Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We've Met Hank!

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out more products and giving you my honest opinion.

We were introduced to Hank the Cowdog a couple of months ago when a fun little package arrived from Maverick Books. I'm not sure how it is that we went so long without hearing of Hank, because it seems that he is quite popular. I've had lots of friends who have since commented that their kids have read and enjoyed this Cowdog's tails...I mean tales before.

John Ericson, author and voice of Hank, has penned over 50 Hank the Cowdog books. These easy chapter books would be particularly good for your reluctant reader as they are chock-full of humor and ranching adventures. My 8 year old quickly claimed our copy of The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse to read. As with all of the Hank books, it didn't matter that he hadn't read any others in the series. From the back of the book:

"Things are looking pretty bleak for Hank the Cowdog. First he gets sick on poisoned bacon grease. Then he accidentally trips Sally May-and she ends up with a broken ankle. And if that’s not bad enough, he gets stuck playing dress-up with Amy and Ashley, Little Alfred’s cousins. But when Turto the Killer Stud Horse breaks free and charges at the girls, Hank knows it’s up to him to protect them. He’ll show that one-eyed horse who’s boss-even if it means risking his own life!"

Gavin(8) said he liked the book. I asked him if he would like to read other Hank books and he said that there were a couple of the stories that he would want to read but that he liked to listen to the CDs better. This was no big surprise to me as we had also received Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog Audio CD. This CD sells for only $3 and includes 9 original songs and excerpts from 10 Hank books.

The kids have thoroughly enjoyed this CD and ask to listen to it over and over. The songs and audio sound effects really make the stories come alive. I can't write this review without warning you that both the book and the CD have quite a bit of sarcastic Cowdog humor, including name calling. But I felt like it was in character and my kids know better than to repeat such behavior. I even got a couple of "are-you-gonna-let-us-listen-to-this?" looks once the song, "Don't Show Your Hiney to a Bear" starting playing. However, I thought that was quite reasonable advice...(smile).

Lastly, we also received Tornado! The wildest Race and Chase GAME ever! This travel-sized Hank boardgame plays much like Trouble, but with cute Hank characters. It sells for $12.99 and has also been much-loved in our house. Plus we haven't even lost any pieces, thanks to the fact that the folding, plastic gameboard is also a storage case.

You'll definitely want to check out Hank's website where you can order products, meet the characters, play games, and listen to CD excerpts. You can also read more Hank reviews at the TOS Crew blog.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Web Designs for Kids

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out more products and giving you my honest opinion.

I can very clearly remember approaching the speaker at our local homeschool conference about a year and a half ago. I had read her blog several times and was just beginning my own. I had one question for her, "Do you have any advice on learning html?"

Now, I should tell you that I have learned much from this sweet lady, but unfortunately she had little to offer me that day on this subject. And I can't blame her. Since then, I have began to dabble a little with html code only to make this blog look a little prettier or function the way I want it to. I have read articles, watched youtube videos, and gotten more than a handfull of headaches while trying to figure out this strange computer language.

So is it possible to teach html to kids? Brian Richardson from Web Designs for Kids (and Curious Grown-ups) thinks it is!

Web Designs for Kids (and Curious Grown-ups) is DVD that teaches the basics of creating a webpage from html to students ages 8 to adult. Brian sets up his classroom in front of the camera with the help of two preteen students. He teaches them and us in a friendly and fun manner. Also, there are no strange computer programs needed. All that is required to create a webpage with Brian is a computer with Notepad and Internet Explorer.

The DVD is 1 hour and 22 minutes long and covers such subjects as basic html, changing the color of your font and backgrounds, and adding pictures to your webpage.

Wanna see something I learned?

Too Cool! A scrolling marquee!!!

Gavin (8) actually wanted to watch the entire video in one sitting and had no problem following along.

Web Designs for Kids (and Curious Grown-ups)DVD is usually $40, but you can purchase it right now for only $19.99 on their website. A portion of all the funds received from the sale of the DVD is distributed to the following five charities: The Smile Train, Ronald McDonald House, Childrens Miracle Network, Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, and the American Foundation for the Blind.

Still not convinced that teaching html to your kids will be beneficial? Brian explains why he thinks it is here on the website, including this excerpt:

-The kids could see their results immediately, resulting in instant positive feedback.
-HTML teaches attention to detail in that, if something is incorrectly coded, things can go haywire real quick. This basically forces kids to concentrate.
-All the software necessary to create a web page is already on a computer with a Windows Windows 95, 98, XP, or Vista Operating System -Notepad, Internet Explorer, and Paint!!(Kids could actually go home and do this in front of their mom and dad! They could do basic web pages even if the family couldn't afford an internet connection!)

You can also see webpages created by students and a video clip from the DVD.

I would certainly recommend this DVD be a part of every homeschool computer course and I'm personally looking forward to release of the 2nd Web Designs DVD!

For more reviews of this product from homeschool moms, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog!

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Back to routine-Review and Discount!

As a 2nd year member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I have been given the wonderful opportunity to review many homeschool products over the next several months. I feel truly blessed to be participating in this review group and I'm looking forward to trying out more products and giving you my honest opinion.

I am saddened to tell you that I have fallen so behind in telling you about some absolutely wonderful products that I have received to review this year. Our newest arrival has given us good reason to drop everything, but the time has come to begin to resume normal life again as much as possible. And believe me... midnight feedings, doctors appointments, adjusting schedules, and the general chaos that comes with introducing a new little one to a house full of littles has me aching for a bit of normal!

Can I just lay aside the "pretty picture" that I'd like you to see for a minute and be totally honest and bare with you? I would love to be able to tell you that my children and I spend hours in God's Word each day, digging into the Scripture and having deep theological discussions. But the truth of the matter is that I really struggle with teaching the Bible. Whew...that was sort of hard to admit.

Partly, this because I have often approached Bible as an extra-curricular subject and this is just wrong-thinking on my behalf. It has always been our family mission to build not only our homeschool, but our lives on the foundation of God's Word. Therefore Bible should not only be just as important as Math and Spelling and all the other subjects, but the most important subject of our day.

Secondly, I have often used the excuse that "all of our curriculum are based on God's truth, so our children are learning about Him in every subject already". This is true as we are very careful to select Christian curriculum. Nevertheless, "the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword... " It deserves - no, demands daily and serious study.

And last, I have the hardest time finding a Bible curriculum that fit our family! I really wanted to have our family do Bible lessons together instead of splitting them up on different grade levels. And I wanted to move beyond simply reading a Bible story and coloring a coloring page.

Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview is the Bible curriculum I've been looking for!

Grapevine Studies offers Bible curriculum for ages 5 through adult with a very unique approach to Bible study. What is that approach? Stick figuring!

"Stick figuring is using stick figures, symbols, colors, charts, and words to illustrate each Bible passage. This method allows students to interact with the Bible passage and be as creative as they desire."

In Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview Level 1 (Ages 6-8), students begin by creating a stick figure timeline of important New Testament events. Once the timeline is finished, each lesson is focused on deeper study of each of those events.

The lessons include

A timeline review.
Scripture references to read straight from the Bible.
Drawing - Don't worry, Mom...the very-easy-to-draw stick figures are drawn right in your Teacher's Manual!
Review Questions and Application
And a memory verse!

Our children are loving combining creativity with their Bible lessons! I'm loving that they are really having to think about the stories they listen to and are "locking them" in their minds with the addition of drawing the stories. Not to mention, it's a great witnessing tool, as the kids love to show off their Bible stories to anyone who comes through the door!

Grapevine Studies offers the New Testament Overview and the Old Testament Overview in different levels depending on the age of the student. They have them in ebook and hardbook starting at $22.95 for the Teacher's Manual ebook and $25.95 for the Student Workbook ebook. You'll find multi-level studies as well.

Also, as a special offer to TOS Crew blog readers, you can receive a 30% discount on your Grapevine order until September 30th! Just use the discount code crew9 at checkout.

This is definitely a Bible curriculum that works for our family. There is really no prep time for me, but it is allowing us all the opportunity to dig a little deeper into scripture. If you can draw a stick figure, then you can study the Bible!

For more reviews of this product from homeschool moms, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I promised you pictures...

I really did mean to get back here sooner, but to be honest...I've just wanted to be home with ALL of my little ones doing nothing but just being with them.

Nonetheless, you all and your prayers have meant so much to us during this time and I wanted you to know that we are doing well. Levi is continuing to gain weight and behave like a perfectly healthy newborn. We will continue to monitor him closely for any developmental delays and work with therapists to help him work through any issues that arise. Only time will tell, but all of our doctors seem to be very hopeful that Levi will have minimal if any issues to deal with. I am at peace knowing that God is in control of today and tomorrow.

Now, for the pictures I promised you...

Last day in the NICU crib.

A sweet moment with Mama before leaving.

Seriously adorable. He's all ready to go!

This picture looks more like him. His usual look: content, but curious. I made him the blanket while I was pregnant and the hat while we were in the NICU.

Aubrey (7) made this banner with her friend. It's still hanging on my mantel because I intend to take a family picture in front of it, but haven't got around to it yet.

Here he is all bundled up and back in the carseat again as we were heading out to a pediatrician's appointment yesterday.

And today...all tuckered out after a long day of sleeping and eating and sleeping some more. Pin It Now!

Friday, September 11, 2009

He's Home!!!

We brought Levi home from the hospital yesterday!

He's doing well, feeding slow but steady. His temperature continues to worry me as it stays on the low side of okay...things to do today: crochet 104 tiny hats...

We are so thrilled to have our entire family reunited again!

I am going to take a short blog break as I am feeling a great need to take BIG breath and relax this weekend. I promise to be back in a couple of days with pictures.

Thank you again for your prayers! If you feel so inclined to lift up praise and prayer for our Levi again, would you also remember Baby Hudson...He was born at 31 weeks on the same day as Levi. His parents are first time parents and a very sweet couple. They've had quite a few very hard days these past couple of weeks and still have at least 4 weeks in the NICU ahead of them. Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Short Update

Very quick tonight...I desperately want to spend some late-night time with my older six.

Levi took all feedings today and last night by bottle,but it's still slow going (and very nerve-racking!) The doctor said he needs to feed well for 3 days before they will release him. Today was Day 1. If all goes well, Friday could be the day. Chad will very likely need to return to work by Monday.

Thank you so much for your prayers...I will get around to responding to each of you individually one day soon! You can't imagine how much it means to us that so many are praying. Pin It Now!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hard day.

Today was a hard day. Not like last week. Last week we didn't know what we were facing. Last week I was completely spent...undone. Tonight I'm just weary.

We took a step backwards in feeding today. I came in hoping to see the feeding tube removed, but instead Levi had just had the last bit of his milk by tube. At the next feeding he took only 15 ccs by bottle (instead of the 56 he is required). We gave him his next feeding completely by tube to give him a break. Another feeding by bottle and tube...and finally, at his last feeding he took it all by bottle.

I want to scream at them...He's a baby, not a machine! If he's not hungry, just give him a break.

This is the last hurdle before we get to bring him home. Assuming nothing else moves backwards, of course.

God has a way of reminding me to put things in perspective, though. A grandmother in the waiting room who is hoping her granddaughter will come home by December. A dad in the hallway who answers my question with, "We're doing okay...we're thinking just one more month."

Improvements today...Levi was even more alert. We just stared at each other for the longest time. He is absolutely perfect. He was coughing again when getting choked which is a really good sign for muscle tone and the improvement of his aspiration issues. I'll talk to the therapist tomorrow about possibly switching to a thinner liquid or being able to slit the nipple so it's not so hard for him to suck it out. That should help with the feeding issue.

"But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." -Isaiah 40:31 Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Continuing to Improve...Praise!

We are still seeing improvements each day with our little Levi. He was taken off all oxygen this morning and was able to keep his saturation levels up all day. Each day we see him more and more alert and haven't witnessed any seizure episodes in more than 48 hours. Last night his temperature was up and down, but it has stayed right where its supposed to be today. I was able to give him a sponge bath tonight which he didn't mind at all.

Feeding was a little stressful today. One of the issues we have had to deal with is that because of Levi's low muscle tone in his neck area he is having trouble drinking "thin liquids" (breastmilk, formula, etc.) The trouble is that we all have a flap that automatically snaps closed over our air passage way when we swallow to prevent liquids and food from getting into our lungs. Levi's moves at a slower pace and plain breastmilk is penetrating into his airway. Also, because of low tone, he is showing no outward signs (coughing, gagging, etc.) that would clear his lungs or indicate to us what is happening. Therefore we have to thicken his milk so that it moves more slowly, allowing more time to pass before it reaches his air passage. However, the thicker milk is much like drinking a milkshake...it's very hard work for Levi! The doctors want him to drink a certain amount at each feeding (every 3 hours) and he only has 30 minutes to drink it before the rest is given by feeding tube. He hasn't had to be fed by feeding tube since Friday, but each feeding is slow going and the poor baby is just so tired and full by the end of the feeding. One nurse mentioned that he may have the feeding tube removed tonight and I'm praying that happens. It will be so nice to not have the threat of the feeding tube anymore. Also, he coughed tonight when we gave him some medicine orally and it went down the wrong way which is a huge improvement. I've also noticed him moving his head and neck well.

We are very hopeful that we may be able to bring Levi home this week...maybe even as soon as Wednesday!

We had another reason to celebrate this week...our Eli turned 6 on Friday! With the help of friends we were able to pull off a surprise birthday party...

The kids were at a friend's house while we were at the hospital, but we left a little early Friday night. Eli walked in to a Star Wars themed surprise party thanks to our friend Meagan who spent the afternoon decorating for us.

Another sweet friend, Cheri and her son baked and decorated this too-cool R2D2 cake.

Those sweet dimples are one of my favorite things to look at! I can't believe how big he is.

On Saturday, the kids spent a much-needed day with Daddy at the zoo. (That's my lovely sister-in-law who was kind enough to help out her big brother for the day while I was at the hospital.) The kids have been spending every day with a different friend or family member and they have all been holding up so well despite this two-week interruption to their routine. Now that things are going better with Levi, Chad will be staying at home with them while I am at the hospital.

Please continue to pray for our little one ... especially for strength and endurance and continued improvements in feeding. Please pray that his feeding tube would be removed and that his temperature would continue to remain at the right level. Please pray that God would heal his brain completely with no long-term effects. And please pray that we would be able to reunite our family at home this week!

One more thing...if you are so inclined to lift up a prayer for Levi, would you also pray for another little one in the NICU. I don't know his name, but I met his mother briefly a couple of nights ago in the waiting room. Her baby boy was born at just 24 weeks and is still less than 2 lbs. They are just hoping to bring him home by Thanksgiving. She was crying as we both left the hospital this evening and said that her baby had a bad day ... This has truly been the longest week of my life. Hours in the NICU move so slowly, especially the hours when your baby is not improving but seems to be getting worse. I cannot imagine what it must be like for this mother...her "longest week" is weeks and weeks.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." -Romans 8:18

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Update on Levi

I am going to try to keep this brief as I am heading back up to the hospital, but wanted to give everyone an update.

First of all, we have been so overwhelmed by the amount of support and prayers we have received and we appreciate them so much!! Thank you, THANK YOU!!!

Tuesday was a very hard day for all of us as we realized that the antibiotics being given to Levi were not working. We were not seeing signs of improvement and he was getting worse. The doctors decided that we were in fact not dealing with an infection and needed to explore other areas.

Along with other tests, an MRI was ordered and a neurologist was brought in. There were 3 small spots found on his brain that we believe were caused by a lack of oxygen at some point during pregnancy, labor, or delivery. This has caused many symptoms in Levi including low muscle tone (especially in the neck and shoulder area), inability to control body temp, low oxygen levels, lethargy, and some seizure activity, plus more. All of these things look very scary as I type them, but the GREAT news is that he is improving by leaps and bounds.

He is actually now maintaining his body temp well, is much more alert and responsive, he is eating well (still needs some improvement), and is slowly being weaned off of the oxygen. He is taking anti-seizure medication and will evaluated again in 4 weeks to see if he still needs that. We are very hopeful that we will bringing him home some time next week.

Long term, we will be monitoring Levi closely for developmental delays and such. But it has been stressed to us over and over that Levi has a very mild case of brain injury and that babies are especially resilient to this. Everyone is extremely hopeful that there will be minimal to no long term effects at all.

I have to say, that we have have felt the presence of God moving especially through the body of Christ during this trial. So many are praying, visiting, watching our children, sending meals, cleaning our home, mowing our lawn... All of our needs are being met. Please continue to pray as we need this most.

Will update when I can.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:19 Pin It Now!


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