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Friday, November 28, 2008

Blehhhhh

Many of you know I've devoted a good part of this year to finding out what is causing some of the physical problems I have been having. Since our ridiculous $3000 deductible was met early this year when I had my wrist surgery, it seemed like it was the perfect time to see some specialists and glean any information they could give me.
The most worthless visit was to a local endocrinologist who basic left me feeling like I was wasting her time. (I was referred there because I have an enlarged thyroid and several thyroid like symptoms but my bloodwork is always okay.) The one thing she did suggest was that I ask my doctor about trying Cymbalta (an antidepressant) as she said she had seen good results with some of her diabetes patients who suffer from some of my same complaints when they were started on Cymbalta. It seems (forgive my very non-medical explanation) that a fringe benefit of this medication is that it works on nerve related pain too.
Honestly, I wasn't sure if she was telling me the truth or if she was not-so-subtly suggesting that it was all in my head, so I didn't act on it.
Until now.
We are coming to the end of this calendar year, and I had not been back to my regular doctor since February, so we had not discussed any of the results in terms of what they mean to my ever getting over these ailments. None of the things I've tried over the past 8 months have helped. I figured I should go back before the end of the year since my deductible is met right now, but won't be in January.
The good news is that I think we've finally found something to give me relief from my constant allergy drainage/throat clearing problems. Singulair seems to be helping, so I am praying that holds true over the long haul.
We also decided to give Cymbalta a try. I'm getting to the point where even 2400 mg of ibuprofen a day is not controlling my nerve pain, and I can't take some other options because I am allergic to Sulfa drugs.
And Cymbalta does seem to be helping the nerve issues. Already my shoulder is feeling better and remarkably so is my tailbone.
BUT
Ironically, the anti-depressant I am taking not-for-depression seems to be depressing my system :-(. It doesn't sit well with me digestively (I'll leave it at that) AND I feel like I have the worst perpetual morning sickness of my life (and it's NOT because I'm pregnant unless God has acted in miraculous ways). Even though I am hungry, I have a hard time getting food in my mouth without almost gagging.
Hummmmm.....
Don't know where that leaves me, except with maybe the perfect weight loss plan :-). (Because I still think I'd chose sitting without pain over having an appetite any day of the week.)
Just sharing all this because I'm not exactly Mrs. Perky, and now I'm even less so.
Oh, and I was also told that I have too much stress, I'm living in denial, and I need to find a way to release that tension if I ever want to feel better. Like exercising WITH WEIGHTS 3 times a week.
Now the question becomes how badly do I want to feel better? Exercise for me usually comes in the form of holiday-inspired competitive shopping and lifting mounds of laundry every week, not in going to a gym and "sweatin' with the oldies". But if today's shopping-inspired migraine is any indication, I may have to start rethinking things if I want to be functional.
Blehhhh :-(.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday




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What About Socialization: Dispelling the Myth E-book Review


Socialization. It's the one word that can make homeschoolers shudder. At some point in time in everyone's homeschooling journey, someone will ask, "But aren't you worried about socialization?" Sometimes it's a complete stranger, sometimes it's a close family member, but someone sometime will ask. And sometimes, everyone you encounter seems to ask :-).
When families are new to homeschooling, that question might well be one they are struggling with themselves. After all, they've just decided to do "this thing" called homeschooling, and now they are being asked to tell other people just how it is exactly that their children are not going to turn out to be terribly awkward, socially inept adults when they are wondering the same thing.
Even for older, more experienced homeschoolers, I think everyone would admit that we all need to be reminded WHY we do this beyond the question of academics. I think we all struggle with whether our kids should be doing more activities or different activities so their childhood experiences will be well rounded. And I think there probably are families who live in remote locations that really do wonder if their kids are missing out on socialization opportunities their traditionally schooled peers experience as part of their daily routine.
The Old Schoolhouse magazine has a brand new e-book out that addresses all these concerns and more. Entitled What About Socialization? Dispelling the Myths, this book is divided into two parts. The first includes seven different essays on the Myths of Socialization. Each one is authored by a homeschooler, and while their subject matter may be the same, I was impressed at the many, many unique points each one made. I enjoyed that they were all Christian in content, and frequently used scripture to reinforce their points. I certainly finished reading them with many new ideas about how to answer peoples' questions and with some things to think about in terms of my own goals for my kids socially.
The second part contains five more essays by homeschoolers focused on ideas, examples, and success stories-including one essay by a homeschool graduate. Again, I was challenged and convicted about some things, and encouraged and inspired about others.
This e-book ends with a resource page containing links to articles, blogs, and documented research on the subject of socialization. Like the essays, they hopefully will encourage you about your choice to homeschool and set your mind at ease that your children are indeed receiving the BEST socialization they could ever get right there in your home.
I think this e-book is an indispensible resource for new homeschoolers, for those with anti-homeschooling friends and relatives, or for veteran homeschoolers who sometimes need a little reminder that the scope of your homeschooling extends far beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. It is available at The Schoolhouse Store for $12.45. Because it is an e-book, you can purchase it NOW and receive it instantly...so you will have it handy for any "discussions" with concerned family members over the holiday week-end and the Christmas season to come. Or to encourage that neighbor who has been struggling with whether homeschooling might be right for her. Or to encourage YOURSELF during this busy season that you are doing what God called you to do, and if you are faithful to obey, He will take care of all the rest-including making sure your children will someday be well-adjusted, positively, and lovingly socialized adults.
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One 2 Believe Nativity Set



One of the first products we received to review was a nativity set by One 2 Believe (makers of the popular Tales of Glory sets and Messengers of Faith dolls) . My kids could not wait to rip the box open, and I totally sympathize. I remember as a child LOVING to play with the nativity, and ours was not kid-friendly. While my mom still has the set, more than a few critters have lost their legs from our not-so-tender care. And that's what I think is exciting about this set-it's made for the kids to play with.
The best thing about the church we used to attend was their Sunday School curriculum called Godly Play. The idea is to present the story from the Bible in a low key, purely scriptural sort of way, and then after the kids hear the story, let them EXPERIENCE it by playing with the figures. They can work through the story, or use the figures in an entirely different way, but either way, the learning is reinforced because THEY are experiencing it themselves. Nativity Sets like this one from One 2 Believe allow them to do just that.
On the "pros" side, I would say this is a very complete set, with 17 figures and a small story book. You get the manger, all the standard figures, and lots of critters. The set has held up very well for us, despite it's not-so-regal storage in a bin full of Little People. The figures are designed for children to play with, and if you read my blog post here, you will see that Sari jumped right in and blended it with our other figures to create her own stories too. I also want to mention that I like that Baby Jesus is separate, so if you chose to, you could refrain from put Jesus in the scene until Christmas Eve, which is what we do with our traditional nativity.
I have just a few things on the "cons" side, (although I'm not sure I'd really call them "cons"), the first being that the figures are a tad...odd...in appearance, much like the Tales of Glory and Messengers of Faith figures are. None of my kids commented on this though. Also, I have heard from other reviews that the star over the stable was able to be pulled off in a few sets, but not true on ours-it has held firm. Some reviewers also had problems with the set being made in China and of PVC, but the company responded with this reply , "All Tales of Glory toys have been tested by an independent third party testing facility and comply with ASTM standards. All toys are free from harmful chemicals and are safe." I don't have any kids who eat toys anyway, so it's not a concern for me, but you need to make your own decisions. My biggest concern would probably be the price. It's $24.99, which might be a little steep for some (although I think the Little People one is about the same) directly from One 2 Believe. You can also get it from CBD (it was even on the cover of their catalog, which my kids thought was cool) for $17.99 right now.
So the bottom line is that my kids really enjoyed this Nativity Set. Sari plays with it, or parts of it, daily. I'm impressed enough that I would definitely buy their other sets. If children are drawn toward playing with small figurines, why not have them be small Biblical figurines? What's cooler than dukin' it out with Daniel and the lions? (Yes, I know the "duking it out" part is not scriptural, but small boys will do what small boys will do.) And who needs Rescue Heroes when you have Bible heroes? If you are looking for ways for your children's toys to be glorifying to God but not overly stuffy and pious, the Tales of Glory (One 2 Believe) Nativity and their other figure sets are the way to go.
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time4Learning Part 1

One of the things we've been asked to review is a website called Time4Learning. I must admit, this one has me pretty excited. It is an online curriculum supplement full of lots of fun games and activities that teach different educational concepts.
So far, the kids' reactions have been very positive, with TJ enjoying it the most. Although it starts with Pre-K, it was a little beyond Sari's ability to work independently, and independent activities are what I need most for her right now. It goes up to 8th grade, and I have requested Sari's grade level to be set to 8th so I can play on it too.
Time4Learning offers a trial period of 14 days, during which you can get your monthly fee back if you don't like it, so you really have nothing to lose.
They bill themselves as being a full Language Arts and Math curriculum, but I am most excited about it being a place where the kids can practice and learn new skills while I am working with one of their siblings. They also offer science and social studies, and Scott tends to like science the best.
One area of potential concern is that several other reviews have mentioned that the site contains evolutionary content and some crude/irreverent humor. I have not heard or seen any of that myself, but look for that update in my next installment...
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TOS Black Friday Promotion

The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is having an amazing sale on subscriptions during their annual Black Friday Sale November 26 – 30. For those 5 days only, they are drastically reducing their one-year subscription price to $7.95! That's the price you would usually pay for just one issue at a bookstore!

This is their lowest price ever on the magazine and they want all of you to take advantage of this offer and share the info with your friends.

Please don't miss out. Your one-year subscription will pay for itself time and time again as you receive practical tips and Biblical encouragement to keep going strong in your commitment to homeschooling and to the Lord. Since it's a quarterly magazine, they even have a monthly subscriber's only E-Newsletter called Teacher's Toolbox that will give you seasonal teaching ideas and a free E-Book download! It's like joining a unit study of the month club! The free E-Books alone are valued at almost $250/year. It's really perfect for people who are homeschooling on a shoestring or just wanting to add in some little extras to your teaching.

Plus during the Black Friday Sale, they have all kind of bonus gifts when you spend $50, $75, $100, or $150. Some are electronic downloads that you can download immediately, while other are physical products mailed from various vendors directly to your home.

AND, their Win Big contest is going on so if you just happen to be customer 67,000, you will receive a prize package valued at almost $500 which includes a $150 gift certificate to the Schoolhouse Store! Who couldn't use that? And you can qualify to win it no matter how much or how little you spend!

Mark your calendars for November 26 - 30th and do a little shopping from your seat, not your feet at the Schoolhouse Store's Black Friday Sale!

www.TheOldSchoolhouseStore.com

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Not to be out done...


These little boys have literally known each other from the womb :-).
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Monday, November 24, 2008

One of the many blessings of Homeschooling

Tonight we were at church for one of several "going away" events for our dear friends the Sniffs, LOL (not laughing that they are moving, laughing at the name my daughter gave them so long ago that just sticks). Anyway, almost all of us there were homeschoolers and we were talking about it to a soon-to-be new mom, and we were being VERY realistic about the joys and the not so joyous moments. But then I got home and was sending this picture to my doula mentor, and I realized THIS is exactly why we homeschool...
These 6 girls represent the best of what homeschooling has to offer. The best of socialization...without all the bad stuff. Five of the 6 have known each other for 9 years now (okay...8 for one of them since she wasn't born 9 years ago). The other one only move here in the past 3 years. In the time these girls have known each other, they have ALWAYS gotten along. Always. They truly love each other. They truly enjoy each other. They are all God loving, modest, intensely creative, funny, and fun to be around. They don't do the typical "girl" stuff that building-schooled kids do. They don't promise to be best friends one day and hate each other the next. It's never even crossed their minds. And they are not even the entirety of the clan of girls that our immediate homeschool circle represents. And ALL the girls get along great (they just weren't all at this gathering). In school, they would be divided into 3-4 different grades. 3 0r 4. Different. GRADES. Can you believe that? But here, they aren't second graders or fifth graders...they are just friends. And that's the way it should be :-).
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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thematic Photography-Broken

I'm trying something new. I found this weekly photography challenge here. I'm not nearly the photographer he is...or probably many of the other participants, but I'm going to give it a try.




This is our tree that snapped in half during a freak storm a few months ago. It's coming back now (from the trunk below the break) but it will never be as grand as it once promised to be...
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Renaissance Faire

Rubbing shoulders with royalty. The lady who plays the queen of the faire actually lives abroad and comes back each year to do this.

A different sort of rubbing entirely, here the girls do brass rubbings.

Our favorite pirate act apparently experienced some mutiny and this year the one returning performer did a solo act. He was good...bawdy...but good. Here he creates a fireball by spitting fuel through a flame.

We had a good time. We always do. As a former History teacher, I am convinced the best way to understand history is to experience it, and having a Ren. Faire in our backyard gives us a great chance to do just that. They offer visitors the opportunity to do a quest; kind of like a living version of the game clue. You are trying to find out who "offed" someone, what they did it with, and where the deed took place. To do that, you must talk to actors and actresses, all speaking in period-correct English. In return for clues you must do things like sing the "happy Unicorn" song or pledge your undying love to them. It's fun, and the kids get involved. We always solve the quest. This year's reward was a necklace and a pirate finger puppet. Nothing fancy, but the kids love trinkets of any size.
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The Symphony-a week or two late :-)

Our local (local is relative-it's an hour away) Symphony does children's performances every fall. We have gone for more years than I can remember. The price is great ($5 a ticket) and the show is short (although this year it was maybe too short-usually it's about an hour) and performers from the local ballet and opera company come and each do a song with the symphony. It's a favorite field trip every year. Above, the kids are clowning around after the show while we try to get one "good" picture of 10 kids.
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ACK! No pictures?

There's an amazing lack of pictures on my blog lately. BORING! Here are some for a not-so-wordless Wednesday.
Today we went on a field trip to a local nature center to learn about...SPIDERS! This fun activity involved a child sitting on a cloth in the middle of all the other kids. This "spider" had to close his/her eyes and figure out which child was pulling their string (like when a bug gets caught in the web) based on the tension on the strings. The kids made very astute spiders.

An outdoor spider activity involved the kids "catching" their prey just like the type of spider they were portraying would...so jumping spiders had to jump, web-throwing spiders used a net, etc. I loved that Scott was an "ogrefaced spider".

Their craft was making their own web with a "y" shaped twig and yarn. Here Mimi reacts to her spider as only a girl can :-).
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Bella's fight to survive Hurlers

A few months ago, a sweet baby from our church named Isabella was diagnosed with Hurler’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder that prevents the body from properly storing mucopolysaccharides. The end result is organ damage, mental retardation from the resulting brain damage and a life expectancy of no more than 10 years. Bella is only 18 months old. That’s the bad news. The good news is that if Bella receives a bone marrow or umbilical cord stem cell transplant before she reaches age 2, much of the damage from Hurler’s can be prevented, Bella can have a greater quality of life and she may actually be able to avoid the brain damage that leads to mental retardation. While it isn’t a cure, a transplant can greatly change the outlook for Bella. Isabella is now in Cinncinnati for weeks of testing, matching and, eventually, her transplant. Bella will begin to undergo chemotherapy on November 20, 2008 (tomorrow) to kill off her entire her immune system: a dangerous procedure due to the risk of infection but it is what is needed to help Isabella’s body to fully accept her new stem cells. Stem cell day (or “miracle day” as many of have named it) is December 12, 2008.
Isabella’s parents have insurance that is covering a large portion of the costs but their out of pocket expenses will still be between 20,000 and 30,000 dollars. The family has been doing all that they can to sell off assets, trying to sell their home, etc to raise the extra funds for Isabella’s care. Our church is doing various fundraisers to help this little family out. One of them is collecting "Pennies for Bella." In addition to just going out and collecting real pennies (and dimes, nickels, and quarters) a website has also been created where you can donate through paypal or even a credit card I think. So, if you would like to donate go here: http://www.penniesforbella.org/
You can read her story there as well and learn a little more about Hurler's. Also, if you are a praying person...please pray for her and her family. Specifically that her body would accept the transplant, that mom and dad would be protected from any illnesses during this time and that she would too. And if you go to penniesforbella, would you consider putting the button on your blog too? Individually our contributions may be small, but together, we can make a big difference. Thank you!
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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Missing Link: FOUND- book review

I don't know about most of you, but I was raised in what I always thought was a Christian household. I'm sure my parents would say it was. But really, we were more like Sunday-morning Christians. It was all they knew to be. No one ever challenged them to be more.
So I was raised Christian on Sundays and Holidays, but with a decided secular world view for the rest of the week. And to be honest, I never even heard the words "Christian World View" until I was a mother myself, and realized that the public school system that had served me so well academically but so poorly spiritually just wouldn't "cut it" for my kids either spiritually OR academically now. So now I find myself teaching my kids a world view I never received, and I have to admit, it doesn't always come easy. Almost everything in our culture screams, "Be like the world". Think like the world. Read what the world reads. Watch what the world watches. Teach what the world teaches. Learn what the world learns.
Consequently, I'm constantly on the lookout for products that support our counter-culture approach. The Missing Link: FOUND fits that bill perfectly. The Missing Link: FOUND was written by a 14 year old homeschooling girl, Christina Gerwitz, and her mother, Felice Gerwitz. Felice runs a company called Media Angels and I had the privilege of hearing her speak at our state's homeschool conference this year. Media Angels is a company committed to publishing quality materials for parents and children. Their goal in publishing the Truth Seekers Mystery Series (of which The Missing Link: FOUND is the first book) is to help your children to stand up for their faith, by supplying them with Christian role models that are also homeschool children. I (Felice) hope your children can identify with these characters, or at the very least wish they were friends!
There were some things I really liked about the book. First, the vocabulary is impressive. This is not a "dumbed down" book in terms of its use of the English language, and that alone could provide a wonderful supplemental study of unfamiliar words for your students. Second, it "crosses the curriculum". For while it is a book to read for pleasure, it has definite spiritual and scientific lessons presented within the context of the story. Third, I, and my children, enjoyed the gimmick of each chapter ending with a cliff-hanger that made you want to keep reading. I started the first day with the premise of reading one chapter aloud, and ended up reading three...with all four of my children pleading for more despite the fact that they are well below the target age range. (Felice's information suggests it is written for tweens/teens who don't necessarily enjoy reading.) Lastly, I loved that a Christian world view was naturally woven into the story, and in fact, part of the story line involves debating popular scientific "truths" against Biblical truths. But even more impressive is the fact that the main characters, when faced with adversity, STOP and PRAY. WOW! How often does that happen in your typical children's book?
I do have a few critiques of the book too. First, there are a few punctuation mistakes-I spotted an apostrophe where one doesn't belong and a missing end quotation mark (but I've found those in plenty of other mainstream books too). Also, whenever a car is mentioned, the registered trademark symbol follows the name. I've never run across that in any other work of fiction, and it kept striking me as odd. It may well be the "absolutely proper" way to do it-I admit I have not checked, but it struck me as odd nonetheless. And while I think this book is extremely well written for a teen and her mother who had never written a fiction book before, it's not the BEST literature you'll ever find in terms of character and story development. (It is good though. ) Finally, I'd put forth the argument that some of the creation science presented in the book is debated even among Christians. While I personally do, not every Christian believes in a young earth. There's a lot God didn't tell us in the Bible. Like exactly when the world began. And even the best Creation Scientist is still filling in blanks with best guesses, not Biblical fact. But even if the science presented in the book runs contrary to your beliefs, if you were sure to read it WITH you child, it would be a great way to have a discussion about some of the other ideas out there.
So what's the bottom line? My kids really enjoyed the book. So did I, for that matter. And while all the story elements did not fall as cohesively into place as I would have liked, I would still recommend it. I love the example of prayer woven into several situations. I loved the scientific debates. I loved the "who-dun-it" approach. And I really, really liked the higher level vocabulary (yes, I'm a word nerd). I'd not only recommend this book, but I look forward to getting and reading the other books in the series.
The Truth Seekers Mystery Series including The Missing Link: FOUND is available through www.mediaangels.com for $8.99 each. Happy reading!
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Homeschool Library Builder



I must confess. Before this review, I had never heard of Homeschool Library Builder. It's funny to think that 25 years ago, homeschooling was rarely seen, and resources were hard to come by. Now, it seems that new resources appear daily to help homeschooling moms in their pursuit to school their children.
Homeschool Library Builder is a website/internet store that is run by two homeschooling moms whose goal is to help you fill your bookshelf without emptying your wallet. What's not to love about that? I have to admit, I LOVE books. I love to read. I love to be taken to far away places or times since past...or maybe even times still to come. And I want my children to love books too. But good books. WAY better books than some of the ones I read when I was their age. I read anything and everything, but my parents had never heard of "living books" or had any sort of tug toward the idea that maybe what I should be reading was QUALITY literature. As I strive to create a different, more wholesome, learning environment for my children, I grow more and more appreciative or places like Homeschool Library Builder that carry not only newer released books, but many older, and even out of print books. The owners themselves have this to say:
Our books are excellent choices for anyone, regardless of age or chosen educational path. Our desire and delight is to assist you by offering selections to enrich your child’s education, from preschool through high school, and beyond. In addition to books recommended by highly-respected and widely used homeschool curriculums, we offer titles specifically chosen to supplement unit studies, promote sound moral character, and provide knowledge of truths for curious youngsters. We want to help you build your own excellent library and create memorable reading experiences for your family!
For those of you who use a "book intensive" curriculum like Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Five in a Row, Ambleside, Beautiful Feet, or Veritas Press, you will find that they even have many of your supplemental books there, all organized so you can search by curriculum.
They also have a "Bin" sale going on through the end of this month, with books for $1, $2, $3, and $5. I easily lost myself among just those books for half and hour :-).
With books covering a range of topics from activities/crafts to biographies, and from science to poetry/art/music, there are tons of books for every possible area of study. And all at great prices. Plus, their condition is noted, since not all the books are new, so you know what you are getting for the price. Again, here's what the owners have to say:
We stock new and used, hardcover and softcover titles. Most of our new titles are publisher’s remainders and overstocks. Our used books are rated by condition and priced accordingly. Most of our used titles are in very good or better condition. Additionally, we are always on the lookout for hard-to-find or out-of-print titles.
Homeschool Library Builder also has a FREE membership program, allowing you to earn points for every dollar you spend. 15 points gives you $1 credit toward purchases, so it's like getting paid back to read books. How cool is that? (Oh, and there's a referral program, so if you go there and if you buy something, could you put my name-those of you who know it-as the one who referred you?)
So what's the bottom line?
I think Homeschool Library Builder has some great books are really great prices. I love that they have books specific to certain curriculums, and I especially love the chance to earn points toward free books. Their shipping is modest, and with the price of gas as high as it is, it could easily be worth it to shop online and pay the shipping rather than driving all over looking for one book in particular. That's what I did this morning. I got 5 books from HLB for $12 and change-and that included the shipping. They ran the spectrum from a Cam Jansen book for Mimi to a book about Thanksgiving with firsthand accounts from some of the pilgrims. I can't wait 'til they arrive! I think HLB could get addicting!
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Living in a free country comes at a price

My dad served in the Vietnam War. He was a medic. He used to send tapes back to my mom. She said you could here the bombs exploding in the background...
My dad came back a changed man. A haunted man. A man with demons that he used alcohol to chase away. He became an alcoholic. An abusive alcoholic. My childhood memories of him run the whole spectrum from immense love to total terror. Sometimes a locked door was the only thing that saved me...sometimes his arms were the only thing that brought me comfort. Funny how forgiving and resilient kids are, huh?
When I was 12, my parents finally divorced. My dad had added transgressions to his wedding vows to his list of offenses, and my mom finally had enough. She never stopped loving him though. Never. She still loves him. We all do.
My dad stopped drinking to the point of drunkenness on his own. A plethora of events led up to it. And for many years he did well. Our fragile, damaged relationship was restored, and he was part of our lives and the lives of his first two grandchildren.
But then something changed.
The story is way too complex for me to go into...
He now has no contact with any of us. Not his brothers. Not me. Not my brother. Not my sister. Not any of his five grandchildren.
He skipped his own father's funeral because his children were attending.
I am sharing all this, not to malign my father at all, but to make a point. Today is Veteran's Day. We tend to recognize the the high price of freedom when someone dies fighting in a war. Especially when it is on foreign soil. Especially when it's questionable as to whether their presence is even desired there.
But we forget that some come back alive on the outside, but dying on the inside. For some families, the grieving process of losing a loved one is as long as their tortuously slow descent into madness takes. You don't lose them once and forever, but a little bit more every day.
I don't know what's wrong with my dad. I don't know where he is living now...or if he's even alive at all.
But I know I'm terribly proud of him and the sacrifices he, and all the other men who served with him or who have every served in the military, have made. They walk the walk and talk the talk, showing ultimate and complete obedience to God and Country, doing what they believe is right and disregarding the personal cost. They pay dearly...whether with their lives on the battlefield, or with their nightmares for years to come, or with their mysterious and unexplainable illnesses, or lost limbs, or families torn apart...They pay dearly that we all might live. And live in freedom.
Thanks Dad.
And thanks to all the Veterans out there.

And Dad, just in case you are reading this, I love you. More than words can say. I miss you terribly. You have 5 wonderful grandkids who would love to know you. You are welcome back in our lives at any time, and with total forgiveness. It's not too late. And thanks again for all your sacrifices.
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Help Me to Teach


The very first product the TOS Crew was asked to review is a website called Help Me to Teach, a subscription based Internet directory. Elaine, the woman who envisioned and created this site, has over 40 years of teaching experience. In developing Help Me to Teach, she sought to create an Internet directory that contains pre-screened sites that are useful, safe for children, and not cost prohibitive. Currently the site has links to over 2500 other educational sites across the web, all of which have been screened for content, and carefully indexed. The index system has codes to indicate whom the site is most appropriate for:

P: Primary Student (Pre-K through Grade 2)

E: Elementary Student (Grades 2-5)

S: Secondary Student (Grades 6-12)

T: Teacher or Supervising Student

The site is updated regularly. Really regularly! And should you find it lacking in any area, Elaine is more than willing to review sites you recommend or add topics, as she wants her product to be the best it can be.

Initially, I was very excited about this site. It reminded me of another resource I had seen at convention that was a similar idea, (an index of educational topics and good educational websites that apply to each one) but it was in a binder form and needed constant updating. This website seemed to me to be the perfect solution to that problem by being on the web and therefore instantly update-able.

My initial enthusiasm has been tempered though by a few "glitches" from my point of view. First, and this is probably just a personal preference thing, I don't find the website to be particularly inviting or intuitive to use. The BEST use, in my opinion, of the site is to go to the index and find your topic from there. The problem is that to do that, you need to click on a button that says "TOC". Now I admit, I can be daft, but nothing about the letters "TOC" screamed "click here" to me. In fact, I only clicked on it because I only had three options; "TOC", "My Account", and "Logout". I didn't want to logout...I'd just logged in. I tried "My Account", but that only told me my payment information. That left "TOC". Yes, by now you have probably figured out what "TOC" stands for, but it was only after clicking on it that I realized it must be the "Table of Contents" and that therefore it was what I was looking for. I contacted Elaine with my observation, and I noticed now when you log in there is a smallish, plain button that says "Enter here" after you initially log in, so I think that is perhaps in response to my comment. (Of course, knowing that me sitting at the computer is the universal signal to all four of my children to "COME BUG MOMMY", I think the button should be neon green and flash repeated so it has a chance at competing for my attention :-) ).

A few other detractions would be that although there are 2500 sites, when you spread that across the curricula, you can end up with "holes" that aren't covered, or aren't covered well. (For example, I was looking for sites on Africa, and there was really only one that was appropriate for younger ages.) Also, although there is an indexing system, the "key" to that code appears only in the main TOC page, and not on each page of your search results, so until you learn what the symbols stand for, you will either have to write them down or keep clicking back. The site also has a nasty habit of locking users out if they have "multiple IP addresses", which my husband the computer guru informs me is something most home users have. I must say though that Elaine can override that, and her response time is very prompt, but it could be very frustrating to be trying to access the site during your daily lessons and find yourself locked out. And finally, it should be mentioned that really, you could find all these sites for free through a google or yahoo search. It just might take you longer and you may chase an awful lot of "rabbits" in the process.

So what are the pluses? The biggest one to me is that if you have children whom you allow to search the Internet on their own, a subscription to this site should be a MUST. This site removes the concern that your child will end up on WhiteHouse.com instead of WhiteHouse.gov, and that alone is worth every penny. It only takes one wrong click for your child to view images you can never erase from their memory. It can also save you a lot of hassle and time by limiting your search to sites she knows have appropriate content as opposed to having to weed through 10,000 google results on "Butterflies" (for example). It's well organized, and once you learn the quirky set-up, it's easy enough to use that most upper elementary and above could navigate it with ease. Another biggie to me is that you really could use this site, and especially its index, to create your own curriculum, or at least give you a really good springboard to start from. Almost every imaginable topic is covered, and if it's not, it probably will be added soon. In addition, if you subscribe for at least a year, Elaine offers free research and a quarterly newsletter.

Help Me to Teach offers several different subscription levels:

3 days: $4.95 1 month: $9.95 3 months: $15.95 1 year: $29.95 (includes the quarterly newsletter and free research as mentioned above)

As an added bonus through December 31st, she is offering "Buy one year, get the second FREE". Just mention the code TOS when you sign up. Oh, and check out her site (http://www.helpme2teach.com/index.php) for a unique fundraising opportunity for groups-she offers a 50% return on each yearly membership sold, which is very generous.

SO what's the bottom line? I think the site has great potential, and will continue getting better and better. I think Elaine is passionate about children, education, and her product. I think if your kids search the Internet as part of their schoolwork, the site is a necessity. And I think the Buy One-Get One makes it even more appealing. But in the end, when push comes to shove for your limited homeschooling dollars, you need to decide how much you really use the Internet for your schooling and how much your time is worth (because you really could find all this information for free if you don't mind spending the time and weeding through a lot of twaddle) to know if this site is right for you. My kids don't search the Internet, so I'm not sure it's the right thing for us right now, but I have the feeling in the not-too-distant future it could be indispensable.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Just sayin'

Billy Graham is a registered Democrat.

Just sayin'
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Prayer Request

Please pray for my sister in law (my husband's sister). She is currently hospitalized with a rare auto-immune syndrome called Guillain-Barre. Here's some information about G-B:

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an uncommon inflammatory disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves, typically causing severe weakness and numbness that usually starts in your extremities and quickly worsens. Eventually your whole body can become paralyzed, even the muscles used for breathing.

The exact cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome is unknown, but it sometimes is triggered by a respiratory infection or the stomach flu. Luckily, this potentially deadly disorder is relatively rare, occurring worldwide in only one or two people per 100,000. All age groups can be affected, but it occurs most often in young adults and the elderly.

In its most severe form, Guillain-Barre syndrome is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization. About 30 percent of the people who have the disorder will temporarily need the help of a machine to breathe.

There is no cure for the disorder, but several treatments can ease symptoms and reduce the duration of the illness. Most people recover completely from even the most severe cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome.

Guillain-Barre syndrome usually begins with weakness, tingling or loss of sensation starting in your feet and legs and spreading to your upper body and arms. In some people, these symptoms begin in the arms or even the face. As the disorder progresses, muscle weakness can evolve into paralysis. Other signs and symptoms may include:
  • Difficulty with eye movement, facial movement, speaking, chewing or swallowing
  • Severe pain in the lower back
  • Difficulty with bladder control or intestinal functions
  • Very slow heart rate or low blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing

Most people with Guillain-Barre syndrome experience their most significant weakness within three weeks after symptoms begin. In some cases, signs and symptoms may progress very rapidly with complete paralysis of legs, arms and breathing muscles over the course of a few hours.

A potentially deadly complication of Guillain-Barre syndrome is that the weakness or paralysis can spread to the muscles that control your breathing. About 30 percent of the people who have the disorder will require temporary help from a machine to breathe. About 5 percent will die, despite intensive care.

But 80 percent of the people with Guillain-Barre syndrome recover completely or have only minor, residual weakness or abnormal sensations, such as numbness or tingling. Five percent to 10 percent experience more serious, permanent problems with sensation and coordination, including some cases of severe disability. And about one in 10 of those affected is at risk of experiencing a relapse.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just another day

With each passing day, I am more and more convicted that if I keep going at this pace I'm going to spontaneously combust...or at least melt down. Today went something like this...
Up at 7.
Quiet time with God until 7:30ish
Check e-mails and set up trial accounts for a product we are to review.
Hop in the shower.
Concoct brilliant scheme in the shower to make the best of our field trip to the symphony by going to get TJ's 7 year picture taken.
Call Maire to see if my older two kids can go home with her after field trip so my life will be easier.
Assemble the troops for breakfast.
Make sure everyone is dressed in clothes appropriate to the Symphony.
Attempt to start some school.
Retrieve dog who is running loose due to kids bailing on my attempt to start some school.
Get Scott started on piano.
Sing the first line of 50 different Christmas songs to get him to pick ONE to start learning.
Play chosen song for him so he would know how it goes.
By now, we're at about 10 AM, so I call Sears to set up the photo appt.
10:10-banish the kids to the car to buckle up.
10:12-take 2 minutes to brush my teeth.
10:13-take 3 minutes to throw lunch meat in baggies for everyone for "lunch" on the run.
10:20 (okay, often things take longer than I think they will, LOL)-get in the car and drive an hour to the Bob Carr
11:30-meet up with our group and be ushered almost immediately into the auditorium-so much for lunch :-).
1:00-out of the symphony. Get older kids to Marie's car and younger kids to mine to drive to the mall for pics. Realistically, by now it's closer to 1:30 since we stopped and talked with friends.
2:00-pics at Sears. The photographer did a great job, and TJ did great too, so it didn't take too long, but you still have to wait for them to tinker with the pics in hopes of selling you all sorts of pictures you were not planning on buying. We left the mall by...
3:10-drive 30 minutes to Marie's house and arrive in her neighborhood just at she is driving out.
4:00-American Kids Club at the library. The kids were making ornaments for the library's tree. Miss Lynn needed help, so Sari and I stayed and helped out.
5:10-leave the library and head home.
5:25-arrive home with strict instructions to the kids as to what they need to do so we can be out the door again by 5:50. This included Awana uniforms for the younger 3, plus finding books and Bibles. Scott needed his scout uniform on. Oh, and I poured some yogurt into bowls for them and called it dinner.
5:50-My husband takes the younger 3 to AWANA, and I drove Scott to a local middle school for a Scout recruiting event. I dropped him off, and was off again by...
6:25-and driving to meet someone at JoAnns so I could give them their Ren. Faire tickets.
7:15-back to the middle school to get Scott (I did kill a few minutes in JoAnns)
7:40-leaving the middle school and heading to Publix for lunchmeat.
7:55-Side trip to Bealls first to look at the sale shoes for the girls. One pair for each of them later, and we finally were off to Publix.
8-8:40 Shopping. Getting deli meat just takes a while no matter what you do.
8:55-Home finally, and all kids off to bed from sheer exhaustion.

So between 10:30 and 8:55, I was home a total of 25 minutes. No wonder I'm tired!
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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

WOO-HOO and a little Boo-Hoo

Amendment two passed with flying colors. Looks like, despite what the world would have us believe, a majority of people still think it should be Eve not Steve.
I'm not thrilled at the outcome of the presidential election. Of course, I wasn't thrilled with either ticket in its entirety. I AM frustrated though that some people have taken the whole thing a bit far. A student in my kids' Precept Class actually told them if Obama won, it would be the literal commencement of the end times. She basically told them Obama is the Anti-Christ. It's sad that many Christians use politics as an excuse for zealous, unfounded accusations, and even worse that they spread that to their children who don't even understand the full scope of what they are saying.
McCain's concession speech was amazing, and we should all take that as an example of keeping our behavior excellent, as 1 Peter tells us to do. 1 Peter also tells us, "Whoever speaks, {is to do so} as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves {is to do} {so} as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever." How often, of late, especially when it came to political matters, have any of us been able to say our speech is as one who is speaking the utterances of God? McCain came through tonight though with a speech that was both gracious and humble. May we all strive toward that same behavior :-).
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Wordless Wednesday

Cute, isn't he?
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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Scott

Scott wanted to be a ninja...no, a knight...no, a jedi...no...well, you get the idea. Actually, Mimi had the same problem. I was terribly frustrated with BOTH of them, and threatened to pull the plug on Halloween entirely. While we were at Goodwill, he found these costume pieces, and settled on being a knight. I had bought him black sweats and the shirt at Walmart earlier, both things he needed, so his costume is very practical.
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Mimi

Ever creative, Mimi had a million ideas for costumes, all with terribly elaborate backstories. She bought this costume last year in response to shopping at the Renaissance Faire and discovering that all the dresses there were CRAZY expensive. This was a very-post halloween purchase for less than $10. She is a Renaissance Queen, hence the pose.
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Sari

Princess Sari...in a dress from her closet ;-).
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TJ


Here's TJ's $7 Goodwill costume purchased a mere 2 hours before the main event. He was "Iron Man". It was $7 because it was missing the mask, so we painted his face instead.
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Halloween

Yes, I know. Some of you out there are tut-tuting the fact that this post is about Halloween.

SO you can skip it :-).

For the rest of you though, here are some fun pictures from last night. We have a long standing tradition of going trick-or-treating with one family in particular. This year though, a whole bunch of us went around the magical Humston family's neighborhood. Presley's husband hooked up a tractor to his trailor and we rode, hay-ride style, around the neighborhood. The kids had a BLAST. There were 22 of them (kids) in all. Yep. We even had one house turn off the lights when they saw us coming :-).

Scott couldn't resist trying out his new props on all the dads.

TOO FUNNY!!!!

Here's our annual picture.

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Cool Moth



This moth (or maybe just two of the same moths) has been spotted twice in the same place in our yard...hanging out on the side of our AC unit. The unit is tan-ish brown and the vents in it look black, which makes this guy blend in great. It took some searching, but this is a Vine Sphinx Moth. Amazing, isn't it? You should see it in real life, and not on the hand of a moving boy :-).
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