Pearl Harbor, or a short biography of Roy Rodgers. These were interesting, and provided information that my children could understand, though I don't think my children would have enjoyed them in 1st or 2nd grade.

I found the curriculum required very little pre-planning. I can also see being able to simply hand the book to a 3rd-6th grader and let them do it independently, either assigning specific end-of-chapter things, or letting the child pick and choose. The only prep-work required would be for the crafts and cooking projects, but for the most part the needed supplies were things we had on hand.  Answer keys are included at the back of the textbook, so you can easily check your child's work, or let them check their own work.

Golden Prairie Press Review
Overall, I have to admit, I was disappointed, I was hoping to find a great resource that summarized American History in a way that young children can understand, and I don't feel this curriculum does that. However, if you have very little time to spend on history on a day-to-day basic, and want a curriculum that includes hands-on elements, this could be a good choice.  It could also be a good resource if you're looking for a summary of American history for yourself or an older student, who's learned the information in the past.

However, I also realize that our family is much more eclectic than many homeschoolers, and because of that, we don't always look for the same things in a curriculum as others. I'd strongly encourage you to read other reviews, click on the banner at the bottom of this review) to see what other families thought about this curriculum. I also encourage you to read over the vendor's sample (on the product page) to decide for yourself if you feel the level of detail and explanation will be a good fit for your child(ren).

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up - May 11

Our main focus this week was getting ready for my husband's surgery, tomorrow.

I probably would have thrown school completely out the window if it wasn't that we have alot of review stuff going on right now.

Bible - a review product, that I can include the big girls AND Little Bit in, Lexie and Ashlyn were ambiguous about reviewing this because they have been really enjoying our regular Bible this year, but now that we're into this one, they're loving it too.

We Choose Virtues - we reviewed this a few years ago, and I re-used it with Little Bit, E, and J this past winter, but when we had a chance to review another "piece" of it this year, I figured we could all use the re-fresher, and it's going well, another one that includes all 3 girls. (this month, use promo code BIG50 to get 50% off 11x17 Kids of VirtueVille Posters).

This week finished up our review of an American History curriculum, watch for that review in the next couple of days.

Learning Palette: We got access to the web version of this for all 3 girls, so they've been playing with that, then Tuesday we received a HUGE box of goodies from the same company. Little Bit's excited to play with her new "toys" and getting the Learning Wrap-ups has renewed Lexie and Ashlyn's interest in drilling multiplication and division, woo-hoo! It also meant a nice big box of "entertainment" to take along to the grandparents' house where the girls are staying while Daddy has surgery.

Besides all of that, the girls played outside as much as possible.  I had to laugh at them, last week, on a hot afternoon, they wanted to play in the creek, but it was too soon after a heavy rain and the creek was too flooded for me to be comfortable with them getting in. By Sunday it had gone down enough that Rodney said it was safe, but it was COLD! But, not to miss their chance, they put on their suits and got in. Little Bit lasted about 30 seconds and then I took her inside and let her "swim" in a warm bath instead. The big girls stayed out in there for quite awhile though! Silly kids!

Somewhere in between all that, we managed to get current on laundry and the girls packed for their trip to Mama and Papa's, where they're staying while Rodney's in the hospital. They were even ready to leave for music lessons EARLY (that doesn't usually happen even withOUT having to be loaded up for a trip!).

Little Bit wasn't too excited about being away from me, even if she gets to be with Mama and Papa. So, since she was going to have the iPad with her, Thursday morning, she, with Lexie's help, made sure she had a picture of her with her mommy, and her with her cat, Joy :)

Since we were going straight to my parents' house after music lessons, I didn't have to make my usual grocery shopping, and going to the farm for milk & eggs during music lessons. So I took Little Bit to a playground instead. She LOVED it!!

After music lessons we headed to Mama and Papa's.

Friday morning I headed back to PA, to the CHAP homeschool convention, and the girls apparently had a very busy day at Mama and Papa's. Based on e-mails from the big girls, they spent their day decorating their playhouse for Mama's birthday (yesterday), weeding flower beds, helping Mama cook, and getting to see a black snake that Papa found, and showed them.

Yesterday, Ashlyn tells me that Little Bit actually went to her SS class alone (usually she wants me to go with her), and said it was fun :)

So that was our week. Tomorrow my husband's scheduled for heart valve replacement surgery, please keep him in your prayers!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Schoolhouse Crew Review: Maestro Classics

Ever since Ashlyn started piano lessons, she's been very interested, and Lexie soon joined her in that interest (and started violin lessons). So, when Maestro Classics gave us the opportunity to choose two of their CDs to review, we were all excited!  We chose My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music and The Sorcerer's Apprentice.
Maestro Classics Review

A few years ago we had the opportunity to review Peter and the Wolf and Swan Lake, but  this time I noticed a new section on the Maestro Classics website. They have a whole section of educational materials including free homeschool guides, ideas for projects, etc!

So, using ideas from the homeschool guides, I picked and chose activities that fit my girls' ages and interests so that we could spend a week doing a "mini unit" on each of the CDs.

Maestro Classics Review
As soon as I knew we were on the review, I reserved some of the library books suggested in the curriculum guide for My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music, so that we'd be all ready to go when the CDs got here.  One thing to note, at least in this case, the list provided for books about Kings and Queens isn't at all specific to Handel's time or really even to the British monoarchy . . . I would have found it more useful if the list had been a few specific books related more directly to the topic, at least one of the books included content I was uncomfortable with. Otherwise, these curriculum guides are amazing! Providing lots of suggestions for a wide variety of subjects, interests, and ages.

As soon as the CDs came, we listened to My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music. I originally thought we might listen to it in pieces, remembering that, when the girls were younger, they found these CDs to be too long, but with age, comes attention span . . .so we easily listened to the whole CD in one sitting this time.

The CD begins with the story of Handel's Water Music, including the music itself. This is the "main part" of the CD, and the longest part. It's followed by a track called "About the Story" which gives "background information" telling, in a more factual, less story, way about Handel and how/why he came to write Water Music. Next comes a short, kind of silly, song that takes a short piece of the music, and adds words telling abit of the story. Little Bit likes this song, the older girls kind of rolled their eyes, but enjoyed the next track, which is a conductor talking specifically about the music. The last couple tracks were for Little Bit again, encouraging the children to sing along with the above mentioned, silly song. She LOVED it :)

I think it works well to have the tracks broken up like this, alternating something for the littles, and something for the biggers to keep everyone interested!

Over the next several days we enjoyed various things from the curriculum guide, but the highlights for my girls seemed to be the food on this one. We learned about England, since that's where Handel was living at this time.  Since we love tea parties anyway, the girls were excited to try the recipe for scones. It's always fun to see the girls having fun together in the kitchen! And the scones turned out great!

Time for tea!

The geography activities in the curriculum guide also suggested learning about Italy, and one of the suggestions was to make gelato, but I couldn't find our ice cream maker, so we compromised and bought gelato instead. The girls didn't mind, hee hee. But Little bit didn't like it, and chose plain old strawberry ice cream instead. None of us minded not having to share with her :-)

After we finished learning about Handel, we moved on to The Sorcerer's Apprentice.  The story is what Disney's Fantasia is based on, and the format is similar to the other, and again, Little Bit's favorite part was the part the big girls rolled their eyes at . . . in this case, playing along, on pots and pans, to the March of the Brooms. Despite the eye rolls, they DID tap along with a pencil though :)

Maestro Classics ReviewAshlyn had some complaints about the story itself. She felt the Sorcerer was too "mean" and that the Apprentice had just made a mistake. In About the Story we learned that this version is based on a poem by Goethe. It's believed that he wrote the poem, based loosely on an ancient Roman story by Lucien, which had a different moral, that magic doesn't work. Since we're currently learning about the Greeks and Romans in history, we wanted to hear the original story, but I wasn't able to find it, except to buy a book, which wasn't in the budget at the moment.

Our favorite part of the curriculum guide for this one was the information about German castles! After we cast the link up onto the tv, and read about, looked at pictures of them all, Lexie got busy trying to sculpt Neuschwanstein Castle out of clay. I have to admit I was . . . skeptical, but she did a great job! Little Bit decided to make a "castle table" instead, and did a pretty good job, with some help from Ashlyn.
Little Bit's table

Lexie proceeded to spend the next couple of hours looking up additional information about Neuschwantsein Castle, and was really annoyed when some of the sites were in German, hee hee. I love products that lead to wonderful rabbit trails of learning!!!

The finished masterpiece!

My Name is Handel is for ages 5+, and The Sorcerer's Apprentice is for ages 6+. I would say both are for 6+. Little Bit is 5, and while she enjoyed the more interactive parts, they were still a little over her head. It worked well to let her flit in and out of the room while we listened, and join in when she wanted, but I don't think it would be worth trying to use with JUST her.

These wonderful products are available as CDs, for $16.98 each, or mp3 downloads for $9.99. In addition to price, another consideration is that the CDs come with an activity booklet, the mp3 downloads come with a .pdf version of the booklet. If you're using this with multiple children, that can be frustrating because there's only one booklet with the CD and it generally includes things like crossword puzzles etc. For that reason, if you have multiple children who enjoy activity book type things, you might want the mp3. Since my kids prefer more hands-on type things anyway, we just focused on the stuff in the curriculum guide and the girls just read the information pages in the activity books.

Needless to say, we had a LOT of fun with this review product. They make great stand-alone unit studies, or music curriculum options, but they would also work great to use along with other curriculum resources that reference the topics. Both of the titles we reviewed would fit wonderfully into their respective time periods of history, and I suspect we will revisit them when we cover those areas of history. We also used Peter and the Wolf when the music was referenced in Little Bit's preschool curriculum last year.

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