Wednesday, July 28, 2010

One year ago...

One year ago, shortly after midnight, I snuggled up beside Lauren in her hospital bed in the hopes of catching a nap before her surgery.

A few hours later, the cardiac anesthesia woke all of us up. It was the moment we had waited for so many months (and even years). Lauren briefly woke up. Instead of being afraid of their scrubs, she looked at me and asked, "My new, strong heart?" I gave her a big hug and a kiss before they gave her the first sleepy medicine. I know that we had family and friends all around the world praying for her that night and anxiously awaiting updates.

It was only a few hours before she was moving from the OR to a room in the CICU. The surgery went as well or better than hoped, and the surgeon said her new heart was absolutely perfect. We were amazed to hear that Lauren had already been extubated, just shortly after settling in on the CICU side of the floor.

Over the years, we have taken lots of pictures of Lauren in the hospital. This is my picture of hope -- hope for brighter days ahead.

Perhaps even more exciting is this picture that was taken just two days post-transplant. We joked that all along we had told Lauren that she would wait until God sent a new heart, have an operation, and then get stronger and go home. Apparently, we forgot to tell her that it was a big deal. Not knowing any better, Lauren bounced back amazingly quickly.

It was the start of many smiles and happy days to come. It's hard to believe that a year has passed so quickly. We are truly blessed!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Thank You" isn't enough

Tonight I am praying for a family that is very dear to ours. I don't know their names, but they mean the world to us.

One year ago today, a young child died. In the midst of their grief, that family decided to donate their child's organs to save the life of another child. One year ago this evening, I received a phone call at the hospital to let us know that they had identified a donor organ that matched Lauren. We had been waiting for nearly seven months to receive that phone call.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate Lauren's life with a new strong heart. Tonight, I grieve for the family that is remembering the anniversary of their child's untimely death.

Thank you isn't enough.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (New Living Translation)

I think I'm ready. We've said most of our "farewells," and the movers come early tomorrow morning start packing all our stuff. By next week, we should be unpacking in our new house halfway across the country.

I'm excited to see what new things God has in store for us in our next location. I know he has a wonderful plan for our family (see Jeremiah 29:11).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TOS Review: Travel Kits Ebook

I have been blessed with children that are wonderful travelers. Last year, Addison and Brennan rode with my Dad from Northern Virginia all the way down to South Georgia. Apparently, they travel so well that he made better time with them in the car than he usually does when it's just him and my mom.

Even Lauren travels fairly well. Our two hour trip to Charlottesville last week went smoothly, even if we didn't have anyone else in the backseat to help pick up dropped DVDs.

Still, I can't say that I look forward to long trips. In fact, I was beginning to dread the long car trip we'll be making to Arkansas next week.

Travel Kits: A Simple Way to Bless Others
The Travel Kits e-book I reviewed is subtitled "A Simple Way to Bless Others." I hadn't thought about using travel kits to bless my family. I merely thought of travel surprises as a sort of survival tool that would help me limp through to the other end of the path.

In this 91 page e-book, Donna Rees gives a basic explanation of what a Travel Kit is and how it can bless either your own family or another family that you chose to shower with this sort of gift. She includes lots of ideas for things to include, ways to package the surprises, and even ways to distribute gifts along the way. There is a lengthy list of books that a family would enjoy on the road -- either for an adult to read out loud or to find on audiobook. I love some of her snack ideas, especially the way she suggests using daily pill organizers to stash little treats. I like the way that she lists plenty of ideas for all age ranges and for both boys and girls. All of the ideas are illustrated with photographs of actual travel kits so that I could see what she was talking about and not just read about it.

The one big thing that struck a chord with me was when she wrote about nicely packaging the gifts. Oops. I think I need to scrounge about for some nice wrapping paper or fabric before we hit the road next week. I know that it'll make a big difference for my children if they can unwrap something special instead of me just pulling it out of my tote bag.

Travel kits aren't just for long car trips. I can see me using some of these ideas when I pack a bag for a long day of doctors' appointments. For instance, I can use the pill box idea when we're sitting in a waiting room or I can find new ideas for audiobooks that we'll enjoy as we run errands around town.

This e-book is available at TOS Magazine's Old Schoolhouse store for $12.45. Do I think it's worth buying? Yes, and no. I did find some really great creative ideas that I'll use, either for this trip or for other days in the future. On the other hand, I would likely have come up with a similar assortment of travel surprises on my own. I guess the value in this book depends on whether you travel a lot and whether you need new ideas for what to do along the way. The e-book costs more than I would usually spend, but if you are short on ideas, it could be a great resource to make your traveling days more enjoyable for everyone.

If you'd like to read what my fellow crewmembers thought about this product, please check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer: I received this e-book for free as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

Monday, July 19, 2010

TOS Review: Travel the World

About a month ago, Tim and I traveled to Little Rock to do a bit of house hunting. Since we had already signed a lease on our new house, I spent less time hunting for a house and more time exploring the area. By far the best thing I found there was the huge homeschool selection at Mardel. I spent several hours looking through various materials, thrilled to be able to flip through the pages in a book instead of just looking at a few samples online.

I went back to Mardel a second time, dragging my husband along so that he could weigh in on some of the products I was considering for next year. One of the things we looked at for a long time that afternoon was Geography materials, and we never found exactly what we wanted. I know that Brennan lacks some geography knowledge, but I really didn't want a full year-long program. When I received my first homeschool product to review, I found that it was exactly what I had been looking for.

The Schoolhouse Planner published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine has monthly add-on modules that are mini-unit studies. For June 2010, the topic was Travel the World. At first, I was doubtful that I'd find this e-book useful because I don't have the Planner. I found that the June module was not connected to the planner, and in fact, it wasn't based on a calendar at all. I'll be able to use it as soon as we settle into our new house in Arkansas (sometime mid-August).

The Travel the World module includes eight pages of basic geography information -- topics like globes, maps, continents, and oceans. This is precisely the information that I'd like for Brennan to review. Once again, I've found the TOS materials to be very well-written. I will probably read through the information with Brennan, but he could also read it on his own. There are both fill-in-the-blank questions and a crossword puzzle to check comprehension. Like many of the other TOS products, there are a ton of helpful internet links that could be used to extend the basic information into a more in-depth unit study. This unit also includes extension ideas and research topics that would be suitable for a high school student. If you have younger children that like to be included in a unit study, there are coloring pages they might enjoy.

I really like that this module will fill a specific need in my homeschool planning. I'm really not a unit-study type of person, but occasionally I look for materials that will fill a specific need. I didn't necessarily want to add a book of 100 geography lessons to our homeschool year, but this short study will meet our needs nicely.

In looking at the other module options, I found a few others that I am interested in. For Addison and Brennan, the Checks and Balances will help round out our history studies by adding a unit on American Government. I am also interested in the Play it Safe materials for all of the children. For Lauren, it covers basic concepts such as wearing a bike helmet and fire safety. The older two could learn about CPR, preparing for natural disasters, and more.

The Schoolhouse planner modules are available through the TOS Magazine's Schoolhouse Store here. Individual modules cost $7.95, and you can also order an entire year's worth at one time.

If you'd like to read what my fellow crewmembers thought about this product, please check out the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer: I received this e-book for free as a member of the 2010 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I thought I learned patience last year...

This was a week that our family had looked forward to for quite some time. Lauren and I traveled to an intense feeding clinic in the hopes that she would soon be weaned from her g-tube feedings. She has made amazing progress over the past few months and now eats a wide variety of foods. Unfortunately, she enjoys eating foods a whole lot more than she enjoys drinking anything.

After the first few meals, it became apparent that Lauren was still going to need g-tube feeds after we left. I was disappointed to say the least. I had such high hopes for this program.

The bottom line is hidden somewhere on page three of her discharge paperwork: "not ready from a developmental standpoint to take in all of her necessary fluid requirements." Lauren's learning to take bigger drinks, and she has a new cup that will encourage her as she learns. At the same time, she'll continue to work on improving her upper body strength and developing the breath support that will make drinking easier.

I guess I'm okay with the way this week turned out. I can be patient for a while longer. Perhaps waiting will be a bit easier now that I understand how difficult it is for Lauren to "just drink her milk." Maybe the next time I remind her to take a few more sips, I'll be a bit more patient.

Last year when Lauren and I were at CHoP, I often sang the line from Fireproof, "I will serve you while I"m waiting. I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord." This year, I have a new song, and I'm still singing. "All of my life, in every season, You are still God. I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship."

Monday, July 12, 2010

A New Theme Song

For the past few years, two different songs have emerged as family theme songs -- Blessed Be Your Name and You Never Let Go.

The other day on Facebook, a friend posted lyrics that spoke to me. I knew I recognized them, but I couldn't place it. It turns out that I had been singing along to that song on our new Zoe CD the night before when I drove to see Brennan in the ER.

"In every change, in every season,
You are still God,
I have a reason to worship."

You know, I think that fits our family right now.

I prefer the Zoe version, but I'm including a video of Hillsong performing Desert Song, so that you can hear it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Our Guardian Angel Deserves a Raise

Perhaps I spoke too soon when I boasted that our last camping trip did not include a trip to the Emergency Room.

After returning from Assateague Island, we cleaned up all the camping gear and packed Brennan up for a week at Camp Wamava. He was incredibly excited to be going back to camp with his friends this summer.

On Monday night, I was out running an errand when my cell phone rang. My friend Aimee was calling from camp. As soon as she said, "Brennan had something with peanut butter and he's having a reaction," I interrupted and told her to give the epi-pen and call an ambulance. I really don't think I let her even tell me how badly he was reacting. I just know how dangerous a peanut reaction could be and I didn't want to take any chances. I ran home to grab another set of epi-pens and a diet Coke before heading out to meet Brennan at the Emergency Room.

We have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for the adults that noticed that the dessert contained peanut butter and stopped Brennan when he had only had a small bite. I'm grateful that Aimee listened to the small voice of God that encouraged her to stick around the kids during their evening activities. I'm even more grateful that she noticed something was wrong and didn't listen to Brennan's protests that he was okay. I'm thankful for epi-pens and other emergency medicines that saved his life. I'm thankful for the ambulance crew and the emergency room doctors and nurses that took good care of him. I'm very thankful for the friends that staying with him until I could drive all the way out to the hospital.

Late, late, Monday night, I drove Brennan back to camp. It was a long drive back down the mountain and back home. There was a big part of me that wanted to go back, hug him real tight, and not let go for a very, very long time.


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