Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Dive Into Your Imagination videos

Years ago, Tim came back from a deployment talking about how he got to Scuba dive off the coast of Africa. He even brought back a few snapshots taken with a disposable camera. I tried to imagine the underwater beauty, but I know that I didn't come even close.

Dive Into Your Imagination produces DVDs that show children the stunning beauty of the ocean. Instead of gushing about how beautiful the cinematography is, I'll just let a video clip speak for itself:

PhotobucketI received one of three DVDs aimed at preschool or elementary school children -- "Who Lives In The Sea?". It was approximately 45 minutes and was divided into eight short clips that featured a single animal at a time. We learned about dolphins, sea lions, octopuses, nudibranches, turtles, and other ocean creatures. Addison (my eighth grader) walked through at one point and told me how well some of the segments would correspond to her high school biology course.

In addition, I also received pdf copies of the Educator's Guides that correspond to the videos. These guides are awesome! They turn a 45 minute long video into a unit study that could easily last for more than a week. Each guide is over 300 pages full of information, discussion ideas, hands-on activity stations to set up, and printable sheets to complete. I'm most impressed with the way character lessons are taught through the study of marine animals. At the early elementary level, these character lessons include family relationships, play, enthusiasm, curiosity, flexibility, and more.

The three DVDs in this series (What Makes a Fish a Fish?, Who Lives in the Sea?, and Dive Into Diversity) cost $19.95 each and are available to purchase online at the Dive Into Your Imagination store or Annie Crawley's store. (Annie Crawley is an underwater expert and creator of Dive Into Your Imagination.) She is currently offering free shipping on any product purchased from her store in June. The Educator's Guides were originally designed for a school market and are quite expensive. Annie Crawley has generously offered to give pdf copies to any homeschooler that purchases the DVDs. Be sure to make note indicating that you're a homeschooling parent when you check out.

If you'd like to hear what the other members of the review crew thought about Dive Into Your Imagination videos and Educational materials, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

Disclaimer: I received a DVD and two corresponding Educator Guides (pdf's) as a member of the 2012 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.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Heritage History

I know some homeschool families that study a particular period in history and then plan some sort of grand finale that includes dressing up for a special thematic meal. I rarely plan ahead enough to get something fancy put together. Instead, I'll rejoice when something special just happens to coincide with what we've studied.

Last weekend, one of Addison's friends hosted a Medieval murder mystery party in honor of his birthday. Coincidentally, Addison has been using Heritage History's British Middle Ages materials for the past little while.

According to their website, "The Heritage Classical Curriculum is a study program based on classical children's history books. it was founded on the belief that well-written, age-appropriate history books could be of such natural interest that with sufficient guidance, many students can actually 'teach themselves' history. The real teachers, of course, are the wonderful authors and learned scholars who produced the collection of histories that we drew upon to create the Heritage History libraries."

Addison chose to study British Middle Ages, and we received both the curriculum CD and the printed Study Guide. The CD contains the illustrated text for 55 books and over a hundred pages of study materials.

The most useful part of the Study Guide for us was the part that gives a Historical Framework. This time period is divided into seven divisions. For each historical division, the Study Guide gives a short overview of the history, a timeline of major events, a list of the wars, and a list of major historical characters. Following the basic information, there is a list of the Heritage History books (or chapters of books) that correspond to that period.

The Study Guide does not include daily lesson plans. It is intended to be flexible and to allow the student to freely explore the topic. This approach annoyed Addison. She's used to a prescribed curriculum and floundered a bit when I told her that her assignment was to simply read for about an hour a day. The materials include record keeping pages, and the student is encouraged to create a history notebook containing timelines, maps, reports, illustrations, notes, etc. I think this approach could be a very effective way to study a particular period of history, it's just not one that excited my eighth grader. She said that she kept worrying that she wasn't learning enough or wasn't learning the right things.

Addison did enjoy the ebooks included in the British Middle Ages materials. She remembered once a few years ago when we had listened to the full version of Robinson Crusoe as an audio book in the car, and it had bored her out of her mind. She enjoyed how the abridged version in Heritage History had most of the major events in the book, but did not bore her with every mundane detail about life on a desert island. I was also surprised to hear that she's now a fan of Beowulf.

Heritage History offers five World History curriculums -- Young Readers, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, British Middle Ages, and British Emprire. The Curriculum CDs cost $24.99 each and include the electronic books, maps, teaching aids, and the study Guide. The printed study guide for each curriculum is available for an additional $24.99. (Note: the printed guide is offered only as a convenience for families that do not wish to print their own study guide using the files on the CD.) The ebooks included in each curriculum are suitable for a wide range of students from elementary to high school.

If you aren't looking to purchase a complete history curriculum like the one I used, you should still bookmark Heritage History. It's a true goldmine of history information and great literature. They have over 400 classical narrative histories that are free to view online and perhaps thousands of study aids. I found more maps, lists of battles, and historical images than I can ever imagine needing.

If you'd like to hear what the other members of the review crew thought about Heritage History, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

Disclaimer: I received Heritage History materials 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.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Goal Planning Monday -- May 21

Even though I haven't been publicly posting goals for the past few weeks, I've not given up. Due to various crazy days and schedule crunches, my goals have consisted of scribbled to-do notes scattered on my still messy desk. It's not perfect, but it still helps me stay on task.

Yesterday I was determined to post my scribbled list publicly. Unfortunately, a crazy day turned into a crazy evening and it didn't get done. I'm going to file it under "don't sweat the small stuff." Better Goal Planning Tuesday than Goal Planning Never.

Just for fun, I played around with a little alliteration this morning to make the following random list seem somewhat coherent.

1. Rally the troops: I want to leave the house clean when we leave later this week. We'll all have to chip in to get it all done.

2. Return all the laundry to its home: I got everything washed yesterday, and most of it is folded. Unfortunately, it is still stacked all over one of the couches.

3. Respond to a few emails: There are a few messages that have been sitting in my inbox for longer than I'd like. It won't take long, but I need to find some time to focus on them.

4. Reviews:  I have three reviews that I'd like to wrap up this week. Thankfully, they shouldn't be too difficult to write.

5. Ready to go: I thankfully saved my packing lists from our last big trip. I just need to double check the lists, do some last minute laundry, print out some things, and pack it all up.

6. Run: I managed to squeeze in a 2-mile run last night after our evening activities. I'd love to find time for at least another run or two this week.

I'm linking this list up with the ones my friends posted at Real Life Unscripted. I love how they still don't complain when I stretch Goal Planning Monday into almost any day of the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: CapJaxMathFax


Finding a good way to practice math facts seems like a universal parenting challenge. Thankfully, there are a lot of different options -- each appealing to different children.

Over the past few years, I've found that my children just plain don't like to do math drill programs. I've also found that cool graphics and games do not make the math drill more enjoyable for them. Frankly, I doubt that they'll ever choose to practice math drills. Both Addison and Brennan would rather have a simple program that allows them to get their mandated practice over with as quickly as possible. CapJaxMathFax fits that criteria and more. It's simple to use and doesn't have any time-consuming extras that annoy my children.

As a parent, I noticed several subtle features of the program that really impress me. First of all, I always like programs that allow for more difficult mixed operations practice instead of just drilling one operation at a time. The practice problems are written in several different forms -- vertical, horizontal, and with different symbols for the operation. (The screenshot above shows a way to write multiplication problems that is not commonly seen in drill programs.) CapJaxMathFax adds an extra layer of difficulty and has practice problems with negative numbers for older students.

I pay close attention to the way that the student is asked to input the numbers when I look at drill programs. I prefer a program that does not give a right/wrong response until after the child clicks enter. This allows for corrections to be made by the student in the case of a typo or other silly mistake. CapJaxMathFax also requires that the student click a button when they are ready for the next problem. This feature is fabulous in my opinion, perhaps a must-have in our house. I cannot count the number of times that someone wanders through and starts talking to the child that's trying to get a good score on their math drill. With CapJaxMathFax, a distraction will not mess up the entire score, just the single problem that they are working on right at that second. The student can look away from the computer without being penalized and can pick right back up when they are ready to refocus on the math drill.

CapJaxMathFax costs $29.95 to download (Windows or Mac versions) and allows you to use it with up to 10 users. They offer a free trial that you can download here.

If you'd like to hear what the other members of the review crew thought about CapJaxMathFax, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Disclaimer: I received CapJaxMathFax as a member of the 2011-12 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, May 18, 2012

Friday Favorites -- What Food Allergies?

I started my final post for 5 Days with Food Allergies many times, but none of those posts really seem right to me.

Tonight, I don't want to talk about the time we were on vacation and followed our GPS for over an hour to find some Krispy Kreme donuts. (Did you know that Krispy Kreme doesn't make donuts with peanuts and therefore doesn't have a high risk of nut contamination?)

I also don't want to talk about how I've been tracking Lauren's calorie intake and adding more elemental formula through her feeding tube.

I don't have food allergic kids. I have three wonderful kids, two of which just happen to have food allergies.

It's really not fun to spend my blogging time whining about how hard it is to cook our meals from scratch or to pack a picnic lunch.

I'd rather overcome these challenges with a smile on my face.

Tonight, I'm going to stop talking about the food allergies and refocus on the rest of our lives - the little moments that I'd like to remember from this week.

A Saturday morning spent coloring with Lauren:
(after I took a picture of Lauren with her picture, she took one of me)

Baby birds by our front door:

The favorite blanket tossed on the couch near his boy scout materials:

Impromptu birthday party for one of Lauren's American Girl dolls:
(thank goodness for the $1 wrapping paper I found at Target one day)

My personal blog editor:

A slushy day for no particular reason:

Thursday afternoons at the playground:

This post is the last one in my 5 Days with Food Allergies series, but I'm sure it's not the last time I will share food allergy tidbits. Be sure to click the banner below to hop around to see what other homeschool bloggers are talking about this week.


I'm also linking this post to the Friday Favorite Things at finding joy. I'm making a special effort to see the smiles in our days instead of the challenges.

friday favorite things | finding joy

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Five Reasons I Love Kids With Food Allergies

No, I don't mean five reasons I love my kids with food allergies
(I hope that goes without saying)

Five reasons I love Kids with Food Allergies Foundation

What is Kids With Food Allergies?

"Kids With Food Allergies Foundation (KFA) educates families and communities with practical food allergy management strategies to save lives and improve the quality of life for children and their families. One of the unique ways we provide this help is through our award-winning online community. Our community is the largest online support community for families raising children with food allergies and it's free!

"In addition to recipes and educational resources, KFA hosts a diverse allergy community with over 20 specialized support forums for members, live chat events, photo and video sharing, and blogs published by our leadership and distinguished Medical Advisory Team." (taken from their website)

Why I love being a part of KFA:

1. Practical Help: When I first learned about Brennan's food allergies, I left the allergist with instructions to strictly avoid milk, eggs, and peanut. That's really all the instructions I received. It took a long time to learn how to read labels, to find new recipes, and to adapt to all the other little changes it takes to cope with a food allergy diagnosis.

Kids with Food Allergies helps parents figure out how to make the doctor's orders translate into everyday life. We draw on the experience of thousands of other parents that have walked down the path. It was another parent on KFA that told me the name of a dairy-free cheese that actually melts and tastes good. Other parents have shared recipes for treats that are free of all of the most common food allergens. Just this morning, I was talking to a good friend from KFA who offered me a recipe for a high-calorie muffin that might help us reach Lauren's new calorie goals.

2. Recipes: I used to have several food allergy cookbooks on my shelves. Often I'd find that there were only a handful of recipes that appealed to our family, fit our allergy needs, or met the strict taste criteria that my kids insisted on.

Right now, KFA has over 1200 recipes in their online database, and it's growing all the time. I love that I can search the database by which allergens I am avoiding -- there's no sense looking at wheat-based cake recipes when I need a gluten-free one.

(Note: Many of the recipes are available only to family members. To me, it's a bargain to have access to the recipe collection for only $25 a year, instead of purchasing seldom used cookbooks that I have to dust.)

3. Food and Cooking Help: It's not just the recipes that have helped me feed my family well. KFA has an entire area dedicated to food and cooking help. In that area, I can ask a question about any of the recipes. For instance, just yesterday we were discussing which gluten-free flour blends would work best if you couldn't use rice flour.

It's very common to see someone mentoring a new food allergy mom that really doesn't know how to cook anything without a mix. Many of us will share that we are much better cooks than we were before we started dealing with food allergies.

KFA isn't just about making sure kids have safe foods. We often aim to make safe foods spectacular. I often look there for help designing my kids birthday cakes. Here's the one that we came up with a few years ago:

4. News and Research: Kids with Food Allergies is an ideal place to go when your child (or you) is first diagnosed with food allergies. I highly recommend From Confusion to Confidence: KFA's starter guide to parenting a child with food allergies.

It's also an ideal place to go when you want more in depth food allergy knowledge. KFA has a certificate of compliance with the HONcode (Health on the Net). Among other things, it means that content on there goes through a review process before being added. It also means that we are encouraged to provide resources (links, citations) for any health information shared. It's common to see parents discussing articles from either mainstream news sources or professional medical journals. I personally want to keep up to date with the newest research and like being able to easily find the ones I'm most interested in.

5. It's home. It's a place where people understand the stress of living with food allergies. It's a place to see how everyone else keeps up with their epi-pens. It's a place for parents to share how they deal with food based activities in their child's classroom. It's a place where another mom understands the time I was in the grocery store and wanted to cry because a formerly safe food changed its ingredients. It's a place where I can safely say, "I'm having a hard day." We've all been-there-done-that.

Sometimes just knowing someone else understands makes all the difference.

Kids with Food Allergies makes that difference -- a difference for parents who are working so hard on behalf of their children, a difference in the lives of children.

Disclosure: I've been volunteering with KFA for many years. We moved from a yahoogroup to our website about 7 years ago, and I was there even before that transition. I obviously wouldn't continue to work with an organization I didn't believe in. My post today was written simply because I want to share KFA's resources with everyone that needs them and not for any compensation.

After you visit Kids with Food Allergies and add it to your bookmarks, be sure to hop around to some of the other blogs participating in the Homeschool Crew Blog Hop this week.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A lazy mom makes shish-ka-bobs

A mostly Wordless Wednesday picture:

I didn't want to mess with putting all the little pieces of food onto skewers and then flipping all the food without letting anything drop. Instead, I put our grill basket to work. The veggies went into the basket first, and then I moved them over to make little stone cookie sheet to stay warm while the beef chunks cooked. I served it over a rice that I talked my oldest daughter into cooking for me.

It was a hit for our entire family!

Food Allergies Don't Slow Us Down

When Brennan was first diagnosed with food allergies, we made the decision not to let his food allergies slow us down. It often takes more preparation, but we've rarely found anything that we can't do.

Birthday parties mean that my child brings a safe cupcake (and sometimes a safe meal substitute). Now that Brennan has gotten older, he sometimes chooses to bring something other than a cupcake or to just do without. He knows that he can probably talk me into a safe treat at a later time to make up for the slice of bakery cake that he didn't get to have at the party.

On Wednesday nights, our church has a meal before our evening classes. I used to stay at home so that Lauren could go to bed on time, but I've recently started packing our dinners and joining the rest of the family. Our Easy Lunchboxes make packing so much easier. The meal below was loosely modeled after Chipotle's Burrito bowls. Lauren's (on the right) has shredded dairy-free cheese, pinto beans, rice, and shredded pork in the muffin cups. I went ahead and mixed my burrito bowl ingredients together and added salsa on the top. If I remember correctly, Lauren ate all of her avocado slices and some of mine. The container at the top was our shared dessert container.

It's been a while since our family has taken day long field trips, but when we did, I became pretty proficient at packing a picnic. I will admit that I sometimes cheated and just bought Lunchables for the ones that could eat them. It was still easier than finding a safe fast food meal that we'd all agree on. This picture is pretty old, but here we are picnicking at Gettysburg. Almost all of our pictures of Civil War Battlefields include snapshots of us with our picnic lunch.

Finally, food allergies have not meant that we've completely given up eating out. Later this week, I'll share a few stories about those adventures.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What's left to eat?

Yesterday I explained about our family's food restrictions. By far the most common reaction I get when I rattle off our list of avoids are the questions, "What do you eat? What's left?"

Meats are good for us (as long as they don't have any added ingredients).

homemade roasted chicken
Fruits and veggies are good.

peaches at a baseball game

There are still quite a few safe starches we can all have -- potatoes, rice, beans, oats, etc.

Our simple meal formula is meat, veggie, and starch. It helps that Lauren really likes to eat vegetables. She also likes to try new foods.

It was a bit overwhelming for me at first. We had lots of simple meat and potatoes meals for a while. I eventually found some good recipes and learned to make an egg-free, milk-free version of nearly everything we wanted, including a wonderful vegan cheesecake. When Lauren needed to try a top-8 free diet, I knew that all of my friends at Kids with Food Allergies (an online support community) could help me navigate this more difficult path.

I've often found that it's helpful to think about what we can eat rather than what's off limits. Here's what I have on the menu for this week:

Sunday lunch:
We all scrounged through the freezer and cabinets because I hadn't gone to the grocery store since before our trip.

Sunday dinner:
Chex chicken (chicken tenders dipped in mustard and then crushed Chex), Roasted asparagus sprinkled with a little ume plum vinegar, Corn kernels (from frozen), Ice cream (two different types so that we could all have something safe)

Monday lunch:
Little smokies in BBQ sauce with leftover corn for me and Lauren, a loaf of fresh bread (from the breadmaker) for the big kids

Monday dinner:
Corned beef with cabbage and carrots (cooked in the crock pot all day), Crash Hot Potatoes (recipe from Pioneer Woman)

Tuesday lunch:
Meatballs (made from scratch) -- the big kids may have theirs on sub sandwich rolls, Lauren and I will either have gluten-free noodles or perhaps just a bowl of grits with ours

Tuesday dinner:
Shish-ka-bobs on the grill (steak, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, carrots) and a wild rice blend

Wednesday lunch:
We're going to a homeschool picnic. The big kids will eat pulled pork sandwiches there, and we'll probably bring a pan of Rice Krispy Treats to share. Lauren and I will pack our own lunch (to be determined).

Thursday lunch:
Reuben sandwiches for my husband and big kids, Lauren and I will just have the Monday night leftovers

Thursday dinner:
It's baseball game night. I'll pack a picnic dinner consisting of BBQ chicken legs, corn on the cob, and probably some homemade cookies.

Friday lunch:
Kielbasa hoagies (Brennan's new specialty) -- it's kielbasa sausage with peppers and onions sauteed in the cast iron skillet. Lauren and I will eat ours without the bun.

Friday night:
Chicken bacon bites (recipe here) and frozen sweet potato french fries

Saturday lunch:
The boys will be camping so the girls will probably just scrounge for leftovers or make some nachos (with dairy-free shredded cheese).

Saturday dinner:
The three of us girls have a Medieval Fest to attend. I'll have to pack something for Lauren.

Breakfast at our house is every man (or woman) for himself. I have a bowl of grits nearly every morning, sometimes with a couple pieces of microwaved bacon. Lauren prefers oatmeal and sometimes cereal with coconut milk. Cinnamon Chex is her current favorites. The big kids usually grab bagels, and sometimes Brennan will scramble himself an egg or two.

For snacks, we have fruit, popcorn, or cookies (either homemade or store-bought allergy-friendly ones). Since it's getting warmer, I put some frozen all-fruit popsicles into the freezer yesterday afternoon. On special afternoons, we stop by Sonic's Happy Hour for slushies or ice tea.

Just thinking about all of those yummy meals makes me hungry. Maybe I need to grab a snack. I'd suggest that you grab a snack (allergy-friendly, if necessary) and read a few of the other blogs on the blog hop.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Review: Judah Bible Curriculum


Every once in a while, I get a review product that really, really challenges me.

Judah Bible Curriculum challenged me as a person and as a teacher. It is based on the principle approach to Bible study. According to their materials, "The purpose of the Principle Approach is to restore Biblical Christian scholarship to God's people. This Christian scholarship includes learning to research the Bible, developing the ability to reason cause to effect from the Bible basis, understanding every area of life from the Biblical world view, and learning to write effectively to communicate these ideas to others. Christian scholarship also teaches the student to think governmentally, that is to recognize who or what is in control and the relationship between God's sovereignty and man's character, between God's government and man's responsibility to govern under God."

These are lofty goals. In fact, those goals are in some ways so lofty that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around them and their implications for our homeschool. I have a feeling that if I truly understood the Principle Approach that I'd want to turn our homeschool days completely upside down.

Unfortunately, I just wasn't able to figure out how to make Judah Bible Curriculum and their way of applying the Principle Approach work for our homeschool. Judah Bible Curriculum is more of a teaching training program than a curriculum that spells out exacatly what to do when. The bulk of the materials are audio downloads -- more than eight hours of audio downloads. I found the lessons to be encouraging and inspiring, but I unfortunately did not find the hand-holding that I would have liked to have. (I should note that I am not a strong auditory learning, and I struggled with grasping the materials in this format.)

The written curriculum materials consist of a bare bones outline as to topics and major themes that should be covered as your family studies the Bible. A theme focus and associated scriptures is given for each week of a six year cycle. The materials also include blank Key Sheets for the student  to use for making notes of individuals, events, institutions, and documents that they study. The idea is to create a notebook that reflects the student's understanding of the weekly theme. After digging into the scripture and discussing the theme, you can expand the study by adding in your own materials, looking up ideas or themes in a concordance, etc.

I've blogged before about the way our crazy days are filled with doctor's appointments, therapy sessions, and other activities. Unfortunately, I am often pressed for time when it comes to teacher preparations. The Judah Bible Curriculum might eventually simplify our homeschool days and our Bible studies, but it has a steep learning curve that I'd have to overcome first.

I also struggle when I am not given specific directions as to what to cover, what outside resources to refer to, etc. These materials would perhaps work better for a parent that is more confident in their ability to prepare lessons, find outside information, and explore Biblical themes with their children without a lot of directions.

Judah Bible Curriculum consists of the Judah Bible Curriculum K-12 Manual, the Elementary Notebook Ideas booklet, and the eight lecture Teacher Training Seminar. The electronic version costs $44, and the hard copy costs $74.

If you'd like to hear what the other members of the review crew thought about Judah Bible Curriculum, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic version of the Judah Bible Curriculum 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.


A Tale of Three Diets

I've spent years learning about food allergies. I could spout statistics about how many children in America are affected by food allergies. I could lapse into medical speak and share about the accuracy of various types of food allergy testing.

What matters most to me, though, is how food allergies affect a child and in turn, the whole family.

I want to share our stories so that other people can understand what it means to deal with food allergies.
In the strictest sense, food allergies are an immediate reaction to a food that can result in anaphylactic shock. When Brennan was less than a year old, we learned that he was allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts. All three of the foods caused severe reactions. Thankfully he outgrew two of the allergens and can now eat milk and eggs. He is still highly allergic to peanuts.  I blogged about his last severe reaction, a reaction to peanut butter in a dessert he was served at church camp (Our Guardian Angel Deserves a Raise).  He must avoid peanuts and any product that could be contaminated with peanuts. He carries a set of epi-pens (injectable epinephrine) wherever he goes. The shot of epinephrine will give us more time to seek medical treatment if he does have an allergic reaction.

Meanwhile, I've been avoiding milk for nearly 20 years. When I was a freshman in college, I started getting migraine headaches and eventually linked them to my consumption of milk or something containing milk. In addition, about a year and a half ago, I "accidentally" went gluten free for a few weeks and realized that I felt better in an overall sense. (Due to bad advice from a diabetic educator, I drastically cut back on my carb intake and therefore eliminated all bread products.) I decided to continue with a gluten-free diet for myself.

Lastly, we're still trying to figure out what sort of impact food has on Lauren. We traveled to Cincinnati Children's Hospital last week in the hopes of finding out why she hasn't gained any weight for the past three years and why she doesn't seem to have enough energy to do the things she'd like to do. For now, the only answers we have are a list of things that aren't wrong. She's been on a restricted diet for the past two months, and the plan is to keep her on that same diet for another few months. We're also increasing her calorie intake by adding in an elemental formula (given through her feeding tube). She's currently avoiding the eight most common allergens -- milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, treenuts, fish, and shellfish. These foods don't cause an immediate life-threatening reaction but may be contributing to general inflammation in her GI tract that therefore causes growth issues.

So there you have it... one kid avoiding peanuts, one adult avoiding milk and gluten, and one kid avoiding a whole mess of stuff.

Easy peasy, right? I often have people ask me what's left to eat. Come back tomorrow and I'll share what I normally cook for our family.

In the meantime, feel free to click the banner below to hop to another blog from the Homeschool Crew.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: Go Science videos


I found Library and Educational Services a few years ago when I was looking for good prices on audiobooks. LES sells a variety of wholesome DVDs, CDs, books, and more. They are a wholesale company that serves churches, schools, libraries, and home educators. Their prices are as much as 70% off of retail prices. (I love homeschool perks like this!)

I recently chose two Go Science DVDs from LES to review.  Normally, you can only see products on the LES website if you've already registered as a qualified buyer, but you can see more about these science videos here.


Each video is less than an hour long and consists of 10-12 short video clips. Each video segment could stand alone. In fact, it seemed to us that they might have once been used for a commercial break during a religious program.

Each video clip shows Ben Roy demonstrating a science concept and then relating it to a Bible truth. For instance, after showing how salt water will conduct electricity to a lightbulb, he discusses how God's word talks about us being the light of the world and the salt of the earth. He always concludes by saying, "When we learn more about science, we learn more about our Creator God."

All of the demonstrations were fun to watch. We saw solutions changing color, balloons exploding, hair standing on end, and more.  Some of the demonstrations required materials that aren't easily available at home, and it was fun to give my children the opportunity to view them.

One thing is evident throughout all the videos. Ben Roy is enthusiastic about science and even more importantly, enthusiastic about God. Lauren (our six-year-old) enjoyed the videos, but my 11 and 14-year-olds thought that he was just a bit too enthusiatic. Even though some of the science concepts were quite advanced, they thought that the overall mood was more appropriate for younger children.

The Go Science videos retail for $14.95 but are available through Library and Educational Services $8.97 each. A set of all six videos is available for $47.95.

If you'd like to hear what the other members of the review crew thought about Go Science videos from Library and Educational Services, please visit The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew blog here.

Disclaimer: I received two Go Science DVDs as a member of the 2011-12 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.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Coming Soon: Five Days with Food Allergies

Several weeks ago, a few of the Homeschool Crew bloggers started talking about doing a blog hop -- 5 days of Blogging with the Homeschool Crew. There's now almost 70 bloggers that will be posting next week. Each day you can click on the Homeschool Crew banner to hop to the other bloggers and see what they are sharing. If you want a sneak preview of the topics, you can try clicking the banner below now.


When I chose a topic, I immediately thought about food allergies and the way that our family's food restrictions impact our daily lives. For years, I've been hanging out online with other families dealing with food allergies. We've talked about the struggles, we've shared recipes, we've helped plan birthday parties, and we've learned to see blessings in the midst of it all.

So, five days with food allergies it is. I'll be sharing about the three of us in my family that have food allergies. I'll let you see what's left to eat and what it's like to travel with food allergies. I'll be sharing great resources and probably some recipe ideas too.

Incidentally this week, May 14th - 18th, is Food Allergy Awareness Week. I can't think of a better way to spread awareness than by sharing my stories.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Favorites

For some time now I've been reading a blog that both encourages me and challenges me.

I thought about that blog (and re-read a few entries) when I was in the hospital with Lauren this week.

Rachel at Finding Joy often talks about how she sat in a hospital room with her young son and made a conscious decision to notice the joyful moments in her days. Every Friday she shares the bright spots in her week -- the special moments that all too often get overlooked in the midst of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, doctors appointments, and everything else.

friday favorite things | finding joy

This morning, Tim and I left Cincinnati Children's Hospital feeling disappointed and discouraged. We came hoping to find answers. We leave with no new clues. We leave with the many of the same questions that we had last weekend.

Part of me still feels like crying. Part of me wants to complain about taking a trip halfway across the country and leaving empty handed.

Instead, I sat down at my computer to look at some of the pictures that I took this week. I have a feeling that Lauren will remember the fun we had during our week in Ohio. I pray that I won't forget these special moments -- my Friday favorites for this week.

It took all three of us working together to get the arch to stand up. 
It made another little girl's day when we told her that she could kick it down.

Watching the polar bear swim laps

Isn't the baby camel just the cutest thing ever?

We also saw an elephant pooping. Thankfully there's not a picture to share.

All smiles on the way to the last appointments

Lauren fixed McKenna's hair and then told me that I needed to fix hers to match. 
Earlier this week they both needed French braids.

I'm pretty sure I have a picture of Addison posing on this rock about 11 years ago.

"Can you get me down now?"

Yes, it was a good week -- even without answers.

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!


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