Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Eternal Argument {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Sometimes I find a great curriculum that teaches my children. This time I found something that challenged me to learn more so that I could more effectively discuss literature with my children. The Eternal Argument from Analytical Grammar builds a framework upon which all western literature can be explained. Understanding this framework allows students (and their teachers) to discuss history, literature, and culture in a meaningful way.

Robin Finley, the author of The Eternal Argument, says that the material is intended for all ages, but it would be most appreciated by teenagers and adults. With that description, I thought it would be an easy read, especially since I enjoy literature studies.

It wasn't nearly as easy to read as I had expected. Finley does an excellent job of explaining difficult concepts in an understandable way, and I followed along fairly easily as she defined a literary theistic viewpoint and contrasted it with a literary humanistic view. Understanding the definitions, however, is a lot different than trying to think through them and apply them to various famous pieces of literature.

Much of the book was spent discussing the historical, philosophical, and cultural forces at play during different periods of time and how those factors influence the prevailing worldview. The author walks the reader through an overview of history starting from the Biblical account of creation and hits the highlights up through the twentieth century. For instance, Romanticism grew out of the Industrial Revolution which began in the 1700s. As people moved into the cities, they sensed a lesser dependence on God and became more humanistic in their view of life. In other words, they believed that man is in control of his own destiny and that mankind in general is perfectible.

Several famous literary works are referred to in The Eternal Argument. I was familiar with only a few of the pieces and relied on the author's summary for the others. Since these works were used to illustrate and further explain the literary viewpoint of a particular period in history, it was difficult for me to fully understand the worldview concepts as it related to that story and that period of time. I found it hard to come to meaningful conclusions when I only had a short synopsis to go by.

I came to realize that my struggle to come to conclusions was beneficial in a way. Finley doesn't put forth many answers to the questions she asks in the book. Her intent seems to be to ask questions and make the reader think through the concepts. By thinking through the material, I gained a better understanding and started to see how I could participate in a literary discussion to determine the worldview of a particular piece of literature. The whole point is that literary analysis doesn't often have right versus wrong answers; literary analysis is more concerned with the thinking process of coming to conclusions and then supporting them.

Addison, my literature-loving high schooler, says that the most useful chapter she read was the one about the western literature platform. It was especially helpful to see that most literary allusions come either from the King James version of the Bible or classical mythology. In fact, she added several books to her reading list so that she can brush up on her classical knowledge and be better able to recognize allusions when reading modern works.

Addison is still working her way through the book, but I can tell that it is already changing the way that we can discuss literature. Since both of us are fairly well read and like arguing about abstract concepts, it was no surprise that we spent our commute across town this morning discussing which worldview was predominant in Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables.

The Eternal Argument is available from Analytical Grammar for $24.95. I think it would be most helpful for high school students interested in literature and parents who would be discussing classic works with them.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

New Strong Heart Day

When Lauren was younger, she often asked me to tell her stories of various things. One of her favorites was the "New Strong Heart Day" story. On the fifth anniversary of her heart transplant, I'm writing it down for her.

The last week of July 2009 was a rather lonely week at CHoP because it was the annual summer camp week for transplant and pulmonary hypertension patients. Two of the cardiac Child Life Specialists, the transplant psychologist, several of the coolest nurses, and our favorite transplant doctor were all at camp. On the Friday before, one of the Child Life Specialists had stopped by Lauren's room to remind me that good things often happened when everyone was away at camp. Honestly, I think I rolled my eyes at her and told her to have a great time. We had waited so long that I had almost given up hope of ever getting the call that there was a heart for Lauren.

On Monday morning, some of our friends from Washington DC came up to visit. We hung out in the playroom, took silly pictures, and later I showed them which street vendor made the best gyros.

Late Monday afternoon, Lauren was settling back into her room. It was only a couple of hours until we could start her bedtime routine and then I could go get dinner somewhere.

One of the nurses came by to say that Dr. P was on the phone. I remember being annoyed that he hadn't just talked to me earlier that day. (I guess I was a bit grouchy after spending seven months living in the hospital.) The nurse urged me to go pick up the phone at the nurse's station while she stayed with Lauren.

"We've found a heart."

I was hopeful, but hesitant. There had been a day months earlier when we were all so certain that there was a heart for Lauren and then it fell through. I was afraid to get my hopes up.

I called Tim immediately so that he could come up from our home in DC.  I didn't tell Lauren because I knew that I wouldn't be able to cope with her disappointment if it wasn't the right heart for her.

Lauren's music therapist stopped by the room and offered to have an impromptu music session so that I could deal with some of the logistics.

There were lots of people to talk to and lots of paperwork to sign. Thankfully, Lauren was happily singing and didn't notice that I was entertaining a string of doctors streaming past her door.

One of the surgery residents came by to ask if I had any questions. After seven months of waiting, we had been given plenty of opportunities to ask questions. I did have one lingering thought. Lauren had several abdominal surgeries when she was teeny-tiny. One of those scars runs up-and-down her abdomen. I asked the surgeon if he could make sure that they could do the sternal incision so that it lined up nicely with the one that was lower. I'm sure he thought that I was crazy.

Afterwards there was not much to do but wait. For Lauren's sake, I tried to pretend everything was normal.

After all this time in the hospital, Lauren didn't think too much of the fact that one of the doctors needed an extra set of labs run. She really didn't even think too much of the fact that he also ordered an x-ray and that we'd have to actually go down to the ER to get it taken. We were quite a sight going through the halls that night. Lauren did not like leaving her comfort zone on the sixth floor of the hospital. She wanted no part of riding her tricycle down to get an x-ray, and she was getting a bit too heavy for me to carry her all the way. We somehow ended up with a broken wagon that lurched and bumped as we drug it all the way to the elevators and then all the way back up to her room.

That evening I showed Lauren a book I had borrowed from the Child Life Specialists. I told her that since Miss Meredith was at camp, the other Child Life Specialist was going to let her see one of the really special books. The photo book showed pictures of the ER, what sorts of lines and tubes would be put in during the transplant operation, what sorts of equipment would be in her room on the ICU side after surgery, etc. I still didn't tell her that the transplant surgery was possibly only hours away.

Tim arrived, we read the transplant book again (and again), and then we tucked her into bed as if it were just another night in the hospital.

Lauren often made the respiratory therapists sing when she did her inhaled medicine at bedtime. One therapist in particular had started remembering Vacation Bible School songs from his childhood to sing to her while she breathed from the inhaler. That night he helped her with the motions for "Deep and Wide."

Tim and I then tried to relax in the family room with some dear friends from our adopted church in Pitman, New Jersey. The cardiologist who had followed Lauren since her very first appointments called from camp with his congratulations and best wishes. He had heard that the heart was "perfect" and was excited for us.

We talked to some other doctors and kept hearing that everything was on track for a transplant later that night. Around midnight we all needed some sleep. Tim took over my bed in Lauren's room (also known as the couch), and I squeezed beside her in her hospital bed.

The team from the OR came to get her at about 1:30 in the morning on July 28th. Lauren woke up briefly when she saw everyone in scrubs and asked me, "My new strong heart?" I answered yes and we told her how much we loved her as the anesthesiologists started giving her the first sleepy medicines.

I know that many people around the country were praying for Lauren and anxiously waiting for Facebook updates that night. After walking Lauren to the OR, Tim and I went back to sleep. I thank God for the peace he gave us that night, a peace that surpassed all understanding and allowed us to get some much needed rest. We woke up when the nurses came with updates from the OR, but we sadly missed a congratulations phone call from two special doctors serving in Afghanistan.

We had been told to expect the surgery to take at least four to six hours. After about two hours, we received word that her new heart was beating. We talked to the surgeon about 5 o'clock that morning, and he was so pleased with how well she was doing that he was going to extubate her as soon as she got into a room in the ICU instead of waiting for a day or so. We were able to see her by 5:30 that morning, and she was doing better than any of us expected.

For the first day or two after surgery, she slept most of the time. Painkillers plus heavy doses of Benadryl as part of the immunosuppression protocol made her really tired. Occasionally she would wake up and request a movie. After months of watching Dora DVDs, I was incredibly sick of hearing "Lo hicimos" and "Backpack, backpack." I dared to sneak an animated movie into the DVD player while she was napping. It didn't work. She woke up and asked, "What is this?" in the most serious, you've-got-to-be-kidding-me tone I've ever heard. She asserted her preference for Dora and then fell back asleep.

She was awake enough two days after the transplant to put a new strong heart bead on her growing strand of Beads of Courage. I joked with the Child Life Specialist that it was a glorious night when my biggest worry was how to drape all the beads over her bed so that she could see them.

She seemed to fly through the recovery process and was feeling a little bit better every day. Within four days, she was smiling, working puzzles, and singing again.

We were all surprised at how quickly she recovered from her surgery. On the Monday following the transplant, the cardiac exercise physiologist rushed into her room. He had been gone on vacation the previous week and was a bit panicked when he heard that Lauren was in the ICU. I let Lauren tell him why she was in a room on the ICU side of the floor. She looked so great that he didn't believe she had surgery until she lifted up her shirt to show him the scar.

During our months waiting at CHoP, I had spent many hours pushing Lauren's IV pole behind her as she rode around our floor on a tricycle. About a week after the transplant, her surgeon made an offhand comment about how he hadn't seen her riding around the halls. Challenge accepted:

It really is amazing how quickly her body was able to heal. It's even more amazing to see how much progress she's made over the past five years.

Happy Heart Birthday, Lauren!

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Happy Heart Birthday!

Happy Fifth Heart Birthday, Lauren!

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beauty Captured -- 361/365

The Pebble Pond

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

M is for Monsoons

It's a bit difficult to describe a monsoon to someone who hasn't ever lived in the desert. It's definitely different than rainy days and thunderstorms we've experiences in other parts of the country. When Addison looked outside during the last one that hit our neighborhood, we thought it most resembled a hurricane. It didn't last for long, but the heavy rainfall and gusty winds remind me of times when we've been near a hurricane.

We experienced our first Arizona monsoon just a few days after moving here. We were still living in temporary housing on base.

It had been so hot earlier in the day that we all walked outside our room to enjoy the coolness in the air. Nothing's quite as refreshing as a chance to dance in the rain.

From where we were standing we could see lightning in the distance. All of a sudden we heard a crack nearby.

That palm tree was only about a block away and it started showering down sparks of fire on the building below.

I'm sure we'll be retelling this story for moves to come. "Remember that time we were staying in the TLFs and the palm trees caught on fire." (At least the monsoon story is a bit more fun to remember than the "remember that time when we were moving and our van broke down" story.)

Ben and MeI'm sharing a "years ago" story corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge hosted by Marcy at Ben and Me. I often tell my children stories of things that have happened in our past, and now I'm taking the time to write down those stories.

©2009-2014 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Random Five on Friday, July 25

1. Last weekend I posted the explanation of why we often call Lauren "Ladybug." For some reason, my computer auto-corrects ladybug to lauren every single time I type it. Quite annoying.

2. While returning a few things at Wal-Mart this week, I pulled out my driver's license. Lauren glanced at it and declared, "You looked a lot younger then." The clerk couldn't understand why I was laughing so hard until I told her to look at the date on the card -- it's not even two years old.

3. I was talking to Tim about K-cup flavors. He does not recommend the peanut-butter-and-jelly flavored ones.

4. Addison was babysitting for friends, and he pulled out old college yearbooks to show her pictures. Thankfully I found a similarly embarrassing picture of him.

5. Last week at church, the mom on the other end of our pew was holding her new baby -- such a tiny little thing. She was a bit premature and probably barely weighs 7 pounds now. I can't believe Lauren was once even tinier than that. She was about 5 pounds when she came home from the NICU. (The picture below shows her lying crosswise in the cradle.)

If you'd like to join the Random 5 on Friday fun, you can either click on the cute birdhouse button below or visit The Pebble Pond.

The Pebble Pond

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I frequently refer to Apologia Educational Ministries as one of my favorite homeschool companies. Addison completed several of their high school science programs, and I've also used several of their elementary science options. They also have a wide selection of Christian worldview materials and books to encourage homeschool parents. Their new book Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms arrived at a perfect time for me to regroup a bit this summer and prepare for our new school year.

Flourish Book Review

When a friend recommends a book, I feel like asking a dozen questions. Is it helpful? In a practical way? Encouraging? Judgemental? Preachy? Will I relate to the author? Will I take away something meaningful? I don't want one-word answers, though. I want specific examples from the book so that I can figure out if I want to set aside time to read it.

My hope is that I can share a few specific thoughts from Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms so that you'll be able to tell if its the type of book that will resonate with you as much as it did for me.

Busy moms (and dads) often talk about being busy in terms of all the specific tasks they are juggling. I'm guilty of thinking about schoolwork, appointments, volunteer commitments, and fixing dinner all as balls that I have to work frantically to keep from dropping. Mary Jo Tate suggests thinking of our lives as a tightrope. The goal of my life should be to maintain balance, not to keep a set of balls in the air. (chapter 2)

Evaluate your circumstances by determining which things are irreducible facts, which are non-negotiables, and which are preferences. There's no sense worrying and complaining about irreducible facts. I can't change Lauren's medical needs or where the Air Force sends us, no matter how much I try. The things I've put in the non-negotiable category also cannot be changed. The last category, preferences, is where I have an opportunity to make changes to my life. I can change the type of homeschool curriculum we use, the commitments I make to outside organizations, or the frequency that I run to the grocery store. The key to finding balance is to make changes in the preferences category, even if it means saying no to good opportunities. (chapter 2)

 "Don't allow perfectionism to paralyze you. Learn to accept when good enough is good enough." (chapter 8)

Each chapter ends with reflection questions or exercises that helped me apply what she was sharing instead of just merely reading. One of the questions for the Pre-Book Self-Evaluation asked, "What brings you the greatest satisfaction?" Later, after reading about how to categorize my circumstances, the author asked, "How will you find peace in the space between ideal and reality?" I had to slow down and truly think about my life in order to answer those questions. 

Slowing down to think is perhaps the biggest blessing I gained from this book. I've been so busy juggling racquetballs for so long that I've forgotten that I need to dream big dreams, organize my life, and find my own sense of balance. 

There are underlined passages and scribbled notes to myself throughout this book. It truly is packed with useful, Godly advice about thriving as a homeschool mom. By reading through the book and working on each chapter's homework exercises, I'm learning to "establish a pace I can maintain for the marathon of life."

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is available to order from Apologia for only $15. I highly recommend it for homeschooling moms (either beginning homeschoolers or homeschoolers that have been teaching for years).

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