Monday, December 26, 2011

Infertility vs. Pregnancy Loss: No Contest

There has been a lot of talk recently in the news with certain well-known folks losing their 21st pregnancy. I was saddened by the news of their loss and the criticism they are recieving in a very painful time, and yet, I am glad that the subject of miscarriage is no longer off limits in general conversation. Those of us who have been on that road are no longer expected to sweep it under the rug, thank God for taking what surely must have been a deformed child from our malfunctioning bodies in mercy, and never speak of it again. Yep, I am glad our society is not there any more.

But what about those who never conceive at all? What comfort do we offer them? To those who lose a pregnancy, we give comfort through the Blessed Hope or by saying their baby is waiting in the arms of Jesus. Not those who can't conceive, though. No one says anything about any Blessed Hope to them! For their hurting hearts, the Blessed Hope becomes almost painful - they have no little ones waiting in the arms of Jesus to heal the hurt of loss their absence caused.
Instead, we offer advice: go on vacation! Just relax, then it will happen! Go to the doctor, they'll give you some drugs that you can inject yourself with over and over and then you'll ovulate and get pregnant! Or do IVF! Or just adopt!

Now don't get me wrong. There is a place, a need for adoptive parents. There are, indeed, many babies waiting for a loving family to adopt them. But it is not the cure-all that those of us who have had our babies would like to think it is. And it does NOT take the place of the babies born in the hearts of mothers who can't have them born into this world.

I recently read a post written by a mother who had secondary infertility. She'd had her one baby girl nearly ten years before, and despite many efforts to have another, was facing the fact that in her forties she needed to say goodbye to the baby boy she wanted desperately, but that she would never hold in this world, and never will in the next. It was an incredibly powerful statement of the terrible finality of infertility.

She needed to grieve him. She had a right to grieve him. And yet, so few saw the legitimacy in her pain. Why? Why are we allowed to grieve for the babies we lose in pregnancy, post conception, but not the babies that we loved and saw as a part of our lives before they were even conceived?

There is grief that comes when someone passes from our lives, whether they have been living in our bodies for a few short weeks and then gone before we ever met, or whether they have been part of our lives as long as we can remember. But there is also grief that comes from the death of a dream, particularly when that dream involves not just a life lived here on this earth, but a soul made for eternal life.

When once I told a friend of mine that I believed her right to grieve (losing hope through infertility) was every bit as valid as mine (having lost through miscarriage) her reaction was immediate, intense, and appreciative, which truly surprised me.

Because it is one of those taboo topics, shunned from polite conversation, even in this day and age of tell-all books and instant tweets, there are still many would-be mothers and fathers in pain. Silent pain. Alone in their grief, misunderstood by the vast majority, and given ridiculous advice by all.

It's not just a dream, a hope, it is a vital piece of the life they hoped to live here on earth and a jewel in the crown they wanted to cast at the feet of their Savior. Yes, there are ways to pursue parenthood, and many will and do. But first, before that step, they have to give themselves permission to grieve their own babies that they will never hold. How can they when the rest of society is so busy marginalizing the trial placed on their shoulders?

So next time you are tempted to say something like, oh just go on vacation, it worked for us! Or, when are you going to have a baby? You arent getting any younger, you know! Think again, and get your mental foot out of your mouth.

Next time you are tempted to take your children for granted, stop. Just stop. Ask yourself if what you are doing is really more important than the little hearts, minds, and souls that have been graciously placed in your care. They aren't accidents, not a single one of them. They each have a purpose. They aren't inconveniences to be managed. Take a moment right now to just thank God for each one of them, and remember what a blessing each is next time you are tempted to say something snarky to that childless couple in the restaurant that keeps staring at you and your kids. You don't really know what they're thinking. Her biggest struggle with you might not be the noise, it may be a terrible, ripping her heart out kind of pain that makes her grimace.

Yes, grant a little grace, folks. That mother (even if she isn't a "mother" in the world's eyes) deserves the same kind of tender sympathy that a woman who miscarried deserves and is given. And I can say that, because I've been the miscarrying mother.

May each one of you, mother or father, grieving or holding a child, hopeful or losing hope, find grace sufficient in our Heavenly Father this Christmas season. Never lose hope. Hope is necessary for life! I don't have all the answers, and because I've not walked in those particular shoes, I certainly don't have the right words of comfort. But I pray you will find comfort in the arms of the One who does.

No, there is no contest between miscarriage and infertility. There is only pain, maybe a little more similar than you might have thought, and there is the Healer of all hearts, hopefully in between there is kindness, understanding, and prayers lifted up for each other through our unique trials.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Out of Alignment

(too bad I can't sleep like this guy, eh?)

About 6 1/2 years ago we got a new bed. Well, new to us anyway. It was a family hand-me-down, so don't anyone get all skeeved and worried about bed-bugs, y'all.

I was thrilled. It was the most amazingly comfy bed I'd slept on EVER. Or at least, that's what my pregnant body told me. And it really was comfy. But as the years flew by, the bed lost a little of that comfy factor.

Apparently mattresses get all old and stuff. Colby has been telling me for quite a while that we need to replace them. It's been pretty low on my priority list. Seriously, why fix something that's not BROKEN.

Fast forward to about 6 weeks ago. I had been having pain in my right hip for a few weeks. It got so bad that I'd wake up in the night crying. Colby said it was because of the bed. I thought, Nah. Can't be.

Then I began to have pain in my left knee whenever I walked very far or, heaven forbid, went to the gym. As in, I needed a knee brace and a lot of ibuprofen the next day.

And THEN the jaw pain started. The left side of my jaw wouldn't close right and I had a really hard time chewing anything!

Left jaw, right hip, left knee. Hmm.

I thought someone had pushed fast forward on the aging button.

(Twerty - aka Nerd Bird)

Then one night the pain in my hip was overwhelming and my tossing and turning and crying did it for my husband. He was convinced the bed was to blame, so in the dark he helped me move and grabbed all the blankets and flung them over us so that we were sideways on the bed.

The next few nights brought such relief. I slept. Without tears. I ate, without clicking. I walked, without a knee brace. By Thanksgiving I was completely back to myself.


I couldn't believe it. Colby was totally right about the bed. A small change of direction made all the difference in the world.

It got me to thinking about foundations. I mean, we're a little out of touch with the idea of foundations these days, don't you think? When we read in the Bible about the "wise man" building his house upon the rock, it's a thought process we don't spend much time on. Most of us don't build the houses we live in from the ground up. If we do, we hire someone else to think about how deep to dig the foundation, what codes need to be followed, and which company to use to dig the holes. We don't do it. Not with our own two hands. Not any more.

But what if we build our sleep schedule on a really old mattress? It's amazing how just a tiny bit of misalignment of our "foundation" - our spine - can cause such drastic reactions in other places of our body! My back was out of alignment, and by turns, so was the rest of my body.

So with our spiritual walk. If we are out of alignment in our spiritual "foundation" - our personal, heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus - we're going to be out of alignment a little bit everywhere else in life, too.

The pain in my knee felt just like it did when I'd twisted my knee while skiing. The pain in my jaw just seemed to have no connection to my spine whatsoever. And yet... they both were connected.

Next time I'm feeling a little "out of alignment" somewhere in my heart, I think I'll focus a little less on fixing what FEELS out of place and focus a little more on what's at the core - building my foundation on the Rock.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Words With Kids

No one really tells you about the hazards of having kids. They don't focus on the stuff like stretch marks or the possibility of embarrassment during sessions of public breastfeeding (while your other kids get much needed play breaks in the dead of winter at the mall playground), and they don't tell you about the absolute certainty of humiliation when your kids SAY things in public making you red in the face until you'd rather hide in a hole than see particular people ever again.

We all think we're immune to things like this. We're just all happy and excited and thinking to ourselves, I won't be the one to get stretch marks, I'm stocked and ready to go with all that shea butter goodness!. Or, I will NEVER breastfeed in public so that won't happen to me! Or better yet, I just WON'T CARE what anyone thinks while I feed my baby!

And, invariably, by the time reality sets in the little munchkins have us all wrapped around their little fingers and stuff, so we go on our merry way and completely neglect to tell our friends, who are thinking of starting their own families, about these things.

Then they start talking. And I don't mean in the cute 18-month-old, Oh, wow, you said "truck!" but it REALLY didn't sound like "truck!" kind of embarrassing way. I mean in the 6-year-old, Oh, WOW, you'd think this kid is being interrogated by LeRoy Jethro Gibbs sort of Let-me-tell-all-the-deep-dark-secrets-of-the-family AND let-me-go-crawl-in-a-hole way.

Yeah. That.

Maybe I homeschool because it seems safer (until we go to church) from all that baring of the communal family soul. Not that I don't share a few embarrassing tidbits of my own here on the blog. Usually those shared details are my own flubs and missteps, but now, it's time for a little payback. Oh, sure, the kids won't find these things embarrassing for about 10 more years (and knowing my kids, maybe they won't EVER), but I have to have a record somewhere of them so I don't forget!

Emmy: to me while trying on hand-me-down snowpants: MOOOOM!!!! (bursting into tears) They DON'T FIT!!!
Me: They look like they fit okay, where are they bugging you?
Emmy: They just don't FIT! (more tears)
Me: Let's see.... they're not too short, they're not too tight, what's the matter with them?
Emmy: THEY ARE BLUE!!!!! (and then flopping down on the bench, sobbing)

Joshua: to Emmy when they were sitting at the table (attempting) to do schoolwork: Look how sharp this pencil is!
Emmy: It's like a SWORD!
Joshua and Emmy: pshhp! Pshaaaw! Aaayaah! Shwoooop! (sword fighting with their pencils)
Me: STOP doing that you could put someone's eye out!!!
Joshua and Emmy: (pause) Then we could have an EYEPATCH! We'd look like PIRATES!!!
Me: (*fail*)

Okay, if you're squeamish, you might want to end this reading of my blog post right here.

Just warning ya!

Particularly if you are vegetarian, vegan, etc. or a member of PETA.

Okay, so we are *mostly* vegetarian. I will once in a while order something with chicken in it when we're out eating, but I don't ever cook meat of any kind at home. Well, there was that one time I made a baked salmon dish, but other than than, it doesn't happen. Until Thanksgiving.

It's Thanksgiving people. The day just NEEDS a turkey. So when we're home for that holiday I get past my absolute distaste of handling raw meat and... cook a turkey.

But that's not what happened here.

This year we were home, I didn't want to cook a turkey, I didn't want to THAW a turkey in my kitchen before I could cook it, etc. So instead I went and bought one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens. Yeah, totally the same thing, I KNOW, okay?! But anyways, so there we are with our nicely prepared dinner, and this little chicken thing sitting off to the side, and then....

Emmy: Momma, can I have the drumstick?
Me: (how does she know what the drumstick IS?) Umm, okay?
Emmy: YAY!
Me: Here you go, Emmy.
Emmy: Oh, boy, oh boy! (commences eating drumstick)
Emmy: Look, guys, there's the MEAT! (chomp, chomp, chomp)
Emmy: Look, guys, there a VEIN!!! (poke, poke, poke)
Emmy: LOOK, GUYS, THERE'S THE BONE!!! (hopping up and down, literally, on her seat)
Me: (slaps hand against face)
Emmy: Momma, can we clean off this bone so I can keep it?
Me: (ohdearLordhavemercyonme)

*and yes, for those wondering, I DID boil that bone (thank you, Temperance Brennan, for showing me how) until it was clean and give it back to her. 'Cause that's just the kind of girl she is, and the kind of mom I am. She thought she was being a paleontologist, and I do believe she would have taken it outside and buried it somewhere just so she could find it again except the dog stole it about 30 seconds later.

I think I'm embarrassing myself now, aren't I? Who needs the kids to tell on me when I plainly put out my redneck side for all to see right here?

Oh, dear. Time to go pick my teeth with one o'them leftover bones or somethin', now, ain't it?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

~ Never Forgotten ~

The days leading up to the 10th anniversary of Carl's death were marked by broken sleep, tossing and turning in the dark, grasping at memories that seemed too far away to reach.

The memories I have no longer seem like vapors drifting up through my consciousness and caught like tiny, glistening droplets of water on a web. Now they are solid, worn smooth like a stone carried around in a pocket. The details feel rehearsed.

There are no new memories to be made.

Friday was punctuated by tears, by unspoken questions that will not be answered this side of heaven, and finally, by peace and hope found in these precious promises:

"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as other which have no hope, for if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.... for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a cloud and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God!" 1 Thess. 4:13-16

"For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known." 1 Cor. 13:12

I am, as I know many, many others are, thankful not only for these promises of hope but also for a loving Father who carries every memory of his children close to His heart, never letting any of it fade away. Every smile, every tear, every laugh, it is all kept safe in the heart of One who loved Carl more than all the rest of us put together.


Monday, November 28, 2011

What Not To Do - Day Before Thanksgiving Edition

Lesson Learned #1: Never, never, never take 4 kids grocery shopping on the day before Thanksgiving.

Lesson Learned #2: Never take your 4 kids to Sears for portraits. Not on any day, but especially not on the day before Thanksgiving unless you LIKE to spend 90 futile minutes attempting to get all of them to look at the camera while smiling and in perfectly balanced formation. Seriously, people. I'm not looking for perfection, I'm looking for NICE. Snap away, stop trying to get them all to look up, hold position, AND smile, for heaven's sake ! Now I remember why I stopped taking them to a studio. Exactly 5 pics taken, none of which were worth buying. We gave up when it became apparent the baby was on the verge of total meltdown.

Lesson Learned #3: No matter what - don't get distracted by the phone call and forget.... to get gas. Another 90 minutes wasted there, folks, but then again, I wouldn't have caught this sweet sibling moment if it weren't for being stranded on the side of the road, now would I? What's even better? After calling half my contacts list to recruit some help here, it was eventually the baby who accidentally dialed someone who not only picked up the phone on their busy afternoon, but dropped everything and came right to our rescue!

Lesson Learned #4: Never try to take away a winter Oreo (with the incredibly messy red filling) from a baby that's been rudely awakened from two naps, forced to play nice for the weird picture people, and been strapped in a carseat while the car was stranded on the side of the road for too long!

Lesson Learned #5: All the craziness and shenanigans earlier in the day does not provide an excuse for shirking all the holiday baking I should have been doing instead of hanging out on the side of the road! Bread rolls and desserts done by 10:30, then it was off to bed for me.

I was totally determined to sleep in on Thanksgiving. Anyone taking any bets as to what time the coffee pot was perking?

That's okay. Lessons learned for next year. Memories made for this year.

My motto as a mom of four? Never be in a hurry!

Don't sweat the small stuff! (It tasted good, I promise)

And Count Your Blessings.

TOS Review - The Reading Game

The Reading Game is a fast action memory card game to teach sight words to early learners. From the author of Wordly Wise, Kenneth Hodgkinson, this game includes 6 illustrated story books, 6 decks of matching play cards, and a Teacher/Parent Guide.

The first story uses only 30 words, which are also found in the first deck of cards. You play the game just like you would with any memory matching game, all the cards face down, with each player turning over two cards at a time and trying to match them up. Each card has nothing else but a single word on it, so the student must go only on the knowledge of the letters rather than on a picture to lean on as a crutch. Once the two matching cards are found, the player must repeat the word on the cards several times in quick succession to get the point!

Once those words are mastered (there is a test question section in the guide) then you can move on to the next set of cards. There are six sets in each deck (and one deck per book) to complete, by which time the student will know 30 words by sight and will be able to read the first book, Skunk!

Each deck and each book build upon another until at the completion of the program the student will know 180 words!

We enjoyed the stories very much, and the kids quickly caught on to the memory-matching premise of the game. We used it sporadically, however, because we are using a completely different method of learning to read than sight words. It soon lost its draw for my 4 year old, and my 8 year old spent his time helping the 4 year old play the game. My 6 year old, however, did benefit from the game play as good reinforcement of the words that she knows, but does not quickly or instantly come up with on her own. It helped speed up her process of reading through recognition of these common words. Now she can focus a little more on the more difficult ones!

For those who enjoy or are already using the sight words method (my son was taught to read in large by this method at his former school) this would make an excellent aid. A fast-paced, non-frustrating way to have fun and learn, too!

You can purchase The Reading Game here and watch an informative video on how the game works! The Reading Game retails for $24.95.

We were provided The Reading Game for free in exchange for an honest review and nothing more.

To read more reviews from other TOS Crewmembers on this product, click here.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Grandma

This summer I had the privilege to fly out to WA, visit my family, and to see my Grandma Angie. It had already been more than 2 years since I’d seen her last, and while I was a little hesitant about how the visit would go since her stroke had made communication more difficult for her, it turned out to be a huge blessing for all of us.

My whole family was able to spend time with her, all of my children, including the little one she hadn’t met yet, and my husband, whom she hadn’t seen in several years. We sat in her room, sang songs, hugged her and kissed her, and, in time, said goodbye for what would be the very last time.

Well, not the VERY very last time. We will see her smiling face again in a better place. A place where time is not tied to aging, to wrinkles, to arthritis, to aching bones, and certainly not tied to something as awful and paralyzing as a stroke. Yes, I believe my Grandma will hear the trump of God as her Savior descends on a cloud, surrounded by angels, and will speak (what a wonderful thought! To hear her speak again!) words of praise as she rises to meet her Lord.

At some time in her life she made the choice to follow Jesus on whatever road He chose to take her down, and through her faithful life our family has been given an example of love, kindness, perseverance, faithfulness, generosity, and fast walking.

Oh, she did love to walk, didn’t she?! Could anyone keep up with her? Nothing seemed to slow her down! Not ice or snow, not wind or rain, and certainly not a steep hill! As a youngster I remember running up ahead with my cousins as we’d go for a Sabbath afternoon hike, and when we’d reach the top, far ahead of our parents, there she’d be! Standing right next to us, giggling away with her hand clasped over her mouth and absolute delight at our looks of surprise.

She took us for many walks when we were little, and though she was a determined speed walker on her many outings and errands, with us she always had the time to stop and explore the edges of the water, the old equipment parked down by the tracks, waiting while we picked up rocks to throw or examined some interesting tidbit of years gone by.

And then we grew a little and it was all fair game - she’d pick up the pace and we’d huff and puff trying to match it! It was several years before we could really, truly, outwalk her. I must have been in college when I finally realized that there were places I could go, hiking I could do, that she could no longer give me a run for my money. She had to be 70 by then. I was 20. I never did think of her as “old”.

When I was little she taught me how to wash dishes. That water was HOT! I watched her crooked, arthritis-ridden hands dip over and over into those hot washtubs and scrub the pots and scour the pans. The more she washed, the pinker her hands grew, until they were red.

“Grandma, your hands are red!”, I’d say.

“Yes, dear.” , she’d reply as she scrubbed away.

“They look like they’re getting burnt!”

“That’s true, too.”, she’d nod.

Well, okay, I was a little too young to remember exactly what she said, but I had to throw in those two “grandmaisms” in there somewhere!

She came to my house once, way out here in Michigan, and spent a week here celebrating Christmas. She slept in a cold little closet space that had been cleared out and a bed shoved in it since all the available spaces were taken up with family stored here and there and everywhere. She never complained, just told stories of her cold growing up years in North Dakota. On that trip she made it her job to make sure the dishes were always done after every meal for all 11 of us in the house, and I remember watching her hands while she washed and remembering the days I stood on a stool in her kitchen as a little girl. That stool stands in my own kitchen now. When she left my house she gave me her little metal elastic arm-band thingies that she always used to keep her sleeves up out of her way when she washed dishes. I’m not sure she ever owned a dishwasher until she went to stay at Uncle Terry’s house when she was 80! Well, Grandma, it gives me hope that maybe someday I’ll have an end to my dishwashing-by-hand days, too!

In addition to teaching me how to scrub dishes until your hands were red, she also taught me how to crochet, and how to play card games by your own rules. Oh, don’t try to deny it! She taught you all how to play sets and runs or hand and foot by her “bendable” rules, too!

The holidays will never be the same without watching Grandma stir the gravy with her whole body there at the stove, without hearing her twangy way of singing “Power in the Blood”, or helping her clean up and put away every last bit of the turkey before she’d sit down. But then, she never was one to sit down much, was she? Even when her work was done, there might be something that came up suddenly that needed to be done, so what use was it to sit down?

The after-cleanup game times won’t be the same without her, either. She may have passed down her love for playing them to many of us kids and grandkids, but without her laugh and sparkle, the games have lost a little of their attraction for me. I’ll get past it though, my kids will soon be ready to join in the fun of a little sets-and-“creative“-runs, so I will be thinking of her as I pass down the tradition to them.

Most importantly, though, are not the traditions she has passed down but the faith, the principles, the purpose of her life to love Jesus and love people.

I love to hear stories about my Grandma, especially ones that tell how she always kept her pantry full of cakes, cookies, and bread and never failed to have a meal ready on Sabbath so she could invite someone over for Sabbath dinner. Even if she didn’t have anything prepared, she still invited someone over for dinner! If her house wasn’t spotless, she still invited someone over for dinner! These stories never fail to inspire me to try harder to forget a little more about how others might perceive me in a negative way based on my imperfections and remember a little more about how people just need to be shown love, hospitality, and have a good slice of bread. That’s the kind of example she set for me, and I am blessed by it daily.


Angeline Mae Maria Budd Allen

Angeline (Angie) Mae Maria Allen (Budd), 90, died peacefully in the home of her daughter Wanda in Home Valley, WA on Oct. 26, 2011, where she had been lovingly cared for since a stroke in 2009. She was born on Dec. 17, 1920 in Devil's Lake, ND, the second of 10 children born to the late John and Josephine Budd.

Her family moved from ND to Walla Walla, WA where Angie attended college and then worked as a secretary until 1951 when she married Norman G. Allen in August of that year. Together they raised 4 children, moving first to Bremerton, WA, then to Appleton, WA, before settling for a time in Stevenson, WA. As they grew older they became snowbirds, flitting to Quartzite, AZ for the winters.

Angie loved Jesus, loved people, and loved helping those in need. She volunteered her time at the Seventh-Day Adventist community services center putting together food baskets for the holidays. She also diligently sent personal cards for birthdays and anniversaries to a mailing list numbering in the hundreds.

She was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist churches in White Salmon, WA, Hood River, OR, and most notably Stevenson, WA where she was a Cradle Roll teacher for many years, sharing with the little ones the story of Jesus. She always had a hike planned or sledding parties for the youth, and loved to see the young people filling the pews of the little church.

She daily lived her life by the principles she held dear, with time spent daily in the Word of God and hands that were never idle. Even when arthritis in her fingers brought pain, there was still always a pantry full of breads, pies, and cookies, canned peaches, pears and cherries, ready for any and all that would accept her invitation to share a Sabbath meal.

She enjoyed crocheting, playing board games and card games, and walking with enough purpose and energy to make the younger generations run to keep up! She walked everywhere she could; rain or shine, snow or ice, it didn't matter to her! And Oh, her love of high heels! Such disappointment when her family asked her to put them away at the youthful age of 83!

Her love for traveling included her many spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways on the back of the Honda Aspencade during their retirement years (including visiting their favorite buffets!), going to Quartzite in the winters with the 5th wheel, sometimes with a load of "real" Christmas trees to spread the holiday cheer, and flying around the country after Norman's death to see her many relatives and loved ones.

Angie was preceded in death by Norman, her husband of 50 years, in 2002, her parents, her brother Orpheus Budd, and sister Rose Ludlow. She is survived
by two sons: Terry (Anita) Allen of Parkdale, OR, and Daryl (Lis) Allen of Carson, WA, two daughters: Wanda (Craig) Salvesen of Home Valley, WA,
and Holly (Bob) Adderly of McMinville, OR; 10 grandchildren: Michael (April) Allen of Carson, WA, Jake (Lisa) Allen of Carson, WA, David Allen of Gresham, OR, Charles (Julia) Adderly of Lebanon, OR, Debbie (Monte) Gallanger of Home Valley, WA, Lisa (Colby) Jenkins of Rapid City, MI, Danyl (Melinda) Allen of North Las Vegas, NV, Robert Adderly of Fife, WA, Julie (Sam) Hill of McMinnville, OR, Ryan Adderly of Fife, WA; 2 brothers: Joe (Patsy) Budd of Prescott, AZ, Lyle (Lee) Budd of Moses Lake, WA; 5 sisters: Marjorie (John) Weir of Colbert, WA, Cleo (Glen) Forgey, Hazel (Wayne) Burns of Dayton, OH, Ruthie (Don) Jacobsen of Hiawassee, GA, Naomi (Bill) Parsons of Citrus Heights, CA; 20 great-grandchildren, numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and nephews, and great-grand nieces and nephews.

A Memorial Service will be held on Nov. 19 at the White Salmon SDA Church at 3:00 pm and will be officiated by Pastor Pat Milligan.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

TOS Review - The Person I Marry - Bower Books

Bower Family Books is a family-run self-publishing company that offers an array of books that are written by Gary Bower and illustrated by his wife of 33 years, Jan Bower. Together they are raising and homeschooling their 12 children in addition to publishing and marketing their books!

These beautiful books are designed instill Christian values like love, respect, kindness, honor in a way that appeals to both young and old, single or married. They are written in a way that draws the heart gently towards an ideal or Biblical principle, things that I want their little hearts to be pulled towards!

We were given to review a digital copy of the book, The Person I Marry, book two in the Bright Future series, which includes the titles: The Person I Marry, What Do Heroes Wear?, The Jingle In My Pocket, There's a Party In Heaven, and The Garden Where I Grow (coming in 2012)

I have to admit: I read this several times to the children and not once did I manage to get all the way through it without choking up once or twice. I really should have previewed the book before diving straight into reading it aloud with the kids gathered around me. The first time included streaming tears, horn-blowing nose, and bewildered children! It reminded me of how much I want to instill these thoughts in their minds as they grow into young men and women and begin to look for their own life partner, and, of course, reminded me of how small my time with them really is.

We read it several times, the kids enjoyed it, I managed to make it through without complete emotional melt-down (occasionally with the help of distraction - oh, look at that pretty picture! *cough*splutter*) and overall I would give this a hearty thumbs-up! I'd love to own this in hardcopy!

The only drawback to the copy we received for review was that it was a digital copy. We had to gather around the computer to read it, but we pulled up a couple of chairs, snuggled a couple of kids on my lap, and we were good to go.

The books you order online, however, are all hardcopy, so this would not be an issue for you were you to purchase one. I do think it would be neat to be able to download this onto a portable reader at some point, though, and take it with us. The Person I Marry is hardcover, 32 pages, and retails for $11.99.

When I first read through the book (in between the tears) I thought the style and pictures looked somewhat familiar, but it wasn't until I really read through the website later that I realized that I've seen these books in local bookstores! Located near Traverse City, MI, these folks are practically my neighbors! I've seen their I'm a Michigan Kid! books and I'll be keeping my eye out for others as well now.

The Person I Marry is priced very reasonably at $11.99 on their website. This title and others are currently on sale here.

To preview a little of this book, watch this video!

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

To read what other This Old Schoolhouse Crew members are saying about Bower Family Books' The Person I Marry, go here!

I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review and nothing more.

Monday, November 07, 2011

TOS Review - Ooka Island Adventure

Ooka Island Adventure is a game-based learning program to teach young learners reading proficiency and bring them - upon completion - to the second grade reading level. Within the realm of a mythical island where the elves need to be rescued by the little student "adventurers", there are multi-level and sequential reading exercises and games to play to gain phonemic skills that aid in progression along the book-reading path. For every 5 books read successfully, one elf is rescued!

The 3-D graphics are phenomenal! The songs are fantastic! My kids were immediately drawn in by the colors, the sounds, and the promise of engaging activities! We had a little trouble with the avatar's head not showing up pretty much at all, but that didn't bother the kids as much as it did me!

The program is equipped with a voice recognition program that you can use with an external microphone to really take advantage of the reading help offered. Unfortunately, we don't have a microphone and we went through the books with the other option offered, reading with help. That worked just fine, however, it did make it more difficult to see how much Emmy was actually progressing for herself.

You must download a large file (try starting it just before you go to bed for best results!) and have high-speed internet in order to use the Ooka Island program, which are drawbacks for some, but well worth it if this program enables and encourages your child to read when they have been struggling!

For us, the program is at the right level for use with Emmy, my almost 6-year-old first grader. She struggles a bit with reading at the first grade level. The lower level books of the Ooka Island program were right on target for her. The graphics and 3-D type movement, however, seemed to overwhelm her. After about 20 minutes of successful time using the program, she would begin to seem very agitated and needed to unwind. Sitting with her as she played, I couldn't find any obvious reason for the agitation, such as trouble with the reading or frustration with a game or activity and could only conclude that, for her, with some sensory issues, it was too much input.

I think for kids at the same reading level as Emmy who are not dealing with sensory issues would find this to be very fascinating and engaging! It's a great alternative to non-educational computer and video games!

You can go to Ooka Island's website for more information and to watch videos about how their program is used!

You can go here for information on a free 14-day trial!

You can read more reviews from the TOS Crew on the Ooka Island program here!

Disclaimer: We were sent this program for FREE in exchange for my honest review on this blog. No other compensation was received. All opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

*Almost* Wordless Wednesday

I love this pic - her grip, her joy, her "Grandma" look.

Angie Allen
Dec. 17,1920- Oct. 26, 2011

We love you and miss you!

Friday, October 28, 2011

TOS Review - Memoria Press First Start Reading and Classical Phonics


Memoria Press is a "family-run publishing company that produces simple and easy to use classical Christian education materials for home and private schools." Relatively new to the homeschool world, established in 1994, Memoria Press is not a widely known name. At least, I'd never heard of them before being given the opportunity to review two of their products: First Start Reading and Classical Phonics.

Memoria Press' philosophy is a Classical Christian education with an emphasis on cultivating wisdom and virtue through affordable products for anyone, even those who have no history of teaching or previous knowledge of the topic!

They offer comprehensive curriculum in these subjects:
  • Packaged curriculum for grades K-6
  • Latin studies (yes, LATIN!) for grades 1-8+
  • Phonics
  • Grammar
  • Literature
  • French
  • Rhetoric & Logic (grades 7+)
  • Classical studies (grades 3-8)
  • Christian studies (grades 3-8)
  • American/Modern studies (grades 3-8)
  • Classical/Christian (grades 6-12)
  • New America Cursive (grades 1-3)
  • Copybooks (including Christian, Bible, and famous figures quotes to practice penmanship, grammar, spelling, literature, memorization, accuracy, etc.)
They also offer an online academy program and discounted BETA testing curriculum products.

Classical Phonics is a book of phonetically arranged word lists that offer repetition and practice while going through the First Start Reading program. While learning the new sounds and blends in their FSR workbooks, children have the reinforcement of the word lists in Classical Phonics in short, manageable doses (read: not overwhelming!). The pages focus on word family lists, which seems to me to be a very effective way of teaching a child a certain sound or blend in a way that provides the least frustration and the most progress in a short amount of time.

First Start Reading is a four-book package that includes a comprehensive Teacher's Guide and three workbooks. The Teacher's Guide is very well laid out with easy-to-follow instructions, little to no prep work, and, at times, the philosophy behind the tactics being employed.

The workbooks are simple, colorless, well thought out, and provide ample room for little hands to practice their letters, draw their own pictures, and color the simple drawings provided.

Now: on to the fun part! I get to tell you how we used this in our homeschool and how much we loved it!

I opened the package when it arrived and looked at the beautiful, well constructed workbooks very briefly before they were practically snatched away by the children. My four-year-old was ecstatic when she learned that they were for her! The first few days of instruction went smoothly and she was begging to do her letter book at all hours of the day. I could hardly complain about that!

It was the second week, however, that really sold me on the First Start Reading program. We began the first simple sound blending workbook pages - and - it clicked! She understood, she blended, she recognized, and she read her first sentence! It was an exciting day and I just had to shout it from the hills (*cough* share it on facebook)!

It's not that I haven't tried other phonics programs. I have. They did not click. I tried with both of my older children and found nothing but frustration! Joshua learned how to read when he was attending school, and is now an absolutely avid reader. My almost 6 year old first-grader Emmy though is still easily frustrated by her attempts to read and hates to sit and practice even the simplest books. I know she knows her letters and sounds very well, but somehow making them all blend together brings on the tears.

So I decided to try First Start Reading with her, too. Well, why not? I certainly couldn't hurt! I skipped ahead to workbook C (4 year old Elayna is in workbook A) which is full of letter reviews, word family lists, short stories (with spaces for her to illustrate with her own drawings), and pages of blank lines for dictation practice.

She loves it. She doesn't get frustrated by it. There are no tears. And - she's already reading far better than she was 2 weeks ago.

If you are a mom and you're reading this, I'm sure you can understand that those last few sentences are the highest possible recommendation that I can give. I can't even think of anything more to say.

I plan to start using Prima Latina with Joshua as soon as it arrives, along with their cursive program.

First Start Reading (Teacher's Guide, workbooks A, B, C) sells for $29.95 here.
Classical Phonics sells for $14.95 here.

Need a curriculum map for the Memoria Press website? Here you go!

To request a catalog: go here!

Or call 1-877-862-1097.

*disclaimer: I was provided with these products in exchange for an honest review and nothing more.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Visit to Washington

The drive on the first day of our trip was.... say the least, but the following day was fast and furious! Up at 3, airport at 5, flight before 7.

Actually, the Indianapolis airport was great. It wasn't crowded, we didn't have to wait in any lines at all, and even if we did, they had a FAMILY lane through security, which is the best invention since the Jetway.

We made it through our first flight, our layover in Denver, and the tried to take someone else's luggage in Portland, but all in all it was an uneventful trip west.

Going back through PDX on the way east, though, was not a fun experience.

Oh, but the rest of the trip was SO much fun! What a blessing to be able to watch my kids play with their cousins, to connect the little dots in their heads about who goes where and with what family, to be taught just a tiny bit by Papa and spoiled just a smidge by Grandma Snicklefritz.

We swam in the pool.

Ate blackberries.

Hiked in the woods.

Bonded with our cousins.

Swam in cold, clear pools of mountain streams.

Hung out and drank coffee.

Went to the zoo.

Celebrated a first birthday (and a 36th birthday, and a 37th anniversary!)

Visited old familiar places.

Saw beautiful sunsets.....

....and my sweet grandma.

Went to the coast.

And got a little crazy with a hummer on the beach......

Okay, maybe a LOT crazy with the hummer on the beach...

It's hard sometimes, to be so far away from people I love so much, but I will try and savor every memory we made in the (very) short two weeks we spent in Washington!


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