Deanna’s review of DIVE Math

Since many of you keep asking about our homeschooling, we’re going to quit procrastinating and do a long-overdue review for part of our math curriculum.

DIVE is a CD of brief chalkboard-style lectures explaining each lesson in a Saxon Math book.  Deanna uses Saxon Algebra 1 with the DIVE cd made for that level.  DIVE is not affiliated with Saxon Math.

Kaitlyn also uses DIVE so you can expect a review from her soon, and I’ll be sharing my own thoughts and observations as well.

Posted by: Deanna

Why I love DIVE:

First and foremost, since I started using DIVE my average number of problems wrong has dropped by 50%.   I think that’s a pretty good reason to love it.

Also, having the lessons recorded is  wonderful because I can rewind and listen to a certain part and watch the teacher rework the problem as many times as I want. Before when I was just reading the lessons in my math book, I had trouble fully absorbing all of the different pieces of the lesson.

One thing that kind of bugs me about the Saxon Algebra 1 book is that they all of a sudden started putting a lot more stuff into the lessons, compared to the earlier levels, and I suddenly had to adjust to learning a lot more with every lesson than I was used to.  Using DIVE has really helped me on that level because instead of having to work through it all by myself,  Dr. Shormann neatly and methodically goes through the lesson bit by bit and explains it. Another nice thing is that the lessons average about 10 min, or for a really meaty lesson it might take 20.

I really like being able to work the problems with Dr. Shormann and it’s soooooo nice to be able to back up, go over, and rework the problems that I got wrong.

What I don’t love about DIVE:

Dr. Shormann does not have very neat handwriting – though I can still read it easily –  and you can’t use the arrow keys on the keyboard to scroll through the lessons.


DIVE is 99% wonderful!

The Mysterious Islands

There are perks to having a husband who works at Vision Forum.  Last night our entire family attended the world premiere of The Mysterious Islands at the biggest, newest cinema in San Antonio!  The theater was packed with familiar faces and new ones, including much of the cast and crew from the film itself.

We were excited to be there, and we were not disappointed.  The film was grand and beautiful, and highly entertaining.  We love animal movies, and this one was full of spectacular video and still photos, all interwoven with a fast-paced combination of history, discipleship, and creation science.

We learned much about Charles Darwin’s life and education, his view of the origin of species and how he arrived at his theory.  We also learned about how his book and theory were received by friends and contemporaries, including the captain of the ship which took Darwin on his historic voyage, and how the insidious theory of evolution has affected the history that followed.

And of course we learned how the wonders of the Galapagos Islands – far from proving evolution – tear the theory apart from its very foundations.

But I have to confess that my favorite part was the soundtrack.  It set the mood for the movie and drew the viewer along, playing with our emotions just the way good music is supposed to do.  It was alternately grand and sweeping, dark and mysterious, sweet and soft and hauntingly beautiful…much like I imagine the islands themselves must have been.

The Mysterious Islands will be premiering in several other cities around the US soon, but you can also preorder the DVD and/or soundtrack right now.  Shipments are expected to begin on November 18, so you won’t have long to wait.  I’m hoping we can get ours sooner, since I’ve got connections. 🙂

Review: Glory, Duty & the Gold Dome

Glory, Duty & the Gold Dome

I have to say I don’t think title of this book does it justice.  The reason I’m starting with that is because I know that in our house some of us have the bad habit of judging a book by its title.  This book, rather than the impression the title gave me, is fast paced, exciting and very informative.  I read it in only a day and a half, which is something I rarely do.

One of my favorite parts in the book is when 14 year old Thomas finds his friend being teased by a group of boys who are on a school field trip.  He politely asks for the papers back and informs them that they are hindering important work, then the bullies turn to him.  After a brief interchange where Thomas threatens to call the security guard, the ring leader swings at him. With a few quick motions Thomas has his arm twisted behind his back and Derrick is crying uncle.  I like this part because he deals with bullies how they should be dealt with.  He is cool and gentlemanly until it turns into a self defense issue, and even then he is polite.  After the papers are returned he suggests some points of interest for their site-seeing tour and leaves.

Here is a brief summary of the book from Vision Forum:

When adversity strikes, boys must act like men. This story traces one boy’s journey as he stands beside his father to defend the life of a helpless young woman. Fourteen-year-old Thomas witnesses his father, John Richards, put his congressional race at risk to do the right thing. This high-octane adventure story digs deep, exploring important lessons related to law, civics, medical ethics, and discipleship.

Although it does deal with some difficult topics, I think that this book would be interesting and appropriate for young teens up to adults.  My book-loving 11yo sister is reading and enjoying it along with several older members of the family.

I love that so many important lessons are incorporated all throughout the book.  There is a lot of information about how our legislative and judicial system works.  I learned a lot, but I didn’t fully absorb all of it so I’ll probably read the book again for that reason. There is also a lot of emphasis on father son relationships, the importance of manliness and standing for what’s right at any cost.  As Christians books like these should be important to us, so that if ever a sticky situation comes our way we know without a second thought what do.

Review: Bummis!

Isn’t it cute?  Ours looks just like this, and the print made us coo and squeal when it arrived.  Even Bethany was pleased, patting her diaper all day to remind us that the cover was new and pretty.  We have plenty of simple, respectable diaper covers that do a perfectly adequate job, but the cute ones like this really make cloth diapering a pleasure!

We found our Bummis covers to be simple, well-designed, and effective.  We had no leakage problems.  They have gusseted legs, which I think are essential with prefolds.  They have laundry tabs, which we all should learn to use consistently.

I love the nifty crossover feature, which stretches the sizing by allowing you to cross the velcro tabs over each other.  Obvious and ingenious!

Based on name-brand recognition, I assumed that Bummis were the best and most expensive cover on the market.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that their prices are very moderate.

We also got a beautiful wet bag to hold used diapers and wet clothes.  When not in use, it takes very little room inside the diaper bag.  Once it begins to fill up, we can use the snap-strap to attach it to the outside of the diaper bag.  The triple seams and zipper closure keep odor, wetness and mess safely inside, and bag itself can be dropped right into the washer along with the contents.  For the first time in my married life, I am not using all the grocery sacks that come home with groceries.  I just might switch to reusable grocery sacks, a greener habit than I ever expected of myself.

But in spite of the solid quality, features and sheer cuteness of their products, where Bummis really shines is customer service!  I was committed to using cloth diapers but getting discouraged by our persistent stinky problem.  Even after several washes and rinses, even with plenty of sunning, my diapers still stunk.   The ladies at Bummis picked up on this and volunteered their time to help me find the problem.  They asked questions, offered advice, sent free PDFs on the subject, and persisted until we found the problem.  They are committed to helping their customers and making cloth diapering a pleasure.  This takes more than a cute cover, and they are willing to put out the effort.

disclosure: If you must know, I received these products free for review.  I requested them myself, because I really wanted them.  🙂

Review: Thirsties diaper covers

You probably remember that we switched to cloth diapers earlier this year.  I started with a big assortment of used items, sold by a kind reader at a very, very nice price.

I split them with my sister and never looked back, but our used items are beginning to show some heavy wear.  We’ve had to repair several of our Proraps, and they just don’t have much life left in them.  It was time to start looking at replacements.

On the recommendation of several readers, we recently got some Thirsties.  These are among the more moderately priced diaper covers, and claim to be the best-selling diaper cover on the market.  Based on the number of recommendations we received, I believe it!

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Oh, look.  My baby was helping with the post, and she knows how to spell my name!  Do you see it?  I always knew she was smart.  She must know that this post is about diapers, and therefore about her.

We have really enjoyed our Thirsties diaper covers.  The colors are adorable and they do the job, plain and simple.   They have gussets – a must for us, with our rather bulky prefolds.

I think the crossover tabs are brilliant and obvious.  Why doesn’t every cover on the market have those?

Ditto for laundry tabs, though we’re not used to them yet.   I’ll have to train my diaper-changing children to actually use them, right after I retrain myself.  If our old Proraps had laundry tabs, they might not need to be replaced already.

Like most diaper covers, size medium covers a lot of ground, from about 9 months until potty-training age for many children.  If you want even more sizing flexibility, pay a wee bit more for the Duo Wrap.  It has all the features of the standard cover plus snaps to quickly and easily change the rise.   Did I really just say wee while talking about diapers?

Just for fun, we also got one of their Fab Fitted diapers.  I have to be honest: I squealed just a little when it came.  I can’t explain the thrill of a soft-n-squishy raspberry colored diaper, but there you have it.  You’ll probably want to rub it on your cheek before you put it on the baby the first time.  I can almost guarantee that this diaper will be the first one to get used every time.  It’s not super absorbent, but is just fine for daytime use and is much trimmer than the prefolds that we normally use.

Speaking of absorbency, I have to confess one more thing: I think the Fab Doublers are irresistibly adorable too.  Why would I care if it’s cute when it’s going to completely hidden from view?  I don’t know, but I want them.

Now for the best part:


Thristies has generously offered to give one of our readers a Thirsties Cover and a Fab Fitted in their choice of colors!

To enter, just visit the Thirsties site to pick your favorite color for each.  While you’re there, consider sending Thirsties a quick thank you on their Contact Page for sponsoring the giveaway.  Then come back and tell us in a comment.   To enter up to 3 more times, tell your friends about this giveaway by linking to it on Facebook, Twitter, and/or your own blog.  Come back and leave another comment for each entry.

Our goodies are here! Marie Madeline Studio!

You should have heard the squeals when the mail carrier arrived with our package this morning!  We had so much fun choosing what to order that it took us over a week to put together our order.  Would you believe that everything was sewn, packaged, shipped and received in less time than it took us to decide?

This is our 2nd round of goodies from the sweet ladies at Marie Madeline Studio, and it was just as exciting as the first.  The girls are having a photo shoot this very moment.  That’s why the gallery of photos will be at the bottom of this post.  There are going to be far too many photos to give an individual treatment.  I could see it in their eyes.

As soon as we opened the packages, the seamstresses among us were struck at the stunning quality of every seam and hem on every item.  I don’t know how they do it but their work is utterly flawless.  ‘Nuff said.

Last time we ordered the mid-calf Gracie ruffle skirts.  Those skirts are all still going strong, so this time the younger ones chose the brand new Tessa bloomers – perfect for girly girls who love to climb trees and jump on the trampoline.  Kaitlyn and Lydia chose Bianca handbags, and Megan and Deanna chose some of the beautiful high quality fabric to craft their own creations.  Megan is already planning her first-ever quilt, while Deanna wants to make herself a skirt this time.

Can you tell they’re having fun in the photos below?

In which we interview one of our favorite fanatsy authors.

Posted by: Deanna

Kaitlyn and I met Mr. Schiller at a homeschool conference in Plano and he kindly agreed to do a blog interview with us about the series of Christian fantasy books he’s book1writing. I own and love the first three books in his series (The fourth was recently released) and I have read them all several times.

Some Christians object to all fantasy, because they think that things like talking animals are magical and that any magic is bad. In these books, a talking animal would have to be possessed by a demon or something. One thing I really love about these books is that they really are christian books. They aren’t like Harry Potter where some people like to say that J.K Rowling used “Christian Ideals” and try to say that Harry Potter himself represents Christ. The biggest difference between these two series is that in one, witchcraft is glorified and encouraged, and in the other it is shown to be the vile and disgusting thing that God says it is.

When Kaitlyn and I sent Mr. Schiller this interview, I didn’t expect the deeply thoughtful response we got. So please take the time to read this interview, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

What kind of world view would you say is shown in your books?

I’ve never given much thought to my “World View”. I guess I didn’t even consciously know what a World View was until you asked the question. Writing Christian Fantasy one might think that the World View presented in my books would be different than the World View I hold for the real world. This is not the case. I view the world through a few simple parameters that color all my opinions, beliefs, and ideals.

First, I believe that without God as our guiding force, the world will tear itself to bits. Historically, one can observe that once a country loses its focus on God, that country goes into decline. I try to show this in my books and make it clear that it is not enough for individuals to commit to Christ; communities and Nations must do the same. Without that commitment man will fall by the way of familiar sins and weaknesses with a resultant decline in the community or nation.

Second, I believe that man must stand against evil. This is a common theme in fantasy literature and holds true in my personal views of the world. I have been a United States Marine and a Dallas Police Officer. I was drawn to those professions because of my desire to “stand in the breach” and make a difference by confronting the enemies of our nation and community. The old saying “Freedom isn’t free” is very dear to me. This not only applies to physical liberty, but to spiritual liberty as well. We must be bold in identifying those things that, though accepted by society, stand in opposition to our Faith. Tolerance, the mantra of many who wish to embrace every decadent whim of man, cannot be our defining philosophy. Unless we stand against the darkness, the darkness will overwhelm us.

Finally, I believe that through the efforts of individuals, sweeping changes occur. We can change lives with simple acts of kindness and changing the life of one person changes the world. Standing in the breach doesn’t always entail physical battle and sacrifice. Sometimes the most insignificant things cause the greatest changes, both for good and evil.book2

Some people might say that all fantasy is alike. How would you say that the fantasy you write differs from series like Harry Potter?

The basic theme of much fantasy centers on a group of good characters drawn together to battle a great evil. This is present in my books as well. But what is missing in most secular fantasy is a greater good, or, more to the point, God. So I have included the requisite good characters, the great evil they must fight, and I have attached the greater good that focuses and defines the efforts of the protagonists. You generally don’t see this in the fantasy genre. Additionally, my references to God and Iosa Christus (the Gaelic/Latin words for Jesus Christ) are literal, not allegorical or implied. I do not get preachy but there is no doubt that the main characters are trying, in their own flawed fashion, to follow God in their daily lives.

The heroes in my books will never use magic of any kind. The antagonists will use anything and everything they believe will give them an advantage, but for those who follow Iosa Christus, magic is not an option. Like the heroes in The Lord of the Rings who choose not to use the ring of power, so my characters choose to depend on the miracles/magic of God to help them in their efforts.

I do not use miracles as a convenient literary device. Miracles abound, but most often, as in the real world, they only appear miraculous to the individual who needed the miracle at the time. The reader is left to determine what is a miracle and what is not, just as the characters themselves decide within the context of the story.

What inspired you to write the Warrior of the Son books?

I have always been a writer. Since I was a young boy I have penned stories. But even when I wrote something that I felt was good in a literary sense, it always lacked a meaning beyond the words of the story. This series of books is my attempt to imbue the fantasy genre with a deeper meaning: the Glory and Love of Jesus Christ.

How do you think readers will benefit from your books?

First of all, the books are fun. They are filled with adventure, desperate battle, romance, fantastic creatures, and all the things that make fantasy books such an enjoyable read. Additionally, the characters are flawed, imperfect people, just like you and me. I present my characters as real people, not as idealized cut-outs. I think this lets the reader identify with the heroes as opposed to presenting an impossible ideal. Additionally, I attempt to make the villains (not the goblins of course!) sympathetic in some ways. I want the reader to at least understand what makes this character tick, even if in the end you don’t like what they do.

What kind of lessons do you try to teach in your stories?

The themes of redemption, mercy, and obedience run through much of my work. These are the anchors to the main characters. I also try to show the reality and consequences of standing against evil. There is always an element of glory in fighting for what is right and just, but there is a cost as well. To show only one side of this issue is a disservice to the reader.

Are any of the characters in your books based on real people? Would you say that your stories have any autobiographical elements?

Some of the things that my characters go through are based on personal experience. This is generally in an abstract way, since I have never fought a goblin or engaged in a real sword fight. However, some of the struggles experienced by the heroes and even the villains, are built up from a mixture of things I have observed, experienced, or shared with real life people.

The struggle for faith in the main character is an example. Much of what Evan MacKeth goes through as he runs from God mirrors my own foolish attempts to escape God’s Grace.

Do you have a favorite character in your Warrior of the Son series?

I suppose that I like the tragic, brooding, Anwend Halfdane the best, though he is by no means the central character. I am also rather fond of Martin Reamon. I have big things planned for both of those characters.

It is interesting to note that many of the characters I originally developed as nothing more than literary mechanisms have become fully fleshed out characters in their own right. Young Martin Reamon was never intended to play such an important role in books two and three and in the fourth book, “Fire from the Earth”, Bronwyn Villich, another intended mechanism, becomes in many ways, the central character in the book.

I like it when characters unexpectedly come to life. I treasure these developments like little jewels that I stumbled across within the words of the story.

Do you have a plan for the rest of the series?

I have an idea of where all this is going. That isn’t to say that it will get there. I have come to realize that often the story goes where it wants to go. I am nominally in charge of the direction, but I am often surprised where I end up.

How long do you think it will take to finish the series?

I plan on ten to twelve books in the series. It is difficult to estimate the time necessary for such an endeavor, but hopefully I will not make my supporters wait too long on the remaining volumes.

And finally, do you have plans or another series after this one?

I am considering a prequel to the current series covering the adventures of Julian Antony Vorenius before he meets Evan MacKeth.


Kaitlyn and I are excited that Mr. Schiller is thinking about writing a series about Julian. He is one of my favorite characters in the  books, and it will be fun to find out more about him.

Stuff I would love to review

If I can get my hands on some free review stuff.  Hint, hint.  😀

  • Wallypop Diapering – a WAHM with a full line of cloth diapering supplies and many other complimentary products, all at extremely reasonable prices.  She also has a blog to give you a peek into her daily life and offer further diapering advice.
  • Dive Into Math – Interactive video lectures that teach Saxon math, lesson by lesson.  Our children are starting new books, and I’ve heard rave reviews of these CDs from many people I know and love.
  • Rosetta Stone – Since we live in south Texas, we sampled this for Spanish briefly and were very impressed.  Of all the foreign language courses out there, this is the one my mind keeps returning to.  But you know…you really need at least one full level to get the full effect.  Helloooo?  Rosetta?  Are you listening?

Book: Priests of Moloch

In the sequel to The Warrior of the Son bitter young Evan MacKeth is found on a riverbank nearly dead with terrible wounds.

He is deeply in love with the younger sister of the Queen, the lively Aine Ceallaigh who is greatly skilled with the bow and arrows, and has even single handed slain a saber tooth tiger.

Banishment however has not defeated the High priest of Moloch. The evil Claranides has returned to Durham, and is plotting and devising his revenge.

Evan is reconciled with his brother the King, and is taken to his castle where he languishes crippled by terrible wounds inflicted in his struggle with the terrible monster called a Glamorth.

Evan sinks deeper and deeper into despair, and self pity as his strength shows no signs of returning, and his only comfort is in the sweet smile of his beloved Aine. But Evan is not the only one interested in Aine, the dark, dangerous Eowulf Fitzwarren has taken a liking to her, and waits in the shadows, watching for his chance.

But then disaster strikes. The ambitious Duke Fitzwarren and his three sons united with the evil high priest Claranides, plan an invasion of the capital city Durham, and through trickery bind Evan in the church with  King Osric planning to sacrifice them both to Moloch. Then miracles start happening. Evan cries out to the One True God as the priests of Moloch raise the knife to kill Osric, and is healed. He takes up his sword and drives them from the church.

Meanwhile the foreigner Anwend Halfdane has been searching for answers since his wife was murdered by a hideous demon called a glamorth, and is called through a dream to guard the weak gate of Durham. Eowulf and his brothers, with a small force of armed men arrive to open it, and let in their treacherous father, and his retainers, to help them take the city. But Anwend cuts the drawbridge rope, and fights them off, killing the men at arms. Eowulf escapes with Clarinades and on the way bump into Aine who tries to defend herself with arrows before Eowulf knocks her out and kidnaps her, leaving his wounded brothers behind.

During this, Evan and Osric are fighting through the remainder of the men at arms who are keeping the nobles, and their families locked in the throne room while the king’s treasonous senechal guards them during the takeover. But the loyal men are more than the traitors and they fight their way to victory, only to realize that Aine has been kidnapped.

ABC Bible Memory Verse Songs


We had the privilege of previewing Sonbeam’s new collection of songs for Bible memory, and I have to tell you the little ones in our house enjoyed them quite a bit.  Her ABC Bible Memory Verse Songs includes one Bible verse set to music for each letter of the alphabet.  The tunes are cute and catchy, and the songs are short enough for little ones to learn easily.

Each song sounds different, but usually includes the entire verse just once or twice.  You can hear short samples of some of the songs here.  There is just enough repetition to help little ones memorize the words without turning into the song that never ends.  I especially appreciate that the Bible reference is included right in the song.

There is also a parent’s guide that includes each Bible verse, a brief simple lesson, and the complete lyrics.

Sunday, February 1 is the launch date, and for One Day Only you will be able to download the entire song collection for the sale price of $7.95.   Oops.  Did you already miss it?  Give it a try anyway.  Candace said she might be a little slow taking down the sale.  🙂