Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Movie Review and Giveaway: Three Hearts

A few weeks ago, I posted about Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Day and what it means to our family. It was a special treat to receive an email a few days later with an offer to review Three Hearts by Samaritan's Purse. This movie tells the story of three children that were born with a complex congenital heart defect and were not able to receive the medical care that we often take for granted in America.

About the movie (from the producers):
A passionate team of people work to save the lives of three Mongolian children with life-threatening heart defects.

Graduating college senior, Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham, takes on an internship at Samaritan’s Purse working with the Children’s Heart Project. This project is dedicated to saving the lives of children by providing medical procedures that aren’t available in many countries. Cissie is charged with supervising the arrival and surgeries of three Mongolian children suffering from fatal congenital heart defects.

But the task is not easy and filled with unexpected challenges.  Cissie balances responsibilities as a newly married wife to a professional football player and her tasks with the internship.  Meanwhile the Children’s Heart team turns to a Texas family who travels to Mongolia for the adventure of a lifetime to help bring the children to San Antonio for their surgeries.  In Texas, two host families make sacrifices to care for these children and their mothers, while a team of doctors and nurses volunteer their time only to stare directly into the face of life and death. How far would you go to save a life?

It’s a fight for survival, a fight of faith, and a fight for a new life for these three hearts.

What I thought:
When I watched the first ten or fifteen minutes of this movie, I wasn't sure if I'd like it. I wasn't expecting it to be filmed as a documentary. Before long, I was emotionally drawn to the stories of the three children and their families. I couldn't stop watching.

This movie was very gripping. It affected me more than I thought it would. Perhaps there's something about every cardiac intensive care unit that made the hospitals in Texas look eerily familiar. Maybe it's because Toogi was three years old when she had her heart mended; Lauren was three years old when we handed her over to the surgical team that replaced her heart. I've been a mom living in a hospital away from home while my child waited for a second chance at life, and the stories of these moms touched me in a way that I really can't describe. My heart breaks knowing that there are hundreds more children overseas that are waiting for their chance to get the heart surgery they so desperately need.

I'd highly recommend this movie to most families. It may, however, hit too close to home for families that have dealt with similar medical issues, and the operating room scenes may be a bit too graphic for some people. 

More information:
You can order your own copy of Three Hearts from Christianbook.com for only $19.99. Two different movie trailers are available on YouTube; I recommend this one. More information about Samaritan's Purse and the Children's Heart Project is available on their website here.

Giveaway:
I'm happy to be able to offer a DVD copy of Three Hearts to a lucky reader. Please follow the Rafflecopter directions below to enter the random giveaway.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsement and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- February 27th

I'm happy to report that last week went quite a bit more smoothly than the previous ones. I think I perhaps ran around as much as ever, but I didn't feel like a chicken with her head cut off very often.

How I did on last week's goals:
1. Clean counters and school assignments: I think I had clean counters every night, but I didn't have a perfect score on school assignments.

2. Bedtime: When I set a 10:00 goal, I was really hoping for 10:00 and told myself that it would be okay as long as it was by 10:15. I made 10:15, but I don't know that I ever made it by 10. I do feel a lot better during the days when I'm getting enough sleep. There was one morning that I even woke up on my own.

3. Physical therapy: I'd rather be running, but I'm still working at leg lifts.

4. Fun activites: I included several activities into our homeschool days and took some pictures.

This week's goals:
1. Counters, schoolwork, and bedtime.

2. Catch up on my daily Bible reading. I'm reading through the Bible in a Year, but I'm about a week behind. After doing B90 twice last year, I'm not too overwhelmed with the thought of a few days of lengthy readings this week.

3. Create a new habit. I carry a large purse and I am forever losing my keys at the bottom of it. The other day I finally found my keys stuck down in one of the inside pockets. This week, instead of just dropping the keys into the main compartment of my bag (also known as the black hole), I'm going to intentionally place them in the inside pocket. I wish I had a way to figure out how much time I'll save each week if I don't ever have to look for lost keys.

4. Take pictures of every activity that I can think of for Lauren to do independently. I need to find ways for her to entertain herself when I'm working on schoolwork with either Brennan or Addison. I want to put pictures into a small photo album so that she can flip through to find ideas. I can also use the pictures to put in her workboxes to do as part of her school assignments.

5. An improvement project yet to be determined. I'm not sure if I'll work on the papers taking over my desk, the dusty baseboards, the 1000 emails crowding my in-box, or something completely different. At this point, I'll just say that my goal is to do something.

If you'd like to join me setting a few goals this week, please feel free to link up at Mama Manuscripts weekly meme here.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Beeyoutiful

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Every once in a while the members of The Old Schoolhouse review crew get the opportunity to review a product that isn't directly related to homeschooling. My latest review product was a real treat -- bath and beauty products from Beeyoutiful. Beeyoutiful advertises "healthy living for the real world" and offers bath and beauty items, nutritional supplements, essential oils, and more.

PhotobucketOne of the nice things about the products is that they are made of all natural ingredients. I could pronounce all of the words, and the company explained the benefits of having each one. For instance, the Miracle Skin Salve contains coconut oil to promotes healing of rashes and eczema, olive oil to draw moisture into the skin, beeswax to give it the proper consistency, comfrey root for healing cuts, and more. Beeyoutiful recommends using the skin salve to treat cuts, abrasions, insect bites, and minor burns. It's also helpful to prevent scarring after surgery.

Brennan and I both used the Skin Salve to treat minor burns. I was pleased with how quickly it helped my skin to heal. Addison used the Miracle Skin Salve on her patches of eczema. She thinks it works a little better than the other moisturizers that she has tried recently. I wish I had known about Miracle Skin Salve a few years ago when I was doing scar massage to help Lauren's sternal incision heal without leaving a large raised scar. I would've preferred to use a natural product like this one instead of the chemical laden ones I picked up at a drugstore. A 2-ounce container of Miracle Skin Salve costs $15 and the 4-ounce size costs $25.

Beeyoutiful also sent us a tube of B.A.L.M. All Natural Lip Moisturizer. Again, it has simple, natural ingredients: grapeseed oil, shea butter, beeswax, and essential oils (either orange or peppermint). I used it on Lauren's very dry lips for a few days and saw a noticeable improvement. I really need to order a few more of these so that all three of the females in this house aren't all trying to track down the same one. I'd also like to get a spare one to keep in Lauren's overnight bag that we use for hospital trips. She can't use most mainstream lip products when she needs oxygen because they are petroleum based. Each  B.A.L.M. Moisturizer costs $3, with a slight discount for buying three or more.

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Members of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew received a variety of products. Please visit the blog here to learn more about what our team of reviews thought about the other products Beeyoutiful offers.

I received products from Beeyoutiful as a member of the 2011 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.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Apologia's "Who Am I?"

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PhotobucketWhen my kids were little, we read lots of Bible story books. As they grew, we chose Bible story books with longer stories, and eventually we transitioned to reading straight from the Bible. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing more. I recently discovered an apologetics course from Apologia that fills the hole that I was feeling when it came to my children's religious education.

Apologia partnered with Summit Ministries to create the What We Believe series. It is designed to teach children "how to use Scripture as a lens through which to view the world around them -- to see everything the way God sees it -- and know the truth." The series consists of four titles: Who is God?, Who am I?, Who is My Neighbor?, and What on Earth Can I Do?.

Our family has been using the Who am I? materials for the past several weeks. The book focuses on what it means to be made in the image of God. Each lesson introduces the new concepts through telling part of a continuing story about a young boy growing up in Russia. The middle section of each lesson digs into the scriptures and offers some practical applications. Finally, each lessons ends with a Worldview in Focus section which talks about a child around the world with a different belief system. (Muslim, Mormon, New Age movement, no real religious beliefs, Hindu, etc). These other children are contrasted with those of the family reading the materials.

The Worldviews in Focus section was perhaps our favorite section. Even though we haven't finished studying all of the material in the book, my eighth grade daughter skipped ahead to read some of them. She suggested that I share a quote from one of them to show how they grasped her interest. "Sage is an eleven year old girl who lives in a small town outside Corvallis, Oregon. ... Sage sometimes wonders if her mother is happy because she always seems to be looking for something more in life. Her mom has tried Catholicism, Kabbalah, and even Scientology but wasn't entirely comfortable with any of them. Currently, she is taking classed in yoga and does Tai Chi exercises every morning. Her best friend, Ruby, who runs a New Age shop a few doors down from their grocery store, has been encouraging her to visit and acupuncturist." The discussion questions for this section ask the student, "Why do you suppose Sage's mother keeps trying new beliefs and religions? What do you think she is looking for? What would Sage and her mother think if they visited you church?" (Who Am I?, pages 194, 195, 200).

The Who is God? book is written at a fifth- to sixth-grade reading level and is intended to be used with children ages 6 to 14. I think it worked best when I read it to my fifth and eighth grader so that we could have discussions about what we were reading. My first grader listened in a little bit and colored a bit, but it became apparent that the materials were still a bit too difficult for her to grasp. She also had difficulty paying attention to the sometimes lengthy readings. Apologia claims that the curriculum is nondenominational in content, and I didn't find anything that I objected to coming from my own rather conservative Protestant standpoint.

The textbook for Who am I? costs $39. It does not require any additional materials, but they offer some other products to make teaching a bit easier. An mp3 CD of the text is available for $19, a pre-printed notebooking journal is available for $24, and a coloring book is available for $8. Some of the optional materials would be good if you'd like your student to work more independently.

I think this series would be perfect to work through with middle school aged students. It does a fabulous job of transitioning between reading Bible stories for information and reading Scripture in order to learn how to apply them to your life. Students working through these materials are challenged to figure out what they really believe and how to make their lives reflect those beliefs.

If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Who am I?, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received Apologia's Who Am I? textbook, notebooking journal, audio CD, and coloring book as a member of the 2011 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.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- February 20

I participated in Goal Planning Monday a few weeks ago and had a great week -- everything seemed just a bit more organized and I got a few nagging projects complete. I should take a picture of my nicely organized bathroom cabinet.

Unfortunately, when last week got crazy, I didn't set any goals for myself and even let my standing goals fall by the wayside. By the time Friday rolled around, the messy kitchen counter was starting to drive me crazy and I realized that I really need goals to work on each week. I'm writing these goals down and linking with my friends at Mama Manuscripts so that I'll have a bit of accountability in keeping them.

1. Back to the basics (again). Clean the kitchen counters and peninsula every night. Prepare school assignments for all of the kids.

2. Go to bed at a reasonable time. My goal is 10:00, and I know that this will require me to be more careful with how I spend my time during the days. No more midnight cupcake baking sessions or late-night review posts.

3. Continue my physical therapy exercises. I can't wait until my legs get strong enough to be out running again.

4. Include at least a few fun activities into our homeschool week and then share pictures.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Day

A few days ago, I noticed a few friends posting on Facebook about Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week. It runs from February 7-14th each year, with Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Day coinciding with Valentine's Day on February 14th.

I looked through lots of pictures in an attempt to find the perfect one to post on a day that means so much to me and my family.

I have pictures of Lauren when she was born -- pictures of a critically ill preemie that many doctors feared would never leave the hospital. Thankfully, I also have pictures when we brought her home just 6 weeks later.

I have pictures of a toddler that learned to walk while wearing the pump to her feeding tube in a tiny backpack. Complications from her heart defect made it too dangerous for her to eat or drink for many years. Thankfully, I heard her begging for both a red cookie and a bowl of ice cream for dessert last night.

I have pictures of a three year old that spent seven months living in a hospital. They're pictures of a little girl that made the most of life -- playing games in the playroom and riding laps around the sixth floor on a tricycle. Thankfully, I also have a picture of her riding a tricycle after she left the hospital.

That picture is the one that I've chosen to share:


It's a picture of miracles, a picture of hope, a picture of a little girl with a bright future ahead of her.

If you're interested in hearing more about the miracles we've seen in Lauren's life, please grab a kleenex and view her Defining Moments video here.



Monday, February 13, 2012

A long overdue update

A few years ago, my blog entries were heavily focused on Lauren's health issues. Thank you to all of the readers that have journeyed along with us for all these years. Over the past year, we've had less medical crisises, but perhaps just as many medical issues.

Lauren's new, strong heart continues to do well, and the cardiac transplant team couldn't be more pleased. Our only issue from a cardiac standpoint lately has been the annoying early morning blood draws to check her blood levels when our mail-order pharmacy switches between generic and name-brand transplant medicines.

From an overall standpoint, however, Lauren hasn't been doing as well lately. We've suspected for some time that she has some sort of GI condition that's keeping her from properly absorbing her foods. After not gaining anything for more than 9 months, she finally gained weight last summer after needing a dose of steroids to get her asthma under control. Unfortunately, she's been steadily losing weight since then. According to our home scales, she dropped from a little over 22 kg (48.5 lbs) down to less than 17 kg (37.5 lbs).

Her energy level has been suffering, too. If we go anywhere that requires walking, she rides in her stroller/wheelchair. When we went to Disney World in October, she only got out of the stroller long enough to take the few steps to get on a ride.


In December, we took Lauren to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD for a series of appointments with her old neuromuscular doctor. He found that her muscles actually look better on ultrasound than they used to. His only explanation for her worsening endurance is that she's not absorbing enough food to give her the energy she needs to play or walk or do therapy. We returned to Arkansas more determined than ever to find the cause of her GI issues.

At this point, her GI doctor suspects that she's dealing with eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). Basically, she has eosinophils (rogue white blood cells) in her esophagus that keep her from properly absorbing foods. We're not sure if they're related to her transplant medicines or to foods. There's often an allergic component to eosinophilic conditions. Her local doctor recommends that we look into getting an appointment for her at Cincinnati Children's Hospital because they are highly regarded as some of the experts in this field.

While we wait for an appointment there, we're pressing forward with a food elimination diet to see if it'll help. Our hope is that Lauren can start to regain some of the lost weight and perhaps more importantly regain some of the energy that she hasn't had lately. As of a week ago, she's on a diet that eliminates all milk, eggs, wheat, soy, nuts, and fish.

It's too soon to tell whether the diet is making a difference weight-wise and energy-wise, but Lauren's doing a good job dealing with the restrictions so far.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Math Rider

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As a homeschooler I can make a lot of subjects fun. My son sometimes reads while lying upside down on the couch, I use various toys around the house to demonstrate math concepts, and we use a large marker board for spelling tests. As my kids memorized math facts, I've looked for ways to make the math drill fun. I needed a fun math facts game so that practicing the basic math facts would be fun.

PhotobucketMath Rider is "The Intelligent Math Facts Game." It covers all four basic operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In addition, the program keeps track of which specific facts that your child needs additional practice on. I noticed that every time Lauren missed a question, that specific math fact was repeated at least a few more times in the course of her ride.

The Math Rider Program is set up so that the student rides a horse on a quest to find a mystical flower. Math problems are shown periodically along the ride. If the student answers correctly, the horse will automatically jump over the obstacle. (The picture below shows a ride where the horse jumps over flowers.) After twenty questions, the total score is shown by seeing how far the student has moved along  the path for that quest.

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Addison and Brennan block out so much of the background that they hardly noticed the gorgeous scenery while they are riding. They are simply focused on answering the problems correctly so that they can tell me that they've finished with Math Rider. After talking with both of them, they admitted that there really isn't anything that would make math drills more enjoyable for them. They would rather just practice with something simple so that they didn't waste time watching a horse ride or seeing how far they had gotten on a quest.

Now that Lauren has learned some basic addition facts, she was excited to get to use Math Rider like her older brother and sister. Unfortunately, the program was still a bit too difficult for her. She wanted to watch the horse jump over the obstacles and not move on to answering the next question. As you can see in the example, the problem for the flowers on the left of the screen has already been answered. The answer space under the horse is for the question that just appeared on the right of the screen. By the time Lauren watched the horse jump, there often wasn't enough time for her to answer the next problem. I hope that she'll get to a point where she doesn't watch the horse as much, but so far I haven't been able to convince her to only pay attention to the math problems.

Math Rider might work well for a child that wants something with more bells and whistles than just basic math fact drills. It currently costs $37 to download, but the company has said that there will be a $10 increase on February 15th. They offer both a seven day free trial and a 30 day risk free guarantee.

If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Math Rider, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received Math Rider as a member of the 2011 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.


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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Celestial Almanack


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Every once in a while, when my family is out camping, I look up at the sky and wish that I could identify at least a constellation or two. Perhaps it's part of the Super Homeschool Mom myth -- I should be able to teach my kids something when it's a night clear enough to see the stars. Instead I usually just point at a few starts and try to convince the kids that it's the Big Dipper.

PhotobucketCelestial Almanack from Fourth Day Press transformed me from a Astronomer Wannabe to a Novice Astronomer. I actually didn't realize how little I knew about astronomy until I started reading. For instance, I always believed the saying, "The sun sets in the west." I learned that the sun only sets directly to the west on certain days of the year. I shared this information with my husband, and we had an ah-ha moment. That's the reason why the sun was sometimes directly in our eyes when we were traveling from Washington DC to Philadelphia. When we assumed the sunset was directly to the west, we couldn't figure out how the road ran to the west. It makes much more sense now that I realize that the setting sun could be in the northwest.

After reading much of the information, I took my nook outside to see if I could use the star charts. Sure enough, I found Orion. Not just three random stars that I could convince myself were Orion's belt. I found the actual constellation -- the three stars for the belt and the four others. I can even name two of the stars. (For the record, the Almanack labels this an easy one-star activity, but I thought it was pretty cool.) Some of the other features of the night sky are a bit more difficult to see from our neighborhood, but I'm certain I could find them when I wasn't surrounded by trees.

In March, Jupiter and Venus will draw near to one another in the sky. I'm sure I'll see FB statuses telling me what specific night to go out and see this rare event. Thanks to Celestial Almanack I'll be even more prepared. By watching the planets draw near to each other throughout the month of February, we'll be more amazed when they actually meet. We'll also be able to witness the lead-up to the event even if it's too cloudy to see them on the night they finally meet.

I found the information in Celestial Almanack to be thorough but very understandable.  I would consider it very appropriate for high school students, but my younger children will be able to grasp much of what I can now show them in the sky. Fourth Day Press offers Signs and Seasons, a full classical astronomy course for high schooler students ($39).

Celestial Almanack is a true bargain. You can download all of the information and charts for a month from CurrClick for only $3. Even if I can't keep up with the changes in the sky every month, I will never again go on a camping trip without a current version of the Almanack.

If you'd like to hear how much the other members of the review crew thought about Celestial Almanack, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

I received Celestial Almanack (February as a member of the 2011 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.


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Monday, February 6, 2012

Goal Planning Monday, February 6th

Somewhere around the beginning of December, life sort of exploded on me. In the midst of all the busy activities that go along with Christmas, most of our family made a whirlwind trip to DC so that Lauren could have a few days of doctors' appointments at NIH. When January rolled around, I planned to get back into more organized days. Unfortunately, a stubborn virus plowed over three members of the family (including me) and not as much got done as I had hoped.

I'm determined to get back on track this week.

Goals for this week:

1. Get back into the habit of cleaning the kitchen (including the peninsula) and preparing school assignments before going to bed at a reasonable time.

2. Write a long overdue blog update about Lauren and her latest appointments.

3. I also hope to do several small organizing projects. First on my list is to find a storage spot for all of my diabetic supplies and get them all neatly put away. I probably shouldn't admit that some of it is still piled in the boxes it came in a few weeks ago.

If you'd like to join me in setting some goals, be sure to visit Mama Manuscript's Goal Planning Monday here. I found last fall that I accomplished a lot more done when I set goals for myself (and make them public) than if I just make mental lists of things that I'd like to accomplish. I'm hoping the same will hold true now as I start back with my weekly goal planning.


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