Saturday, November 16, 2019

I Survived Shoulder Surgery!

I can only type with one hand, so I have to keep this short. I had my surgery yesterday afternoon. It was delayed because it took two nurses an hour to get an IV in my arm!  I have this issue every time, so I expected it.

I had calcium debridement, rotator cuff repair with anchors, bursectomy, and subacromial decompression. The surgeon told my husband that the calcium deposit was even larger than the MRI showed…it was 2 cm…and he said I was a real trooper for living with that in there because they are so painful.

I’ve been suffering with this pain for over a year and already did anti-inflammatories, cortisone injection, and 12 physical therapy sessions, only to have the pain return, and I didn’t find out the real problem until I saw the doctor again and was sent for x-rays. Then I got referred to an orthopedic surgeon who sent me for an MRI and told me I needed surgery.


So here I am, one day post-op!  I have a nerve block with a continuous pump for 3 days.  I can feel my arm but it helps take the edge off the pain.  I’m hurting, but I’m trying to avoid taking the narcotic pain meds, so I’ve only taken Aleve so far.  I’m using an ice machine for swelling.  I have to wear an immobilizer sling and not drive until I have my post-op appointment after 10 days. Then I will start physical therapy again in that week, once a week for 12 weeks.  The first few weeks are only passive movement and then assisted movements after that. It will be a long time before I have full use of my arm again, but I’ll get there eventually!

My ultimate goal is to be able to resume my daily workouts. When I can do that, I’ll know I’m finally healed from this whole ordeal!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

REVIEW: Elephant Learning Math Academy by Elephant Learning Math Academy.

I was given the opportunity to review Elephant Learning Math Academy with my 11-year old son, and I was pretty intrigued to see how it works.


Elephant Learning Math Academy is a subscription-based online learniImage result for elephant learning math academyng program that helps kids advance their math skills.  It is an automated math academy for kids age 2-16.

The company feels so strongly about the efficacy of their program that they guarantee your child will learn at least 1 year of math in 3 months by using the program just 3 times per week for 10 minutes per session.  That’s just 30 minutes/week! 

The program cost is $35/month, making it less costly than signing up at many popular brick and mortar tutoring facilities on the market.


This is an intuitive program that is designed to automatically detect what your child understands and what they do not, thereby guiding the practice to work on areas that need better understanding.  When your child begins, it first asks a variety of questions in order to determine placement into the program.  Holden was 11.8 years old when he started, and the program placed him at an Elephant Age of 10.3.  That was a bit of a surprise, but I figured he’d get that number up in short order. 

Getting Holden to work on it for just 10 minutes at a time was never a problem.  It’s such a short time commitment that it really isn’t a big deal to work on it in addition to his regular school work.  In the beginning, he was really excited to see that there were so many “games” to choose from for his daily questions, and he wanted to work for more than 10 minutes so he could try more of them.  The program will allow a little extra work, but not beyond 20 minutes per session.  It conveniently tracks the time for you and ends when the max has been reached.  However, he soon found that the “games” were really all the same, just with different graphics.  He began to lose some his enthusiasm at that point, but he still didn’t mind doing it.  I would say it’s less like a game and more like themed animations for answering questions.  So to him, it didn’t matter which theme he chose from that point on.  It’s colorful, but not particularly motivating to him one way or another.

Sample of Themes Sample 2 of Themes

Each time I peeked over his shoulder now and then to see how it was going, I noticed he was still answering the same types of questions as the previous sessions, and that had me wondering why.  I noticed that his Elephant Age had still only progressed to 10.5 in all this time, and that progression had happened early on, but there had been no changes since then.

I went away for a few days to celebrate my anniversary near the end of the review period.  When I returned and logged him in to work on the program, a message popped up saying that he was struggling in multiple areas and that we should consider having him retake the placement test.  I mentioned it to him, and he started panicking at the though of having to start over, so I opted out and let him continue where he was.

Soccer Question

I have since contacted customer service to ask for advice on how to proceed, and I’m waiting to hear back.  He obviously has NOT covered a year’s worth of material as the program promises, so I’m wondering where the disconnect is happening.  I suspect from my observations that it is simply his ADHD.  He will often start talking while working on it and get distracted or accidentally touch the screen and thereby change his answer without realizing it before pressing enter.  He prefers to use the app on our Android tablet rather than doing it at the computer, which by the way, works very well.  I love that portability option, as it saves his progress in all formats whether he uses the app or the computer. 

I really don’t blame the program.  It doesn’t know if he was careless or truly doesn’t understand the question.  I know from watching him that he understands but is making careless errors, and for that, it is preventing his progression through the program.  So my conclusion is that it may not be the best fit for him because of his inability to focus, but it certainly could be for a child who isn’t so easily distracted.  I think he is becoming bored with it, simply because he is stuck on the same types of questions over and over again, which only adds to his inability to focus.

After each session, he can see how he’s doing in each category of problems, and it’s color-coded for easy understanding.  He does like watching his progress this way.


Within each category, you can click it to see more detail of the work and progress within that category.

Detailed View

I can also check at any time to see how well he is keeping up with working on it regularly by viewing a Playtime Analysis at a glance.

Time Spent

In addition, I can see a detailed history of whether he has passed or failed each concept every time he uses the program. 

Breakdown of History

I wasn’t clear on how I was supposed to use this feature, but I also discovered that there was a worksheet section that appears to be extra written practice that I could print off for him to do each day.  That’s a nice option, too.


In theory, I love the idea of an intuitive program that keeps your child right where they need to be until they are ready to move on and that keeps progressing them at their own pace.  In practical application, though, I can see where a child like Holden can fall through the cracks of that intuitiveness.  He is doing much more advanced math questions in his regular math program, so I know that he has the ability.  I just think his ADHD makes it perhaps not the best format for him personally, and I think he would be more engaged with it if it had an actual game element to it rather than just themed animations.  But I would encourage you to give it a try and see if it is right for your child! 

Check out what other Crew members have to say about Elephant Learning Math Academy by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Veteran’s Day FREEBIES

Image result for veterans day

Aside from freebies and deals on food at over 100 restaurants, there are lots of freebies on shopping and services for military members and veterans on Monday in celebration of Veteran’s Day.

There’s even one freebie for EVERYONE:  National parks are waiving entrance fees for all on Veteran’s Day!

If you are an AMC Stubs member and purchase a military movie ticket now through Monday, you get a FREE popcorn

At Great Clips, veterans and active duty military members can get a FREE haircut on Monday or pick up a free haircut card to use through the end of the year.  Non-veterans who get a haircut Monday get a FREE haircut card to give to a veteran which can be redeemed from Veteran’s Day through year’s end. 

At Planet Fitness, veterans and active military can work out for FREE through November 15th, and they can even bring a friend to work out with them for FREE!  And after their workout, they can enjoy a FREE HyrdroMassage and chair massage, as well!

At participating Sports Clips locations, veterans and active duty military can get a FREE haircut on Monday!

Through Monday, veterans and active duty military can get or renew their Amazon Prime membership at a $40 discount, making it just $79!

In addition, veterans and active duty service members can receive discounts ranging from 10%-25% off their entire purchase at stores like Target, Kohl’s, KMart, Leslie’s Pool Supplies, LL Bean, Dollar General, Bed Bath & Beyond, Albertsons, Staples, Walgreens, and Academy Sports!

To all veterans, thank you for your service!  Enjoy your special day.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

FREE Doughnut @ Krispy Kreme Today!!!

Visit Krispy Kreme Homepage

Stop by any participating Krispy Kreme shop today in your Halloween costume and get one FREE doughnut of your choice! 


Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

My Shoulder Saga

Well, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve had my fair share of drama with my left shoulder.  I’ve been struggling with chronic shoulder pain for over a year.  I’ve done anti-inflammatory medication (Aleve), cortisone injection, 12 physical therapy sessions, 4 x-rays, and an MRI in search of a solution.  It improved after the injection and physical therapy, which at least allowed me to regain full range of motion.  But once I resumed my normal exercise routine over the summer, it got gradually worse all over again.  Just before and right after I had the MRI, I saw an orthopedic surgeon.  He informed me that I have Calcific Tendinitis.  Basically, my injured rotator cuff tendon has begun to fill in the muscle tissue with calcium, as if trying to form a bone.  As my body tries to reabsorb the calcium, it creates one of the most painful conditions found in the shoulder.  Its presence causes inflammation of surrounding tissues, and it just gets worse.  The surgeon said the MRI showed that the calcium deposit is significantly larger than the original x-ray showed it to be.  In fact, the deposit takes up nearly the whole tendon.  So now I’m scheduled for arthroscopic shoulder surgery on November 15th.

MRI of Calcific Tendonitis

He said my bursa is so inflamed that it has to be completely removed (bursectomy).  Then they will break through the tendon wall and shave out the calcium deposit, making sure to extract the fragments so they don’t cause further irritation.  But because my calcium deposit is so large (up to 1.5 cm), it will leave a major void in the tendon that is equivalent to a large rotator cuff tear.  It’s too large for a side-to-side suture repair, so he will have to do an anchored suture repair.  With that, he will drill 3 anchors into the bone and tie interconnected sutures among them to stretch and secure the remaining tendon to the bone (interlinked suture anchor rotator cuff repair).  The surgery will be performed under general anesthesia, as well as a peripheral nerve block with an attached pump that will keep my whole left arm completely numb for 3 days.  I will have a follow-up with the surgeon 10 days after surgery.  Then I’ll have 12 weeks of physical therapy once a week with additional PT exercises to do at home every day.  It can take up to 6 months to heal fully, and it will be at least 3 months before I will be able to lift my arm above my head.  Yikes!  This is going to be a bit of an ordeal to recover from.  Getting dressed will be challenging.  Washing my long hair will probably require assistance for a while.  I’ve watched other people’s stories of recovery on YouTube, and women say that getting bras that fasten in the front is key if you hope to get one on at all.  I suddenly realized that my whole approach to daily activity will be affected for quite some time post-surgery.  I guess I should seriously consider putting up the Christmas tree a couple of weeks early or else I may not be able to get it up at all!

The upside to this whole thing is that the doctor assures me I’ll be pain-free at the end of it all.  No more chronic pain.  That’s something to look forward to!

If you’re curious, the first patient in this video had the same kind of surgery and suture anchor repair that I’ll be having.  Her results 3 months post-surgery were amazing!  That’s exactly what I’m hoping for!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

REVIEW: Smartick by Smartick

I had never heard of this math practice product before, so I was really curious when we got to review an online Smartick subscription by Smartick.


Smartick is an online subscription-based program that allows students ages 4-14 to practice their math skills.  The program is intuitive, so after an initial placement period, the program begins at a starting point just below your student’s current level of understanding.  Then practice problems are provided, and the program adjusts automatically as your student progresses through each concept.

Parents can monitor student progress and performance through the parent dashboard.  In addition, you can opt to receive daily emails that let your know your child has completed their work for the day and also gives you a detailed breakdown of the topics covered, how your student scored, and how quickly they responded.  It notifies you if your student is performing satisfactorily, if their work is improvable, or if their responses times are too slow.  You can also receive a weekly summary.

The parent dashboard also includes the option to leave an encouraging message for your student or to set up a rewards system of your own design.

The program can be accessed via the website or via a convenient app for Apple or Android.  Both require online access so that progress can be stored interchangeably in both platforms, providing you with the flexibility to use either platform at any time.

You can read about the methodology and how the program compares to another popular program or sign up for a free trial to see if the program is right for you.

This subscription can be purchased for $49.99/month, $134.97/quarter, or $419.88/annually.


Holden is 11 and has ADHD.  His attention span is short if the delivery is not stimulating.  So anytime we can practice math skills in a colorful and engaging online format, I’m willing to give it a try.  Holden has a pretty good general understanding of math, but he struggles with retaining the methodology over time.  Therefore, I find myself reteaching and reminding him quite often.  That’s why although he was 2 years ahead in math, we’ve thrown on the brakes this year so we can focus on the basics and retention of information before moving on to Pre-Algebra concepts.  Also, because he refuses to write any math problems down, his response time is very slow, and this turns math into a lengthy chore for him, which is greatly affected by his lack of attention span.  It’s a vicious cycle.  So when we received Smartick for review, I was excited at the prospect of giving him the extra reinforcement and practice that he needed in a format that he actually liked.

Smartick is intended to be used in 15-minute intervals about 4-5 days a week for maximum effectiveness.  That short time commitment makes this a good fit for Holden right off the bat.  He also enjoys the portability of using the app version on our school tablet, which he can take outside and use while lounging in the hammock, for instance.  This makes it feel less like school work, so that’s a big bonus for him.

In the beginning, the program was assessing his current level.  The parent indicates the grade level of the child at signup, and the program starts with problems below that level and adjusts up as appropriate.  Once it determines a starting point, it notifies the parent that placement has been made and what the student will begin working on first.  This is great when you’re trying to fill in learning gaps, because the program will pick up on those and ensure that your child starts where they really are, regardless of age or grade level.  The very first message I received reiterated that parents should NOT be helping their student complete the work, as that will affect the direction of the program, which picks up on the student’s needs automatically.  I”m so used to helping him and answering questions, and he’s so used to asking me that it worked out better if I got him started and left the room so he could complete it on his own.

I love the daily emails that let me know he has done his work for the day and give me a detailed summary of how he performed in specific content areas, as well as whether or not his response time was too slow.  Slow response time continues to be an issue for him, as I expected it would be.  But I’ve begun to see improvements in this area over the course of the review.  Yay, Smartick!

In addition, I can go onto the website and log into the parent dashboard to view his progress details as well as his individual session details.

Holden loves that in addition to the regular sessions, there are some fun skill-building games that he can play in the Smart Brain section, and he chooses to do these on his own, which impresses me.  He’s particularly fond of the Simon game, which improves memory.

I counted about 27 games in all!  They are broken down into categories for memory, reasoning, attention, and flexibility.  He apparently never noticed the clickable tabs that take you to the games in each category, so he has only played the memory games so far.  Now that I’ve showed him how to find them, he is excited to try out the others as soon as possible!

A colorful game environment keeps Holden’s attention better than anything else, so knowing that he can play these after his regular session is a great motivator for him.

Today, Holden will be working on coordinate planes.  Here’s an example of what the questions look like in his daily sessions.

So far, he’s really been enjoying it, and getting him to complete his sessions has not been difficult.  After thoroughly reviewing the parent dashboard, however, I’ve been unable to determine whether or not the program thinks he is performing at his grade level or not.  Nowhere that I’ve seen indicates what his current performance grade level actually is.  This is information that I’d really like to know so I can assess where were should be working in our regular math lessons for school.

Overall, I love this program, because it is an effective way to work on gaps in math learning.  It’s not parent-intensive, Holden appreciates the immediate feedback, it doesn’t require a big time commitment, and it has a fun and engaging format that makes it attractive for my son.  Any time we can get in extra math practice and it not feel like a chore is a win-win for us!

Check out what other Crew members have to say about Smartick by clicking the banner below.

Monday, October 21, 2019

REVIEW: Drawing Program by Creating a Masterpiece

My daughter really enjoyed the painting program in years past, so when I was given the opportunity to review the new Drawing Program by Creating a Masterpiece with my 11-year old son, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to help him feel successful with art.


Drawing Program Graphic

The new Drawing Program by Creating a Masterpiece includes online access to a variety of drawing projects for artists of any age.  Instruction is provided for beginners as well as for levels 1-3, so the program offers projects for learners of all skill levels.

The online program provides a necessary supply list for each project, as well as links to purchase supplies directly from an online art supply store.  Each project has video instruction to guide students in a step-by-step process so that every student can be successful. 

You can purchase monthly access for $19.99/month, or annual access for $199.00/year.


For this review, I decided to have my husband, Steve, my 11-year old son, Holden, and myself all try a different project.  I used to draw in high school, but that was 30 years ago, and I haven’t done any drawing since then.  In the process of raising three kids, I’ve since reverted back to stick figures on most occasions!  My husband can draw very well when it comes to caricatures, but he doesn’t take on any drawing projects with realism.  My son struggles even with stick figures, and he’s never really enjoyed any kind of art in the past.  However, he recently started asking if he could learn to draw, so when this review came up, I figured it was perfect timing.  And if this program could get the three of us drawing anything even remotely noteworthy, then it was worth its weight in gold!

I was the first one to try it out.  I decided to select a Beginner Level project, so I chose the caricature of the giraffe from the eight choices in that level.  The website clearly laid out a supply list for me, and I ordered everything through the provided link to the Dick Blick online store for all of the projects the three of us planned to do. 

Beginner Level Projects

When I clicked on that project, it showed me a series of four videos that would provide the step-by-step instruction that I needed to follow. 

Video Instruction

The teacher’s tone of voice was a little bit annoying to me as an adult (and my husband said the same thing), but it was perfect for speaking to a child.  She made every step seem so easy.  I simply paused the videos along the way if I needed a little time to make adjustments.  I liked how she didn’t try to make the project a one-size-fits all format, but instead, she suggested ways to change it up to fit your style or the look you wanted to achieve.  Sometimes she suggested changes, I would make them, and then she’d have me erase them and go back to the original approach.  I was a little frustrated at first, but then I realized that she was teaching me to have a freestyle approach and not feel stuck in conforming to any one way.

Giraffe Instruction

In the end, I really liked how my giraffe turned out.  When I showed it to my husband, he said if he didn’t know better, he wouldn’t have believed that I had drawn it.  Remember, caricatures are his thing, not mine, so I took that as a tremendous complement!

Giraffe in Cartoon - Beginner Level - Kelly

Steve was the next one to give it a whirl.  Since he’s slightly more experience than we are, he decided to choose a project from Level 1.  But again, anything but caricatures are out of his comfort zone, so he selected the Penguin Family project from the seven choices in that level.

Level 1 Projects

His video instruction was broken down into eight parts.  The convenient thing about having the lessons broken down this way is that you don’t feel pressure to even complete your drawing in one sitting, which is especially helpful with younger children.  They are free to leave their project and come back to it later in the day or even over the course of several days if they prefer to break it up into shorter sessions.  However, all of us completed our drawings in one sitting of about 30 minutes.

Penguin Video Instruction

Steve was also really happy with how his drawing turned out.  He mentioned the alterations the teacher made and how she erased them later, as well, but we both understand that she was teaching flexibility in the process.

Penguin Family - Level 1 - Steve

Next up was the true test of the program…Holden.  He has never had an artistic bone in his body.  This is a child who never even liked coloring.  In fact, he doesn’t even like to write that much, so his fine motor skills have always left a little to be desired, simply because he avoids doing any activities that would hone those skills.  I knew if this program could get him drawing anything remotely recognizable, it would be nothing short of a miracle.

He chose the Beginner Level project called Simplicity.  This had some barren trees in the foreground and some hills in the background.  That means this project involved some use of perspective, so I wasn’t overly confident that he could pull it off.  His project was broken down into six videos.

Simplicity Video Instruction

At one point in one of the videos, the teacher compared the branches for the trees to roads that veer off the highway.  You can see how she illustrated that to the right of the drawing she was working on.  That was a clever way to explain it so even a child could understand it!

Simplicity Video Snapshot

To my great surprise, this was Holden’s completed project, which turned out so remarkably well that I could hardly believe he had actually done it without any help!  My husband watched him do it and said he was so excited throughout the project, because he realized he could actually draw this all by himself!  I must say, I was totally impressed!

Simplicity - Beginner Level - Holden

So as you can see, this program really does work some kind of miracle.  It got the three of us drawing things we never would have believed that we were capable of drawing so well.  My son was talking about it for days afterwards, too, and he asked if he could continue with the program, working on some additional projects going forward.  When I told him he had a whole year of access to do so, he was very excited!  I absolutely love how this program built up his confidence and encouraged him to try new things and not feel discouraged or self-defeated.

We all enjoyed it so much that I ordered all of the supplies necessary to complete all of the drawing projects and not just the ones for regular drawing pencils.  We also got charcoal pencils and a nice set of Prismacolor pencil, as the program recommended, so we could eventually branch out into some of the other mediums, as well.  The program really stresses the need the quality art supplies so you can achieve a high quality result, and I must say that in doing so, we were very happy with the results we got.

I highly recommend this program for anyone interested in drawing or even just in trying something new.  I found it to be kind of therapeutic, as it was relaxing and fun for all of us and didn’t require a huge time commitment, either.  Personally, I can’t wait to see what else we can churn out!

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about this wonderful art program by clicking the banner below.