Sunday, December 02, 2012

Little Hearts and Little Hopes

Last week we headed down to Grand Rapids to see Joshua's cardiologist. We go every two years now for check-ups, and this was just routine.

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EKG looked good. All four BPs were normal and equal. But since we've been noticing that Joshua gets out of breath quickly, and since he does still have a "nonspecific systolic murmur", his doctor decided to go ahead and do the full work-up with an echocardiogram just to get a good idea of exactly what was going on with his heart.

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The process of getting an echo has come a long way since Joshua's first! He was in a comfy bed, with lots of pillows to prop him and a bed that moved up and down according to the needs of the tech. At his fingertips was a remote for the TV on the wall, with an enormous list of movies to choose from to watch during the procedure!

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Afterwards we waited for the doctor back in the exam room. After almost half an hour he came in, saying "Sometimes God works in mysterious ways!", and proceeded to tell us that he had just been speaking with a young man (19 years old) who had also lost his voice the same way Joshua had, but that he'd recently had a procedure done in Chicago that had restored his voice completely! Dr. Lacina was excited about the possibilities for Joshua!

We discussed how Joshua's results of the echo looked good. His murmur is not causing any problems or indicating a need for further treatment at this time. We'll keep watching it, but other than the murmur his heart looks healthy and his aortic repair site remains clear and unobstructed by scar tissue.

That's AWESOME news!!! But that also means that the breathlessness when he's active is caused not by his heart - but by his airway being obstructed by the sagging, atrophied muscle of the paralyzed vocal fold. We knew there was a possibility of obstruction eventually, but since he has not indicated any trouble with swallowing or drinking fluids, it hadn't crossed my mind that it was obstructing his breathing while active.

Up until this point the only procedure I'd heard of was one that pulled up the vocal fold and sort of pinned it back, out of the way, which resolves the obstruction, but does nothing to help the voice regain strength since sound is caused by the two halves of the fold coming tightly together and vibrating against one another, not by being apart. This was the first time we discussed anything that would restore his voice, and it was exciting!

From what little we know at this point, the vocal fold would receive a transplanted nerve, restoring tone and firmness so that the other half of the vocal fold can connect with it, however, actual muscle control would not be restored. As far as we know, there is no procedure that does restore muscle control. Dr. Lacina is speaking with colleagues and doing more research for us and I will speak to him again in two weeks to gather more information and hopefully get a referral to an ENT doctor or laryngeal specialist who will consult with us.

So what that means on a practical level is that Joshua seems to have a good chance of recovering his voice in the not so distant future, however it's not clear yet whether that will resolve his airway obstruction issue since the muscle will likely still be unable to retract. So that's the news right now!

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I'm excited and I'm nervous!!! I can't wait to see what this year brings and wonder what it would like to be able to hear Joshua speak from the backseat of the car, or yell from across the yard, or not worry when he's outside that he'll be hurt and unable to call effectively for help. When he was younger he used to carry a whistle so he could use it if necessary. I wonder what it would be like to have him be at least as loud as his sisters.

But on the other hand, the surgery to complete the laryngeal reinnervation of his vocal fold is not simple. It's kind of scary, like all surgeries requiring your child be put under general anesthesia. Or where incisions are made in the neck. Or when they're going to dissect a nerve.

So, there is a lot to think about and pray about and a little bit of hope sitting there waiting like a gift under the Christmas tree!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


So this is what half way looks like.

Halfway to a drive to the post office, a card that says "I'm 18." A possibility that will make my heart ache with fear and pride.

I remember the day we met. You had been mine for nine months already, making me sick, making me miserable, making me sleepless with worry and anticipation and leg cramps.

You gave me stretch marks, even though you weren't that big and I didn't gain that much.

You put me through pain through two miserable nights of sleepless agony. Back labor. Homebirth. No relief from the pain except during those moments in the hot water when I would pass out from the exhaustion with my head hanging over the side of the birthing tub. Aunt Raini held my shoulders up because my strength was gone.

Into the water you were born, and in that moment I not only met you - I met myself.  Hello, Little Mother, you are stronger than you thought you were!, my heart said at the same moment I saw you.  Aloud, to the rest of the world, I said, "Joshua. His name is Joshua.", for it was my pleasure and privilege to introduce you to everyone else. You belonged to just me no longer. It was the beginning of this journey of yours from helpless babe in my arms to independent man, standing alone in this world before God and everyone else.

But never believe you are alone. We may be halfway through this part of our journey together, but I'll always be with you. You can't get away from me. I'll be the little voice in your ear that says, "Put the toilet seat down, son!", even in the middle of the night when you're in a college dorm room with only guys. Of course, you'll ignore that voice and leave the seat up forming a bad habit that will cause your wife to fall in the toilet someday when she's big and pregnant. But that will be for you guys to work out.

Yes, someday you'll be hers. She will be the light that draws you forward, the comfort that brings you home. And though that day is still far off, I can't help but think about it. You see, the first half of this journey from baby to man has gone so fast, I think one day I'm going to wake up to find my life has been on fast forward and just look around to see a man in a tux and a girl in white and I won't even know what happened.

Remember the snuggles for me. Remember the stories read and the songs sang. Remember the prayers repeated with childish words.

I don't know what the second half of this journey looks like. But I know you'll be the first to complete it, and that it will be gone faster than I wish for. I know the memories we will make won't look at all like the memories we made in the first nine years, but I know they will be as deep, as lasting, as bonding to our hearts in different ways.

 In nine years, maybe your plans will keep you close to this home of ours, close to my hearth, close to your home-cooked favorite things. And maybe the plans you've heard God calling you to will take you far away from my arms. I know this, though: I won't be ready. But you will be. You will be. And like the amazing, God-ordained process by which you came to be in my arms that November day 9 years ago, I will have as much control over it in 2021 as I did in 2003.

It will be okay. I'll be held up by the many arms of mothers who've walked the path before me, by your father, by Auntie Raini. Hopefully, at the end of that day, I'll hear my heart whisper those words once again, "You are stronger than you thought you were."

Because, like you always, always have, you've given my life more purpose, my heart hope, my soul joy. You've reminded me daily of why God values me:

A Parent's Love.

And that never changes.

I love you, Joshua.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The One That Gives You Pie

Last Sabbath we had a church full of littles.

21 of 'em, in fact.

That's awesome, right?

21 children in the church and all but two under the age of 10.

4 two-year-olds.

And see, here's the catch. There were only 24 adults to go with that wonderful cacophony of BABIES!

Oh, but it was wonderful. We loved it. And the rest of the church loved it too. I can only praise God that our church family loves our babies and WANTS our babies there.

We loved it so much we invited 9 of those kids (and their parents) to come play with our 4 for the rest of the afternoon! Lots of fellowship and the occasional shenanigans ensued, making it a very blessed Sabbath indeed!

Colby sent them on a treasure hunt to the barn where he had hidden an old "treasure chest" under the floor boards of the old '56 Ford. It was a riot watching them all running here and there and searching the dark recesses of cobwebbed corners. They debated the reading of the map so many times they couldn't remember who was doing what where.

When they'd finally found it they immediately set forth to return the favor and hid some "treasure" for Colby to find.

Just a bunch of country kids traipsing through imaginary rainforests, hauling trunks full of treasure from their shipwrecked galleon, burying it 20 paces from the north-facing rock that looks like a monkey's face. Good times! Great memories.

Growing up, my own fun memories usually involve my brothers and my cousins. But I also have some wonderful memories of adventures with the church family youngsters. What a blessing it is to have friends for my kids that have the same values, principles, and hopes! It's the memories of these times that bond those kids together and give them a sense of belonging within loving friendships when they're questioning what place is theirs in this life.

So anyway, a few months ago, at a potluck, I was standing with my oldest daughter at the dessert table, waiting to help her scoop up some pie. Unfortunately for her, by the time she was next in line, there was only one piece left. The young man in front of her scooped it up on the spoon and my daughter turned to me with big eyes and whispered, "Oh, I was hoping to have a piece of that pie!"

The young man (10 years old) overheard and immediately turned and plunked that scoop of pie right on Emmy's plate. No hesitation. No regret. No selfishness.

I just about burst into tears.

Emmy's my girl that's a wild card. She's going to want to drive a fast car, or WORSE... ride around with a boy in a fast car. She's the one that keeps me up at night, worrying about what life when she's 17 is going to do to me.

All I could think in that moment was,

"Marry the one that gives you his pie, Emmy-girl. Marry the one that gives you his pie!"

Thursday, September 13, 2012


So there I was, at the end of Day 2 of a 10 day Juice Fast. My day had been spent praying for the headache to go away and trying to get kids to read quietly for, oh, about 2 hours longer than they normally do.

Dinner is, of course, a lovely time of day when you're juicing, but I made it through. Colby had a church board meeting, so I fixed him a plate, cleaned everything up, and started running a bath for Evelyn while the big kids ran outside to play.

Ahh... a peaceful moment to sit while the baby played in the water. I couldn't wait till Colby was home, all I wanted to do was go to bed and SLEEP! Turning the faucet off before the water got too deep, I sat back and rubbed my throbbing temples.

And then I heard the screaming.

Not one kid screaming.

Not two kids screaming.

No, that was the sound of all THREE kids screaming bloody murder.

Before I could get the baby out of the tub to go investigate, they all streamed into the house and made a beeline for me in the bathroom....with Elayna looking as if she'd just been the main character in a horror film.



So much blood. Streaming down her face, down her neck, covering the front of her shirt.

Blood was matted in her hair in an enormous patch on the top and side of her head.

I grabbed her up and sat down on the lid of the toilet and reached for a towel - but there were none on the shelf! (What was I planning to do about a baby in the bathtub with no towel, anyway? Who knows!)

I couldn't LEAVE the bathroom to find a towel, mind you, because there was still a toddler IN THE BATHTUB.

"Okay, Joshua, I need to you please quickly get me a towel!"

"There ARE no towels, Mom!"

"A kitchen towel, then! QUICKLY!"

Right about then Emmy started shrieking, "I don't LIKE this!!!!!"

....and ran out the front door.

To go who knows where.

Joshua brought me a towel and I applied pressure to Elayna's head while trying to decide whether NOW was the time to call 911. And in that moment I had no idea where my phone was. I sent Joshua to track it down for me.

He brought it to me quickly and I sent him off again to find me a towel for the baby.

I called Colby, and the conversation sounded something like this:


"Yeah, what's wrong?"


And then the phone went dead. Apparently that's what happens when a worried Daddy stomps the accelerator down while driving on a road where you get sketchy service at best.

Okay. He'd be home in about 5 minutes and what relief knowing that brought me! I ventured a peak at Elayna's head and was immensely glad to see that the blood had stopped running freely!

I set her down and told her to keep the towel on her head while I got the baby out of the tub. I quickly dried Evelyn off and asked Joshua to bring me a pull-up. He brought me the whole package. I remember trying to sound calm and cheery as I said to him, "Thank you! I don't need the whole package, just one! Can you put the rest of these back for me?"

He looked at me like I was Nutso.

How could I blame him? Less than a minute before I was yelling into the phone like the panic crazed woman that I was!

I sat back down with Elayna and held the towel again.

Evelyn was wandering in and out of the bathroom, trying to see what was going on, trying to play in the bathwater that wasn't draining quickly enough, and exploring the contents of the cabinet while I talked with Elayna and Joshua about what had happened.

And then I look up at Evelyn as she walks out the bathroom door with her potty seat ON HER HEAD.

Oh. My. Word.

Can't we just SLOW the CIRCUS TRAIN down here, kids?! PLEASE?!

"Joshua, get it off of her head!!!"

"But it's funny!"

"GAHHHHHH!!!! It's not funny, please just get it OFF of her!"


I was torn between asking Joshua to take Evelyn out to the living room to keep her occupied and sending him outdoors to find Emmy. In fact, I'm fairly certain I asked him to do both. At the same time.

And somehow he did. I'm not sure how, but he did both for me, and did them, like he'd done everything else that night, without complaint, without question, and extremely well. He was my little rock, and I'm so glad I had him there to help me. Somewhere in that short space of time he got clorox wipes and cleaned up all of the blood that was everywhere from the door to the puddle in the bathroom, too.

Colby came home, and we began to really assess Elayna's head wound. The bleeding had, indeed, stopped, but getting a good look at the wound itself was next to impossible - the blood had matted her hair to her head like glue. Colby started with a wash cloth and washed her face, neck, and arms, then worked a little at the edges of the matted hair. Elayna wanted to see. So she stood up on my legs and watched in the mirror. And then she took the wash cloth and started scrubbing at her hair like nobody's business.

And that's when we knew she was going to be fine. Poor little girlie. This pic was after she'd been cleaned up quite a bit.

I sat her in the tub and rinsed her head with clean water until the matted hair was all loose and clean. The wound itself? MAYBE 1/4" long gash. Fully clotted, not open at all, and would not require stitches or even glue.

We didn't even put any sort of band-aid on it.

Praise God!!

Just when I was used to the poop stage, I guess it's time to get used to the blood stage. Unfortunately, I think this one lasts longer, especially when we live in the country, where horses, four-wheelers, tractors, and mud trucks are not just tools and toys, they're a way of life!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Toothbrushes and Toddlers

At the moment I have one child-size toothbrush jammed down the bathroom sink drain, one in the garbage can after being retrieved from the drain, and two just plain MIA. And no, that's not because I haven't thought to replace them lately, that all happened THIS WEEKEND.

What IS it with small children and toothbrushes?!

I'd fare better if I just bought a stockpile of them from toothbrushes"R"us and called it a day. Then they could be really disposable. Use it once, throw it away, kids!

And then I'd get a sharps container like the ones they hang on the walls in the mall bathroom.

That way they wouldn't be fished out of the garbage and used by little miss Babycakes to brush the dog's teeth right before shoving it in her own mouth.

Or brush the dog's fur.

Or scrub the floor/window/toilet/chair/piano/cupboard/stove/what-have-you...

Once I even absolutely insanely bought the kids these cool toothbrushes with suction cups on the bottom so you could suction them right to the edge of the sink - UPRIGHT so no germs contaminate them.

Except that it was much, MUCH more fun to suction them to the MIRROR, then laugh hysterically when the suction failed and they popped off and shot across the room, landing in random places all over the bathroom.


No matter how many times they were cautioned against it, those suction cups were entirely too entertaining to resist, and now and then after the children had all brushed their teeth and gone to bed I'd be sitting in the living room and hear the tell-tale "Pop!" of a toothbrush and the thud of it landing...


Those didn't last long.

At all.

My personal favorite is watching Evelyn get a hold of MY toothbrush and wander around the house with it. It doesn't seem to matter where I hide it or how high up it has been put, she has radar for it.

I thought toothpaste was bad. For a while there the kids would have toothpaste smeared around the sink like a hot glue gun gone wild, until I learned it was best to just hide that, too, and move the hiding place every few days so they wouldn't catch on to where it was coming from when I'd personally line them up and dot their toothbrushes every morning and night without letting them close enough to squeeze the ever-lovin' ENTIRE contents out of touch the elusive toothpaste tube.

I mean, I guess I could start hiding the toothbrushes, too, right? Maybe in a ziplock bag in a drawer in the fridge. Seems to be the only "hiding" place left that hasn't been stuffed full of other contraband not-for-children items until it gets discovered by grubby little hands, decimated beyond recognition, and shoved back into place surreptitiously until I discover the carnage at some later time.

Confession: Usually when I find that one of my hiding places has been discovered, I peek in, grimace and groan, then close it back up, preferring to pretend my house is NOT full of these pockets of disaster clean at all times and well-organized.

Maybe what I need isn't stock in a toothbrush company, maybe what I need is to hire someone to come organize my house (while I conveniently take a vacation, of course).

Then I'll have lots of new hiding places for things again!

Problem solved.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The Feel of Cheap Things On My Skin

I *like* the feel of cheap things on my skin. 

Raindrops falling softly on a spring day.

Flannel sheets on a cold winter night.

My husbands arms around my waist.

The sand between my toes at the edge of the Torch Lake Sandbar.

Silky baby hair brushed between my fingers.

Soft, warm kitty fur against my cheek.

Ice cold creek water against bare skin on a hot, sticky summer night.

 Wind through my hair on a drive with my husband.

A hot shower after a long night up with babies.

Big kid hugs and baby's butterfly kisses.

Sometimes I feel a bit deprived without the luxuries I see someone else enjoying, but if I stop to really think about it....

No amount of money in the world could come up with anything but "cheap" substitutes for the real-deal things I've listed above. I'd rather have my feet in the sandbar than in a pair of Louboutins. I'd rather run my fingers through a baby's silky hair than over dupioni drapes. I'd rather have the wind through my hair riding shotgun in my husband's old truck that's paid off and way more function than fancy than in a Bentley. I'd rather dive into Torch Lake than take a Caribbean vacation. I'd rather have those flannel sheets than 1200 thread count Egyptian cotton sateen confections!

Okay, that last one is a poor example of real-deal vs. expensive substitute, but flannel sheets just absolutely ROCK when you live in the cold white north. "Uninhabitable", as my dad says!

So next time I am tempted to feel deprived, I'm going to look around and think of the things in my life that are the Real Deal. I'm going to stop to thank God for them, enjoy them, and appreciate them for what they are:

"Cheap" things that make me one of the richest women in the world.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Intense to be a Mom to an Almost Two-Year Old

My last child. 

The last of the babies.

The caboose on this fast freight train of parenting. 

She is still a baby, 

still needing snuggles when she's sick,

still clingy when she's tired ("Uppa, Momma!"),

_MG_5765.jpg still unable to keep up with the big kids when they run.

But then, she's not a baby any more in so many ways that are achingly obvious, too.

_MG_5845.jpg Like how she is on the fast track to potty-training herself.
("Go potty, jelly bean!")
...and then when sitting on the loo..
("ABC's, Momma, sing ABC's!")

The lady-like way she has of doing things properly and keeping things in the right place and order.

The way she loves saying big words with such gusto, quickly progressing with her sounds until she has it right. 
("Yook Me, Momma!") 

Yes, she has her opinions about how things should be done and is driven to learn, to grow, to do things in a way that makes sense to her reasoning little mind. She's a lot like her big brother. Different dynamically from each of her sisters. 

She may, indeed, be the "baby" of the family, but she'll never settle for being the one that deals with Mom when Mom goes through the Empty-Nest syndrome as the older three fly from the nest. 

Nope, not this girl. She'll be free in her soul long before she flies from my nest.

It's in her nature to be so.

And so, in many ways, as I watch her go from baby to big girl in the blink of an eye, I know I'm also saying goodbye to the neediness of "baby"hood in more ways than one. 

And I don't think there's any way to prepare a mother's soul for the next stage. It's like learning to walk. 
First, I must crawl. 
There will be bumps and bruises along the way.
I'll fall down as I learn.

There will be tears.

But as I watch her accomplishments I know my heart will soar with hers.

So maybe...

...just maybe...
 there will be moments the empty nest will be forgotten as I, with wonder, watch them fly.

"Bye, Momma!"
(riding off into the sunset with Prince Charming)

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Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Exhilarating to be a Mom to a Six-Year-Old

I have an amazing six-year-old daughter.

Her eyes sparkle when she smiles.


The fascination and love for God's little Creepy-Crawlies is something He put into her little soul and it must make him so HAPPY to see her staring at a snake or squealing over a dragonfly.


Her laughter is that honest-to-goodness "infectious" laughter you read about in good literature. It's the kind that catches you in the middle of a serious sentence and throws you into deep belly laughs of your own, unstoppable, intensifying with hers until she stops.


Having Emmy in your life feels sort of like riding a roller coaster. Once you step on and are strapped in you're not sure which way you'll go next or what the next drop and roll will feel like. Any chance of being bored? Absolutely not!


Some days I'd still like to replace "exhilarating" with "exhausting" but those days are few and far between, now, where they were the majority of my days when my little Emmy-girl was 3. Yes, 6 is much easier, much more fun, much more rewarding than life with 3-year-old Emmy. But those days had to be fought through to get here.


And here is where I learn that despite all of my mistakes with 3 year old Emmy, 6 year old Emmy still believes in me. Forgives me. Grants grace to me. Loves me. Thoroughly. With that infectious laugh till your sides ache sort of thoroughness. I will always need her in my life. I need her laugh, the growth she brings to my soul, the exhilaration of being her Mom.


Friday, June 15, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Pearson Homeschool EnVision Math

Pearson Homeschooling offers complete build-your-own core curriculum packages for grades Pre-K - 12 at affordable prices for homeschooling families. On the home page of their website you can choose your state from a pull-down menu that links directly to your state's homeschooling requirements!  The Program components Pearson offers are all well-researched and proven effective. On the website, for each element there is a heading called "Research and Validity" that lists the specific studies done proving its effectiveness.


When I opened the package from Pearson with the gorgeous enVision Math Grade 3 book in it, I was really excited.... and a little nervous. You see, all year long we'd been using a math program that was a completely different format than the typical public school math book, and the enVision book, while colorful, looked kind of like...standard PS fare. 

Joshua had been doing so well with our chosen curriculum that I was hesitant to add confusion with such a completely different approach. I really shouldn't have worried.

At all.

He opened the book to the introduction/test prep pages in the beginning and dove in. My son is 8 years old and a very strong reader, who loves (LOVES) history, and this little Math book is stuffed full of interesting historical facts like I've never even *imagined* a math book could possibly be. He was lost in the book, reading through it, searching for the little boxes to tell him more, more, more facts, then popping his nose up above the edge of the book to tell me things like, "In 1818 a law was passed that the flag should always have 13 stripes and there should be one star for each state!", and "The Space Needle is 605 feet tall!", or "A giraffe weighs 4,255 pounds!!!". Really? Giraffes?! Wow.

What an interesting way to get my son excited about doing his math lesson: "You can't read ahead until you've finished this page, Joshua!"

As this is a standard, non-consumable text book with no corresponding workbook, it took him a while to get used to writing his answers on a separate sheet of paper, but once he got the hang of it he did fine. The Teacher's Edition CDROM also give you the option of printing out each page so the problems can be worked on the page, though we didn't opt to go that route ourselves.

In the beginning of the book is a little 12 page "Problem-Solving Handbook" with specific strategies for problem solving, including detailed work-throughs, pictures, and examples. Strategies include: draw a picture, make a table, look for pattern, act it out, work backward, and solve a simpler problem. No matter how your child learns, there is something useful in the PSH to help them help themselves when stuck on a problem. It is meant to be used through out the course as a handy reference tool.

For my son, who is a strong reader and very interested in the real-life fact-based problems used in this format, enVision Math Grade 3 works very, very well. We will continue to use this as our 3rd grade math curriculum for Joshua even though some of it will be review material that he has previously covered. I know the addition of real-life problems will only reinforce these math facts in his mind!

I do, however, think the layout and bright colors could be distracting for a special needs child, one who is on the spectrum, or one who is easily overwhelmed with busyness. If your child is not a strong reader, the reading comprehension in this book might be adding too much at one time.

We received the enVision Math 3rd Grade bundle, which includes Student Edition text book, Teacher Edition CD-ROM, Parent Guide, and Mind-Point Quiz Show CD-ROM. This bundle is available here for $99.99

Click on the link below to read what our other Schoolhouse Review Crew is saying about enVision Math Grade 3 and other Pearson Homeschool products!


Disclaimer: I received this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

TOS Crew Review: Dive Into Your Imagination


Dive Into Your Imagination is a production company started by Annie Crawley, an underwater cinematographer and educator, who hopes to change the way a new generation views the ocean. Because we "protect what we love", says Annie, the goal of Dive Into Your Imagination is to help people of all ages fall in love with our ocean!

While the goal and purpose of the educational videos and guides is to help people of all ages fall in love with the ocean and its beautiful creatures, it's not all pretty pictures and basic information. By engaging the wonderful tool of Imagination within the context of learning pertinent facts and starting in-depth conversations, these videos and the corresponding Educator Guides become a relevant and useful tool in a classroom or homeschool setting.

Great effort has been put into gathering together a set of activities and curriculum that meets up with the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) not only in the area of Science, but Math and Literacy as well. Furthermore, the lesson plans are also designed to achieve benchmarks for the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, and Ocean Literacy Standards. Yep, not only is Annie passionate about getting us all to LOVE our oceans, she's also passionate about providing relevant curriculum that meets or exceeds our expectations and provides a fact-based platform for learning to have that Love relationship!

We were sent a copy of the DVD "Who Lives in the Sea?" and given access to the corresponding educator guides pdf files for grades PreK/K and 1-3. Both individual guides have over 300 pages each, containing a wealth of information and ideas. Each chapter corresponds with a portion of the video and includes a list of required materials, objectives, character education, treasure chest of vocabulary words, imagination play script, classroom activity stations (really cool!), extension ideas (including lots of suggested books!), CCSS alignment, and more!

Educator Guides

If you have children who are interested in knowing more about sea creatures, have a classroom of curious kids that you want to give sea-life unit studies to, or have an interest in spreading love for our oceans to the grandkids in your life, this might be a great resource for you!

The Who Lives in the Sea DVD is part of a series. Each DVD is available for $19.95.
The Educator Guides are available as a printed version for $299 (for the set of two grade level guides pertaining to each DVD) or as individual PDFs for $69.95. As a special for the Homeschool Crew and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and followers Annie Crawley (of Dive Into Your Imagination) will provide a set of PDFs with purchase of the DVDs FREE of charge! When you place your DVD order, just let her know in the notes that you are a Homeschool Parent! What a great deal!

With products from books to DVDs to colorful greeting cards, there is something to engage the hearts and imaginations of everyone in the Dive Into Your Imagination store!

We found that watching through the video straight through was an enjoyable rainy-day activity, though the overall feel of the speech and songs had more of a preschool feel than an elementary feel. We did watch this several times before diving into one of the chapters of the educator guide for grades 1-3. By that time, the kids were very familiar with dolphins and coming up with answers to the discussion questions was automatic. The kids had a blast pretending to be scuba divers and then pretending to be a pod of dolphins! I was very pleased with the conversations we had about how there are stories of dolphins protecting humans, "So why don't humans protect dolphins?". They enjoyed the activities and worksheets, and I found the Educator Guides to be thorough, arranged well for ease-of-use, and of top quality. I'm not sure what format the printed version of the guides is, but if the pdf version is any indication, you won't be disappointed if you make that purchase for your classroom.

To read what other TOS Crewmembers are saying about Dive Into Your Imagination: Who Lives in the Sea? and other DIYI products, go to the Crew blog post here!

Disclaimer: As always, I was provided with this product free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Blue Ribbon Awards!

How exciting to come to the end of the year and be able to present to you ~ 
the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Award Winners!

As the 2011-2012 Crew year comes to a close, we are once again presenting awards to our vendors. The awards are known as the TOS Homeschool Crew Blue Ribbon Awards. The following vendors are the recipients of the award this year. Click on their name to check out the Crew reviews!

Favorite Reading Instruction Product: Reading Eggs / My Review
Favorite Writing Product: Write Shop
Favorite Language Arts Product: Progeny Press
Favorite Social Studies Product: TruthQuest History / My Review
Favorite Science Product: Amazing Science / My Review
Favorite Math Product: Math Mammoth
Favorite Online Math Product: Math Rider
Favorite Foreign Language Product: Visual Latin
Favorite Fine Arts Product: Artistic Pursuits
Favorite Christian Education Product: Apologia: Who Am I? / My Review


Favorite Preschool Product: Before Five in a Row
Favorite Elementary Product: All About Reading
Favorite Middle School Product: Write with WORLD
Favorite High School Product: Excellence in Literature
Favorite College or College-Prep Product: Excellence in Literature


Best Online Resource: Reading Eggs / My Review
Best e-Product: Heritage History
Best Homeschool Resource: Apologia: Educating the Wholehearted Child
Best Book, Novel, or Magazine: Apologia: How to Have a HEART for Your Kids / My Review
Best Children's Book: Amazing Animals by Design
Best Game or Toy: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything
Best Hands-On Resource: Pitsco Education


Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed: eMeals
Best Customer Service: K5 Learning
Most Adaptable Resource: Creek Edge Press
Most Family-Oriented Resource: Northstar Games: Wits and Wagers and Say Anything


Kids' Choice (favorite of CHILDREN ages 0-12): Reading Eggs / My Review
Teens' Choice (favorite per the TEENAGERS): Pitsco Education
All Around Crew Favorite: Visual Latin    

Each winning vendor has received this wonderful award to display with pride:

  Congratulations to our winning vendors! We hope you will sail with us again!  

Many Crew Members are blogging about these awards as well. Click below to see what they have to say! Powered by Linky Tools Click here to see the Crew Blog Posts...

TOS Crew Review: CapJaxMathFax


Say that ten times really fast! "CapJaxMathFax!".

Yep, say it and you'll get a little bit of the picture CapJaxMathFax is trying to convey - building lightening quick response times to the boring old math facts your kids need to learn!

CapJaxMathFax is a computer program that "Supercharges math fact memorization" by offering a performance/reward based drilling exercise of the four basic math tables: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It works with essentially any math curriculum to help your child not just familiarize themselves with the math facts, but to give them confidence in their ability to recall them with lightening quick accuracy.

The program itself is quite simple and easy to use. No fancy animated characters flying around the screen (Yay!) or even multiple screens for multiple areas. CapJaxMathFax is a program that completely focuses on getting your child proficient in the four math tables and does away with all the fluff!
As the educator, you can set the number of problems in a set and then the program automatically generates problems at random at the level that your child is at. No repetition, no flash cards, no monitoring to make sure they're working with the right set of questions.

CapJaxMathFax is rewarding based on performance and proficiency. Each problem is given only at the prompting of the student (it's not automatic so the student does not feel like there is a timer ready to go off in between problems!), the response is recorded, then an immediate positive statement if the problem was answered correctly or a "try again" if the answer was incorrect. The response is timed and displayed back to the student when the correct answer is given. If the student answers correctly on the first try within 3 seconds (adjustable to suit student), it's a Super Answer!

Students can play for practice or can play for ratings. The rating is based on a points system and gives the student a visual of the progress they are making. In addition to that, you can separately purchase a set of "Merit Badge" buttons to pin on backpacks or shirts to really make sure the student feels rewarded for their work and getting the recognition that gives forward momentum!


We used this program with our 2nd grade son, Joshua. I really liked the simplicity of the program and the way it waited for him to be ready to move on to the next problem and prompt the computer before moving forward. He could go as fast or slow as he needed to and there was always that pause of recovery time in between problems that reduced the stress of anticipation. He LOVED it when he got a Super Answer! within the 3 second time limit and enjoyed watching his ratings go up. I found that his drive to watch his ratings go up made him want to keep going and going until he got a better rating, but then he'd be sick of it and not want to do it at all for several days. Using it in smaller intervals more consistently is recommended for exactly that reason! Of course, you can always set smaller goals than the 1000 rating to reward the students with something more tangible and encourage that consistent use that really makes the difference!

I've heard from several other homeschooling moms in just the past month that as they arrived at the end of the school year they were finding their child was not as proficient in the four basic math tables as they needed to be! If you find yourself saying the same thing, look no further than CapJaxMathFax!

In fact, CapJaxMathFax has provided a free evaluation for YOU to try them out and see how fast your child improves on their math facts!

Go HERE to get CapJaxMathFax downloaded on your computer now for $29.95 (one year annual license for up to 10 students)
Or have them ship the software to you for $35.90 + shipping!

Merit Badges are available for purchase for $4.00 w/free shipping!

To read what other TOS Crew Members are saying about CapJaxMathFax, check out the Crew blog post HERE!

Disclaimer: As always, this product has been provided to me for use in my own homeschool with my own family free of charge in exchange for an honest review and nothing more. All opinions here are my own.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Elayna is FIVE!

Hard to believe our little Sunshine girl is 5 years old now! 
She's not a baby any more! Even Josh and Emmy say she's now a "big kid" and can be on their team because she's FIVE. 
Well, she still likes to snuggle with her Momma, so I guess I'll let her be 5 and try not to think about what life is going to look like when she's 15.
She is such a blessing to us, and her greatest joy is found in helping me in the kitchen and helping her Daddy feed the dogs or clean out the garage. A few weeks ago she even wrestled a couple of truck tires on rims from one corner of the garage all the way out the door. And she's such a little peanut!
Small but Mighty!
Our little Sunshine Girl.

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