Monday, February 28, 2011

TOS Review Crew: I See Sam

The Reading for all Learners Little Books, otherwise known as I See Sam is a collection of 8 sets of books, each containing up to 27 books per set. Published by Academic Success for all Learners, the Little Books collection begin at a kindergarten reading level and progress up to a 3.6 reading level. As a TOS Homeschool Review Crew member I had the opportunity to review the Little Books sets 1-4 with my 6 year old.

You can read the scope and sequence of the Little Books series here.

Little Books Set 1: for reading level K-1.0 and includes 27 books. This set teaches 27 new sounds, new sound combinations, 73 new words, 9 new sight words, and comprehension skills. Reading assessments are covered in books 6, 11,16, 21, 26. $30

Little Books Set 2: for reading level: 1.0 - 1.3 and includes 27 different books. This set teaches 5 new sounds, 2 new sound combinations, 98 new regular words, 8 new sight words, and comprehension skills. Reading assessments are covered in books 6,11,16,21,26. $30

Little Books Set 3 for reading level: 1.3 - 1.6 and includes 22 different books. This set teaches 15 new sounds, 2 new sound combinations, 109 new regular words, 15 new sight words, and comprehension skills. Reading assessments are covered in books 6,11,16,21. $30

Little Books Set 4 for reading level: 1.6 - 2.0 and includes 15 different books. This set teaches 8 new sounds, 4 new sound combinations, 374 new regular words, 44 new sight words, comprehension skills, and contractions. Reading assessments are covered in books 2,4,6,8,10,12,14. $30

When my 6 year old son and I first began this review I started with a couple of the reading assessments provided in sets 1 and 2. I wanted to make sure I was starting him in the appropriate set of books which would be at his learning level and not his frustration level. Once I found his learning reading level we dove right in to that set of books. Initially my son wanted to read multiple books at one setting, it was new curriculum so he was excited. Reading is something that comes easy to my son so I allowed him to set the pace at which he wanted to move through these books. With each book completed however I made sure he knew the words he was reading, could identify them on the flash cards included with each book set, and was mastering reading comprehension. There are scripted questions throughout each of the books which help assess reading comprehension, you could choose to use these questions or make up your own if you prefer. Also helpful in these book sets are the review and new "upcoming" words included in the front and back of every book. Before reading the story in each book, the student is encouraged to review the previously introduced words at the beginning of the book and then upon reading the story there is a list of new and upcoming words that will be included in the following book in that set. This feature was nice for my son because it helped review and reinforce words that he may have forgotten and it served as a quick reminder of the words he would be seeing in the upcoming story.

Also included as part of our review packet, I received the flash cards that correspond to each set of books. You have the option of purchasing these flash cards or downloading them for free. I found the flash cards to be very helpful with my son. When beginning a new set of books I sat with my son and we read through all of the flash cards for that set. As he tried to read the words I separated each card into a "know" and "need to work on" pile. Then before beginning any new book in that set we would read through the "need to work on" pile again and take out the ones he had learned, adding them to the "know" pile. My son really enjoyed this exercise. Not only did he gain confidence from seeing how big his "know" pile was but he also gained encouragement when he got to transfer a card form his "need to work on" pile to the "know" pile. This process not only helped him learn but it also helped me to gauge his overall learning and sound blends that we need to work on and reinforce more often.

I am happy to report that my son is still enjoying his I See Sam books. He will choose to read these books on his own fruition and enjoys the cute little story lines and fun characters.

Click here for an interactive view of a book in set 1.

Academic Success for all Learners has also made a bunch of downloads freely available for your use.

I will definitely be using this series of books to help start my preschool age daughter reading later this year!

You can read more reviews from fellow TOS Homeschool Crew Members!

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest review and opinion. No other form of compensation was received.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

TOS Review: Math Rider Math Game

Math fact drills and learning math facts "quick as snap" has always been a struggle for my oldest son. One day he will know certain facts quickly then the next day forget those facts while remembering completely different facts. This struggle has slowed his progress in higher level math operations. I have tried everything from flash cards, manual writing of math facts, online math games; you name it and I have probably tried it with my oldest son who is 9 years old.

When I found out I would be reviewing the Math Rider math game as a part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew I was excited. Any opportunity to review math facts in a fun way in this house is always a welcome addition.

Math Rider is a fun math fact drill game with a horse jumping over jumps or "poles" when a correct answer is provided. If an incorrect answer is provided for a particular jump or no answer is given the horse and rider stop at that jump and a very clear speaking narrator says the math sentence along with the correct answer. Math problems in which your child gave incorrect answers are added later in that same horse race to try and reinforce the correct answer and help your child learn while having fun. Each horse race is known as a "quest". You have the option of customizing your quest difficulty level as well as the moth drill covered. For example, for one child you can set them on an easy addition quest while another "rider" or child can drill advanced multiplication facts. At the end of each quest child and parent alike can review the math fact drill mastery from that quest. The mastery section is set in a grid format and color coded to make reviewing accomplishments and math fact progress quick and easy.

I found Math Rider to be a wonderful learning tool for not only my 9 year old but also my 6 year old son. My 9 year old is able to use this game to drill his addition and subtraction facts that tend to "escape" his memory conveniently while doing math assignments. Math Rider also helps my oldest to further memorize his multiplication and division facts. The program adjusts the the child's answering speed. For example, if your child regularly answers the math questions quickly, the poles or jumps will be spaced closer and closer to provide further challenge to your learner. My 6 year old also enjoyed playing Math Rider. He knows his addition and subtraction facts but this game provided him with a fun opportunity to play, learn, and complete quests. I should note that in the beginning I had to help my 6 year old son with the input of answers portion of this game. I would ask him the math sentence that appeared at the bottom of the screen and he would give me the answer after which I wold type in the answer for him. Personally, I saw no need for him to get frustrated with this game simply because he could not type on my laptop quick enough despite clearly knowing the correct answer. As time progressed he got better about typing the answers on his own. Again, I really enjoyed the mastery grid function on Math Rider that allowed me to review their progress and make notes of math facts that my boys were struggling with.

Another wonderful feature about Math Rider is the practice arena. You can have your child practice any number of math facts before beginning or moving on to the formal riding quests. If you know your child is particularly weak in a certain math fact area, for example multiplication facts with 12 then you could have your child practice multiplying 12's before starting a multiplication quest that includes facts through 12.

From the publisher: 
Ride your horse on noble quests through the magical MathLands. MathRider combines fun game play with a highly sophisticated question engine that adapts to your child. The game propels your child to mastery of all four math operations using numbers 0 to 12.

Have your child master addition, subtraction, multiplication and division all for the cost of less than 1 hour professional private tuition!
  • You will know when your child has completely mastered an operation. And more importantly, your child will know it, too!
  • This is the fastest way to mastery of all four math operations. The artificial intelligence rehearses what is needed most, at a rate that is tailored to each player.
  • The game recognises and rewards improvement, not just perfection. This builds confidence and propels children naturally towards complete mastery.
  • Noble quests exemplify positive values such as family, caring, honesty and kindness.

Pricing information: 
Download for $37 with a 30 day money back guarantee

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew I was provided with a limited download version of this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review. No other form of compensation was received for this review.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Testament Translation Not Taken For Granted

In our homeschool bible study every morning my children and I pray for those across this world that do not have the bible translated into their native language. Praying for these people not only helps to raise awareness in my children about the bible translation missions field but also serves to keep the importance of having the bible translated into their own native language close to their heart and not take it for granted.

A friend on facebook shared the following video. I enjoyed it so much and was moved to tears. This group of people are a wonderful testimony for the impact that having a bible translated into a native language can have on a population that would otherwise possibly be non-believers.

The Kimyal People Receive the New Testament from UFM Worldwide on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Moving Blog Info For the Twins

I started Shepherding Kind Hearts as my outlet for everything related to homeschooling, motherhood, and homemaking. Shortly after finding out I was pregnant with twins I asked you all where you wanted to receive pregnancy updates and such on the girls. Universally everyone agreed that here on SKH was best. I agreed to continue posting their updates here with the disclaimer that there may come a point in time when I would have to rearrange things for convenience and sanity's sake. That time has come.

Because of the girls' unique situation and our new reality I have decided to no longer post updates on them here but rather on the blog I started a couple months ago for just them. This will give me a better sense of separation between the two blogs. I am passionate about homeschooling and homemaking and I am looking forward to returning this blog to that focus; even if I am not doing a lot of homeschooling or homemaking while living 2 hours away from my family.

If you would like to continue receiving updates on the girls, please join us over at Two Pink Peas in a Pod. You can get updates by email or by google friend connect, I will add Networked Blogs soon if that is your preferred method of reading updates.

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Pulmonary Interstitial Emphysema

Pulmonary Interstitial Emphysema, better know in the NICU world as P.I.E.. What is PIE and why am I posting about it? First things first.

What is PIE?
Pulmonary interstitial emphysema (PIE) is a collection of gases outside of the normal air passages and inside the connective tissue of the peribronchovascular sheaths, interlobular septa, and visceral pleura secondary to alveolar and terminal bronchiolar rupture. Pulmonary interstitial emphysema is more frequent in premature infants who require mechanical ventilation for severe lung disease. Once pulmonary interstitial emphysema is diagnosed, intensive respiratory management is required to reduce mortality and morbidity.
Reference:, accessed on 2/22/11

Why am I posting about it?
My girls are struggling with PIE. Today Britian has developed PIE in both lobes of her lungs. Yesterday, Jillian had it in her right lung. Britian's has developed suddenly and has progressively gotten worse throughout today. Her Dr.'s are changing the settings on her high frequency jet vent, adding base to her fluids which should help with oxygen saturation, and waiting. We are all waiting, waiting and praying. Mortality and morbidity, those are two terms I can go without ever considering when thinking about my children. But alas, there it is, in black and white, PIE increases mortality and morbidity. Shoot an arrow straight through my heart, emotionally this is a tough one.

No one can tell me why she has developed PIE in both lungs so suddenly. Perhaps it is simply her severe prematurity or maybe the stress from this previous weekend has caught up with her. On Saturday Britian's breathing tube was changed because of an air leak. While changing the breathing tube Dr. Dagle tried her on the CPAP. Britian failed very quickly on the CPAP and the resulting lung issues have been a downward spiral. One of her lungs collapsed Saturday following the CPAP attempt, she was upgraded from the conventional ventilator to the high frequency jet vent, and is now battling PIE in both lobes. All steps in the WRONG direction.

There is a saying the NICU community; the first week is the "honeymoon" period. The girls and I are clearly out of the honeymoon. Physically they are struggling and fighting harder; emotionally I am falling and crashing harder. Before you go and post a comment on faith and hope or on how God is there for me. I know all of this, I truly do. But I am human, it is normal for me to struggle and fall to my knees in prayer.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Our First Setback

I know setbacks are inevitable with micro preemies, honestly and truly I do. My mind knows they are inevitable but my heart feels otherwise. But I am putting all of my faith and trust in God that this is His will for my baby girl and He will continue to provide for and heal her little body according to His perfect timing.

Britian's last sonographer briefly trained me in how to read PDA echo's. So when Jillian's echo was being done today I knew exactly what to look for. I haven't even heard the official diagnosis but I KNOW it is open. So crushing to see the red (returning blood flow) pulsing up through her duct. So here we go with another round of indomethacin, the dug used to close PDAs. Also, Jillian's blood CO2 levels  have been climbing for the past 24 hours. Her conventional vent settings are getting too high in an attempt to lower her total CO2. So back on the high frequency jet vent she goes. Frustrated! But I know she will heal and continue to grow all on her own time.

Thank you for your continued prayers and words of encouragement!

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TOS Review: Kid Scoop Reluctant Reader

Do you have a child who is a reluctant reader? Has your child not found a love for reading and learning? If yes, then Kid Scoop's Reluctant Reader program may be just what your child needs to jump start their love for reading.

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew team my kids and I were able to review this program. First off I have to say that my oldest who best fits in the grade range target for this program is not a reluctant reader. He devours virtually any book he can get his hands on. My younger son however, who reads at an advanced level has not found his love for reading. When I received this program to review, I was hopeful that it would light a fire under my younger son to read more and enjoy himself.

Kid Scoop's Reluctant Reader program is intended for 2nd through 8th graders but would work for a reluctant reader of any age because of the way the program is written and tailored to a wide range of interests and activity levels. Reluctant Reader is a unique reading program that encourages a love for reading based on the idea that kids love to read about their favorite topics. It is based on the premise that your child will willingly and excitedly pick up a piece to read if it is about something that piques their interest. For boys, these topics might include baseball, trains, or airplanes. Girls on the other hand might enjoy reading about butterflies, bubble gum, or fun kitchen activities. No matter the topic, it is all about getting your little one interested in reading. To that end, Vickie Whiting, founder of Kid Scoop created 365 Kid Scoop worksheets focusing on different topics and a 12 issue newspaper. Both the worksheets and newspapers make reading fun yet educational for your struggling reader.

When you subscribe to the Kid Scoop Reluctant Reader program you will receive all 365 Kid Scoop worksheets in pdf format and you will have online access to a full year of Kid Scoop newspapers. The online newspapers include current events, weather, and special holidays just to name a few topics covered. The newspapers are not only enjoyable to read but they also provide conversation and discussion topic starters for you and your child. The newspapers are written and presented in such a manner that they are fun to read and explore. If your child learns better by listening, the online newspapers also have an audio option.

The 365 topic fun worksheets span the gamut so your child is sure to find plenty of worksheet topics that hold their interest. You can explore the worksheets documents in one of two ways. First, you can do them daily; 365 different documents gives you an entire year of topical reading. Or if you prefer, you can select the worksheet documents based on topic and supplement a unit study you might have planned. These worksheets are full of fun reading activities such as word searches, decoding lessons, and much more which all refer back to a written article in the beginning of the worksheet about your chosen topic. For example, my boys and I chose to first read the Martin Luther King Jr. article as part of our MLK day lessons. We began by reading the written article, I gave each of my boys their own copy to read at their pace. After everyone was finished we discussed what we had read and then thoroughly enjoyed applying what we had learned about MLK in the fun written and discussion activities that followed.

I knew my oldest would love this type of program but I was pleasantly surprised when my younger son asked to read through another article just 2 days after reading our first. He enjoyed the way the worksheet information was presented, they are not written in the typical "article" format but rather presented and written in a fun manner that is appealing to children. Since beginning the program my boys and I have read through a good number of the worksheet topic and thoroughly enjoyed the online newspapers. Using the Reluctant Reader program was not a reading "chore" for my boys but rather a fun reading and learning game. As a homeschooler I love that the 365 worksheet topics can be added seamlessly to our unit studies or added to a "light" day of learning on selected holidays.

Pricing information:
For $97 you will receive the following: 12 month access to the online newspaper, 365 Kid Scoop worksheets,  and a 365 day money back guarantee. Click here to subscribe.

Read more Kid Scoop reviews from fellow TOS Homeschool Crew members!

Disclaimer: I was given this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other form of compensation was received.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

NICU Mom Worries

The list of NICU Mom worries is limitless. Everyday is something different, no two days are the same. You worry about weight gain, heart rates, respiration rates, exam results, blood test results, feedings, progress, and most of all the UNKNOWN. The unknown has to be the hardest of them all. Like all Moms we worry about the well-being and health of our children. A healthy life is almost a given when you give birth full-term but when you have a preemie everything is thrown out the window and instead every quality of life concern floods in. 

Thoughts that have flooded my mind in the last 8 days include:
Will my girls have normal and healthy lives?
Will my girls have normal vision?
Will my girls have special needs including walking, learning, and developmental?
Will my girls struggle with weight gain once they are discharged?
How will their early arrival into this world affect their overall well being and development?

The answers to these questions are almost as limitless as my list of worries. The hard part is that these questions won't be answered for a very long time which leaves me waiting and wondering, stressing and pondering.

During my times of worry though I am comforted by the simple knowledge that our Heavenly Father will get us through each and every hurdle that lay in front of us. A dear friend of mine sent me Romans 15:13 today; May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

What a powerful verse to get me through these tough times. My trust in Him truly does fill me with hope and peace. Something that all NICU Moms need on a daily basis, sometimes even just minute to minute.

Edited to add:
In the few minutes that I took to write this last night I clearly did not communicate my true feelings based on the comments. :) I do have a wonderful sense of peace and reassurance that God will get us through anything He will set before us. I know that we will persevere through any of the challenges, this does not worry me at all. I suppose my point in posting my list of worries was to give others a better sense of what goes through NICU Mom's minds as we watch over our babies day after day and also to let other NICU Moms who are reading this know that their worries are completely normal. Worries are normal but we can't let it consume us. Like my Dad always said "Worrying will get you no where, you can't fix anything or change the outcome by worrying."

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quick update on the girls

Things change everyday here in the NICU but because of all of your prayers and support the girls continue to head in the right direction. I know this may not always be the case but we are taking it one day at a time and will give praise for every advancement they make.

Jillian is being taken off of her high frequency ventilator and switched to a regular ventilator. Basically the difference is she will no longer receive constant low level shaking but will be able to lay still in her bed just like her big sister has been doing all along.

Britian will most likely be taken off of her ventilator completely in a day or two. I am feeling anxious about this because we do not have confirmation that her PDA (heart valve) is closed yet. But she is getting another EKG today to check for this. Both girls had slight heart murmur sounds this morning which is the first time anyone has heard murmurs from them.

Both girls are getting my breastmilk today. Britian is up to 3cc 3 times a day and Jillian is getting 2cc 3 times a day. No guarantee how long this schedule will last as they seem to take one dose fine then need to skip a dose or two then resume feeds again. But of course I am always hopeful that each new attempt will put them on the road to full feeds.

Mid-blog post writing update: I just got to speak with Dr. Dagle who is the Neonatologist taking care of the girls for the next 2 weeks and also the one that was on call the night the girls were admitted. He is in agreeance with me that we will not extubate the girls before their PDA closes, yeah! Also, at any time they are ready to graduate to a lower level NICU, it is all based on supply and demand at this point, if a more  critical baby (or babies) come in then my girls can graduate. We are also looking at about a month or so before they can be transferred to the NICU closer to our home. I am happy with that. At least with a goal in mind I can stay a little more sane about the prospect of commuting back and forth between home and the hospital a little better as well as the need to have childcare/help with my older children.

Thank you for all of your prayers! Please keep them coming. I am humbled to my knees with the outpouring of love, support, and prayers that my girls are receiving.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Best Valentine's Day Gift Ever

Both girls had head scans and EKG's today. The head scans were to check for a brain bleed. Brain bleeds in premature babies can lead to complications such as cerebral palsy. Jillian's first head scan was unclear, it was a maybe, maybe not diagnosis. The EKG for each of the girls was to see if their PDA valve, the heart valve that closes at or soon after birth was closed.

We just got the results!

Praise Him and His mighty hand of healing! Both girls have clear and normal head scans. Upon receiving these words I cried tears of joy. Such amazing news! I could not have asked for a better Valentine's Day gift.

As expected the valve on both girls is still open. Britian's is open just a tiny, tiny bit so we are hopeful that with medication her valve will close. Jillian's is open more so than her sister's but she will still receive the medication to try and close the valve. We will continue praying for them! Heart surgery is not an option I really want to face, but we will take it one day at a time.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

It is All About the Little Things in Life

It is All About the Little Things in Life

As I sit here in the wee hours of the morning completing some motherly chores I am struck by the truth of this simple statement, both on a small scale as well as in the bigger picture of life.

In the past 48 hours my life has suddenly and unexpectedly become all about the 2 littlest things in my life. Because of my amazing husband and the outpouring of love and support from friends and family I have been able to concentrate my efforts here, 2 hours from home and the rest of my family, on my girls. My beautiful and perfectly formed baby girls. That is the big picture of the little things in my life.

On a much smaller but often times more encouraging and supportive scale, it is all about the little things in life. The little things like the amazing nursing staff here in the hospital who go out of their way to not only care for me and my girls in a physical manner but who also go that extra step and truly care about us. The nurse that took time out of her day yesterday to sit and have a real conversation with me about my girls and my family, another nurse who goes out of her way to make sure I am comfortable and without want, and even the lactation consultant who talked with me for over an hour not about lactation issues but simply genuinely cared and wanted to hear about my family; these 3 amazing and blessed women along with countless others have all deeply touched my life and added to my little things in life.

When you are a Mother to micro-preemies, caring for them and mothering them quickly becomes ALL about the little things in their life. Basic bonding and care events that I have not fully appreciated with my other children when they were newborns. Sure I enjoyed those little things with my other children when they were so young, but the significance to which the same events have become important to me in the past 48 hours goes well beyond what I have ever felt before. Simple things like touching my babies, kissing them, changing their diaper, or even just caring for their little umbilical cord. Basic newborn care events that can become routine or even inconvenient outside the scope of our situation. Every fiber of my Mothering instinct wants to be able to clean their umbilical cord, give them their first sponge baths, get them dressed, and just kiss all over them. But none of this is possible right now.

I was blessed last night as I sat with Britian talking to her, singing to her, and journaling her first couple of days of life. I was blessed by her night nurse. Her nurse graciously offered to let me help with some of her basic care needs. For the first time in her short life I got to hold my baby girl, at less than 2 pounds, fully supported in my hands as we weighed her tiny little body. I also got to change her ultra tiny diaper which was beautifully filled with an early bowel movement. I soaked in every precious moment of changing and cleaning her beautiful little backside. I was also allowed to swab and moisturize her little mouth and take her temperature. All such basic care necessities that take on a whole new level of importance when the simple fact that my girls are alive is an earth shattering miracle.

Yesterday I also read my girls their first board books. Of course I profusely cried before I even muttered the first soft word to each of them. This precious and forever treasured moment would not have happened yesterday had it not been for Britian's incredibly caring night nurse. She offered to find me some reading books and I jumped at her offer. Even now as I draft this post the specialness of that moment is not lost of me, tears are flowing from my eyes. Britian's first book was "Little Gorilla" by Ruth Bornstein and to Jillian I read "On the Night You Were Born" by Nancy Tillman. Both books were so perfectly written for our situation. The specialness of being able to read to my girls at their bedside coupled with the message in each of the books was overwhelming so I wept as I shared those moments with my girls.

And the biggest "little thing" that I was blessed with yesterday was getting to see one of Britian's eyes open. Both of my girls' eyes were still fused shut, much like little kittens at birth, when they were born. Prior to last night I had not been able to look into my baby's eyes, such a basic event in other new Mothers lives that many never even think to appreciate the importance of that event. The scope of this precious moment will never be lost on me again. As Britian's night nurse and I were taking care of some of her basic needs we were able to take her bili mask off. While I changed her diaper she opened her right eye and my whole world stopped. Nothing else mattered at that moment. I was looking at my daughter's tiny little eye and she was looking into mine, I was overwhelmed. So tiny but still so perfectly made.

It is All About the Little Things in Life

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Our Baby Girls Are Here!!

Britian's hand grasping my finger
At 26 weeks and 5 days, on February 9th, 2011 at 9:37pm and 9:38pm respectively, Britian Dorothy Mae and Jillian Elaine Marie entered this world ready for the fight of their life.

Before I tell their story, I first want to thank all the prayer warriors that have lifted my girls and I up in prayer. They have the fight of their life ahead of them and can still use your continual thoughts and prayers.

Now for their story: At approximately 4pm on Wednesday 2/9 after a long day running errands I realized that I had not felt either girl move all day and could not remember them moving on Tuesday the day before either. I have been battling a head and chest cold and not been moving a lot myself so it didn't even cross my mind about their movement on Tuesday. When I laid down to count their kicks at 4pm on Wednesday I didn't feel anything, not even a hint of movement. Now I have to tell you that I am normally the type to talk myself out of these early pregnancy concerns. Even with this pregnancy I have talked myself out of other concerns I had and not called my OB, nothing to this scale, but more along the lines of contractions and nausea etc. Wednesday though those thoughts never even crossed my mind, I simply called knowing that not feeling them move at all was a real reason for concern. As I reflect upon this simple decision more, I know it was God telling me it was the right thing to do. He gave me the knowledge and confidence that I was doing what I needed for my girls.

Britian Dorothy Mae
By the time I got ahold of my doctor's office it was just after 5pm and they had just switched over to "after hours". So I was sent to labor and delivery at our local hospital where I would have delivered normally at full-term; about a 40 minute drive from my house in the country. My husband and I arrived at L&D just after 6pm. Shortly after 6pm my girls were on the ultrasound to check for heart rate and movement. Honestly, this was as far as I was expecting my L&D adventure to go. They were alive so all was well. I couldn't have been farther from the truth. After monitoring their heart rates for a while the realized that Britian was not having variations in her heartrate, known as accelerations and decelerations. Her heart rate tracing was a flat line compared to Jillian's tracing which was more of a typical wavy line with accels and decels. They gave me some oxygen hoping to wake up Britian. No luck.

Jillian Elaine Marie
After seeing no change in Britian's heart rate the bigger and more advanced ultrasound machine was called up to check on the girls. Most notably from that u/s was that Britian had a ton of fluid around her in her amniotic sac and also had a huge bladder and possible kidney issues. Jillian on the other hand had little to no fluid around her. Although at the time diagnosis' were not given, it now appears that within 2-3 days my girls had developed acute twin-to-twin transfusion. 3 weeks prior they were otherwise fine and I think it was only within the past 2-3 precious days because my belly discomfort shot through the roof in that time period. I simply thought it was because they were going through a growth spurt, but I now know it was because of all the fluid in my belly. In 3 weeks my fundal height increased 11cm, I was 38cm when I delivered last night. 3 weeks prior I was only 27cm.

Britian and Mommy
Because of Britian's combined conditions the OB on call made the tough decision to deliver my girls. Later she told me that even minutes before surgery she was still questioning her decision. However, once she cut into me she knew she had made the right decision and even thought that she should have rushed me to surgery and hour or more before when she actually did. As she cut into the amniotic fluid shot to the ceiling, there was so much and under so much pressure. Also, ironically on the heart rate tracing Jillian "looked" better but in reality she was and still is the more critical of the two. She did not have a heart beat for the first 20 minutes of her life and received CPR for about the first 45 minutes of her precious life. Britian on the other hand "looks" more developed. She was very swollen with fluid at birth. Her belly was basically one huge oval whereas her sister was just all skin and bones. Now, almost 24 hours after birth her swelling has gone down and she resembles Jillian much more. Both girls' eyelids are still fused shut which is odd. Fused eyelids is more of a 23-weeker characteristic, at 26-weekers their eyes should have opened by now. At approximately 1:30am CST the girls were driven by ambulance from the hospital we delivered at to the closest level 3 NICU, nearly 2 hours from our home. There was concern that Jillian would not survive the drive but thankfully she did.

Jillian's hand grasping my finger
Early this morning, 2/10 I got a call from the girls' on call NICU Dr. saying that Jillian had crashed and was not doing well at all. She was at basically room air oxygen saturation but suddenly crashed and had low blood count as well as low blood pressure. They wanted to know when I would be able to get to see them, there was extreme urgency because Jillian may not be alive for much longer. At this time my OB post partum staff went into over drive. After waiting for insurance approval and receiving a few updated vaccines myself I was loaded into a transport ambulance and brought here to be with them and finish my own recovery.

In an answer to prayers Jillian was alive when I arrived. To date she has received a few blood transfusions and will probably continue to do so because of low hemoglobin. She is also being treated for low level jaundice. Britian will most likely get the bili lights at some point too because a preemie with out a touch of jaundice at some point is almost unheard of. I have been to see the girls quite a bit today along with my husband. I have been able to touch them both, what a blessing that has been. They both seem to be responding to my voice as well, Britian more so than her sister but Jillian is still fighting harder than Britian so her less movement is understandable.

Jillian covered with saran wrap over her to keep her skin hydrated
Blessings for today include: they have both survived (almost) their first 24 hours (we are 1.5 hours away from 24 hours post delivery). Also, preliminary scans of Jillian's head is not showing any bleeding which was a huge concern earlier today.

Britian's bladder and kidneys are still larger than normal but she is peeing a good deal as well. She may have urinary reflux. But in contrast to everything else that could be wrong with her, I will take renal surgery down the road compared to the alternatives

On a personal side of this event I had a vertical c/s incision because of the emergency surgery. Also, I was put to sleep instead of receiving an epidural. During surgery I woke up, it felt like coming out of a deep sleep dream. I could feel my OB tugging on my belly, I couldn't talk because of the breathing tube down my throat, and worst of all I could hear the OR staff counting CPR compressions on my baby Jillian. Knowing how fragile how she was that caused an immediate sense of panic but I couldn't do anything about it. I started shaking my head and gagging on the breathing tube to let the OR staff know that I was waking up. I heard them call the anesthesiologist over to give me more medicine. At 11pm I woke up from surgery.

Again, I want to thank everyone who is praying for my girls. The outpouring of love, prayers, and well wishes has been overwhelming. It will be a very long road for my little girls, but I am hopeful that they will continue to improve.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

26 week picture and a few thoughts on pregnancy

I have made it to 26 weeks with the twins!! 6 1/2 months complete of this amazing journey. I know I've said it before here on this blog, but it bears repeating; being pregnant with twins is a whole new experience. I am also at the point in my pregnancy where the scope of this adventure is at times overwhelming. The thought and soon to be reality of bringing home not one but two newborns is just a tad bit frightening, much more than a tad bit if I am honest with myself. I am frightened but excited and elated all at the same time. Just the thought of being up with my two girls in the middle of the night, just the 3 of us while the rest of the house sleeps peacefully is exciting. I treasure those quiet moments with my babies as I rock them in the dark and listen to their sweet nursing sounds. I loved it with my 2 other children, I am thoroughly looking forward to those blessed moments with my beautiful little girls.

I think my size is starting to overwhelm my husband. As we were out and about in town today he kept glancing at my belly with a look I have never seen in his face before. Not a look of disgust or anything otherwise bad. Just a look of "holy cow, my wife is getting huge". I asked him about his new look at one point during lunch today and he confirmed that yes indeed that was what he was thinking but his thoughts went a little further than that as well. Along with being amazed at how big I am he is dumb founded with the thought of how much bigger I am going to get. Keep in mind, I hopefully have another 10 weeks or more to go. Fingers crossed. I am not tall by any means and being that my husband is 6'4" I always looks huge when I am in the late stages of my pregnancies. I have a short torso on a 5'2" frame so my babies have no where to go but out. Now with 2 precious blessings growing inside, the thought of how large I am going to get overwhelms even me at times. I feel incredibly blessed!

When I start to wallow in the challenges this pregnancy has presented or might present down the road I am reminded of how far we came to get here and also of all the women who are desperately trying to add to (or begin) a family. I met a dear sweet woman at the book store today. She is a c-section nurse at the hospital where I will be delivering (total coincidence) and she told me she has been trying for 2 years to start a family and their next step was IVF. My heart ached for her, I wish there was an easier answer. Although our infertility struggles were short compared to hers, my heart still wrenches at the emotional journey she has been on.

Count your blessings and say your prayers if you have never struggled with getting pregnant or if you have the family size you have always dreamed about. You are blessed!

Now I am off to put my feet up, drink my Chamomile, and read my new book "When You Are Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads" by Dr. Luke.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Review: Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman

Stumbling upon Mary Beth Chapman's latest book was a bit of serendipity. My husband had taken our kids to the library and asked if there were any books I wanted him to check out for me. I rattled off a few authors never expecting to be the first in line for this highly sought after memoir. I was so thrilled when my husband told me this book was on hold for me because the library had not received their first copy of this book yet, but when it did come in I was first in line. 

I should first tell you that it takes a lot for a book to grab me from the very beginning. Typically I will read a few chapters in a book, put it down, and come back to it later in the day or even another day. I had this monster of a book devoured in nearly one marathon sitting. I just could not put it down! Mary Beth writes in such a style that you feel like she is sitting across the couch from you and together you are enjoying a cup of hot tea while she tells you a part of her life story. The backbone of this book is the tragic accident that took the life of one of her adopted daughters. However, Chapman begins the story back before children and before she and Steven Curtis Chapman met and married. Mary Beth eloquently takes her reader on a journey through her life that has been filled with tragedy and triumph. All along the way she relates how her faith has been tested but how she knew God never left her side. Grab your box of tissues, a glass of tea, and Mary Beth Chapman's latest book Choosing To See, you will cry and rejoice right along with the Chapman family every step of the way.

From the publisher:
I’ve told my kids for years that God doesn’t make mistakes,” writes Mary Beth Chapman, wife of Grammy award winning recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman. “Would I believe it now, when my whole world as I knew it came to an end?” Covering her courtship and marriage to Steven Curtis Chapman, struggles for emotional balance, and living with grief, Mary Beth’s story is our story–wondering where God is when the worst happens. In Choosing to SEE, she shows how she wrestles with God even as she has allowed him to write her story–both during times of happiness and those of tragedy. Readers will hear firsthand about the loss of her daughter, the struggle to heal, and the unexpected path God has placed her on. Even as difficult as life can be, Mary Beth Chapman Chooses to SEE. Includes a 16-page full color photo insert.

An interview with Mary Beth Chapman as she speaks about her book and the journey writing this book set her upon.

Disclaimer: this review is my true and honest opinion, I did not receive compensation in any way for this review.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Prayer request for my little girl

My dearest readers, might I ask for your coveted prayers and thoughts of healing for my little girl? She woke up this morning with severe facial swelling and a rash. When I couldn't get the swelling and rash to fully subside with benadryl I took her in to the pediatrician. We left with a prescription of steroids (penicillin) and strict orders to take her to the ER if the swelling gets worse or her breathing becomes labored. Her pedi is concerned that the swelling could spread to her lungs or throat. Blood tests showed that her kidneys are functioning fine which is good news so we may never know what is causing her severe allergic reaction. I will of course be checking on her breathing all night, my motherly instincts will not let me rest tonight. Your prayers for her healing are deeply appreciated!

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Review: God Gave us the World

Quality Christian children's books can be challenging to find. Some deal with questionable issues while others are too simplistic and do not truly teach Christian values.

I recently received a copy of God Gave Us the World by Lisa Tawn Bergren to review with my 3 children. I have enjoyed reading the other books in this series so I was excited to be given the opportunity to review the latest in Bergren's God Gave Us collection.

Product Description:
Little Cub’s trip to a special museum exhibit, “Bears Around the World,” sparks a flurry of questions from the young polar bear who is just beginning to learn about life beyond her North Pole home. 

As Mama Bear shares with her about the different types of places that God has put the various types of bears, with their different kinds of fur and eating habits, Little Cub begins to wonder: Why didn’t God make us all the same?

With Mama’s loving guidance, Little Cub is taught to see the vastness of God’s wonderful creation, his abilities as an amazing, inventive Creator, his desire for us to care for our world, and especially the important lesson that…
“Every bear has a special place in God’s great, big world.”

This adorable story offers young children who are discovering their place in God’s big world an opportunity to learn about the wonder of diversity, the gift of creativity, the importance of caring for His gifts, and how each child, each creation, is special to God.

Also Available:

God Gave Us You
God Gave Us Two
God Gave Us Christmas
God Gave Us Heaven
God Gave Us Love
God Gave Us So Much – a limited three book treasury

How we used this book:
Over the course of several weeks I added this book to our bedtime book reading options. My children get to choose what book they want to have read to them at bedtime so I simply added this book as an available option for them. After being introduced to the book they began regularly requesting that I read this book over and over to them before turning in for the evening. A repeatedly requested book in our house translates literally into a book that is highly enjoyed.

I have to agree with my children's opinion of this beautifully crafted book. Not only is it written in Bergren's signature style with a solid story line and wonderfully interwoven lessons on God's gifts to us and Creation but the illustrations are captivating and beautifully done. As a Mother trying my best to teach my children core Christian values, Creationism, and to appreciate all of the splendid gifts that God gives us each day I tend to be very selective on the Christian books that I read to my children. Fortunately Bergren yet again delivered a well written Christian children's book that addresses core Christian values in a solid yet child-appealing manner just like the rest of the books in her God Gave Us collection.

Pricing information at the time of this review:
$7.91 on Amazon
$8.99 on

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher Random House in exchange for my honest opinion and review. No other form of compensation was received.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Inventors & Invention lesson plan resources

A few weeks ago my first grader approached me regarding learning about inventions and inventors. I had other lessons planned for the day but I decided this was a worthwhile deviation from our plans and together we sat down to see what cyberspace could teach us about the great inventors and their inventions. The resources I found online coupled with books from the library made for a great unit study that are still working on. I've had many other homeschool Moms ask me for the information I uncovered so I decided to just put it all together is a semi-coherent blog post.

Teacher Vision; this site has great printables and lesson plans for inventors and inventions. Please keep in mind though, it is a paid membership site but they do allow for 5 FREE views/downloads before requiring you to pay to access more resources. 5 free printables is better than nothing!!

Pro Teacher; this site is a compilation of lesson plan ideas submitted by public school teachers. Although many of the lesson plans call for large group activities I found that many can be adapted for the smaller homeschool environment. If nothing else, the lesson plans can give you ideas and jumping off points for activities in your own home.

Crayola Inventions; invention lesson plans and creative art activities. Most lesson plans give a spine of ideas, you can elaborate on them as you feel led.

Renaissance Connection; invention timeline complete with science, language arts, and much more.

Scholastic; a variety of invention and inventor lesson plans from Scholastic. Some plans include additional recommended resources. inventions; lots of lesson plans on building inventions, you may have to scroll past some advertisements.

Lesson Plans Page; I have linked a great invention research worksheet but there are more wonderful resources on this site for your pursing.

Invention ideas from CLN; a long list of invention and inventor websites. I have not verified that all the links on this page work. The ones I have checked out and used are packed full of great information.

Discovery Inventions and Inventors; great invention and inventors lesson plans from Discovery! At the bottom of the page lesson plans and ideas are further broken down by age group.

Library of Congress Science and Invention lesson plans; a wealth of amazing lesson plans, resources, and information on every possible invention or inventor that your budding scientist could ever want to know about.

The Homeschool Mom; a compiled list of invention and inventor websites. Again, I have not verified that all the links she shares are current and valid but the list is extensive and can be very helpful.

Smithsonian; in addition to great information about inventors and their inventions this site also has 4 games that your kids can play and learn about science/engineering at the same time. My 6 year old asks to play on this site all the time. He loves the game where he has to get a ball from a starting point to a certain ending point by using physics and engineering.

To complete our unit study I gathered a variety of information on all the major inventors and their inventions. My children and I put together an invention timeline which provided a springboard of curiosity and discovery. I also checked out a variety of books on inventors from our local library. I chose some that were simple picture books for my younger children and also found a nice sized stack of books for my 4th grade. My 1st grader also asked for a notebook so he could draw/sketch his inventions as they came to his creative mind. He is now on notebook #2 having filled up his first notebook in just a couple of weeks. I have encouraged him to label and elaborate on many of his inventions. Additionally, legos have become a great learning tool for this unit. When my son finishes sketching his invention he typically turns to his huge stash of legos to make a model of this creation. To encourage his vocabulary and group speaking abilities I often ask him to explain to our family what he has made, why it is important, and what improvements he thinks he can still make to his invention.

Bottom line of this unit study is to have fun! The possibilities for learning are endless.

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