Book Club: Unbroken

Book Club with Lori

Lori offered me a list of books for book club this month, and I picked Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It’s the true story of Louis Zamperelli, an Olympic runner in the 1930s who then was drafted to fight in WWII.

I’d heard a bit about Zamperelli, but didn’t actually know anything about besides there was a YWAM book about his life. So I was interested in this book. The other thing it had going for it was that the audio book was available from Overdrive, so I didn’t have to wait to get my (virtual) hands on it. Also, the audio book was read by the late Edward Hermann, famous for his role as Richard Gilmore on Gilmore Girls (among other things). All of these things were wins in my book (pardon the pun), and I was not disappointed.

In the first several chapters, I was far from impressed of Mr. Zamperelli. In fact, as I listened (while knitting) I remember thinking on more than one occasion that he was a complete and total punk, someone who just made the “mom” in me really mad. His own mother must have been a saint to have put up with all of his shenanigans. But then his brother got him into running, and his entire life changed. He finally had something to put his focus into, and within just a few years of diving into that hobby, he was Olympics bound in the long-distance running events, handily beating out more experienced runners in his categories. In fact, his own category (the one mile) was full, so he trained hard to run the 5000-meter race – nearly 3 miles. I found all of these chapters to be fascinating.

Then WWII started. The 1940 Olympics were canceled (did you know that? I didn’t), and Zamperelli joined up as an air force bombadier. He’d been a pilot in the military previously, but left the service because he hated flying. What he didn’t know was that his contract upon leaving was that by re-enlisting to avoid being drafted, he was automatically enlisted as an air force soldier. Ironic, eh?

His time in the war was nothing short of amazing, and I don’t want to spoil the story here, as much as I’d love to talk more about it. Suffice it to say that his story is amazing enough that I’ve re-borrowed the audiobook and it’s going on the list of things the kids and I are going to do for homeschool this month. It was that good. Also, parts of the story reminded me a lot of the Jacob de Shazer book we read earlier this year (a YWAM book), and I think it will be good for them to make some comparisons between the two men.

Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog to read her thoughts as well.

Next time, we’ll be reading Waiting for Rachel, a lighthearted Christian romance novel. I read it earlier this month and really enjoyed it, and when I mentioned it to Lori she was amenable to reading it too. You can get he Kindle version for free on Amazon if you want to join us.


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Review and Giveaway: ESV Illuminated Bible #FlyBy #ESVIlluminatedBible

Happy Thanksgiving! In celebration today, I have a review and giveaway for one of the things we as Christians should be the most thankful for today: the Bible.

Bible reading is a super important part of the life of a Christian, and a lot of us feel like we “need” more than just text on a page to keep us going on that each day. If that’s you, then I have just the right Bible to tell you about today: the ESV Illuminated Bible.

94AA25A3-FCA5-4AFD-A3F4-9A91C049CE1CThis Bible is a super nice hardcover edition that comes in a box. The cover is dark blue with gold embossing all over. The cover itself is gorgeous, and once you open it up, it just gets better. The Bible (as you can tell from the title) is the English Standard Version, which is the one my family prefers. There’s a single column of text on each page (instead of the standard two columns most bibles have), plus lots of room for you to make your own notes and drawings. Some of the pages have specific verses written in decorated text in those margins, and many of the books (64 of them) have their own illuminated (fancy illustrated) opening page.

The Bible is printed in 9-point Lexicon black ink, and the illuminations are printed in gold, matching the cover. The two color printing is really nice together. In addition to the 64 Bible book opening pages, there are another 50 full page memory verse illustrations and over 250 small, in the margin, illustrations. All of the drawings are by American artist Dana Tanamachi, whose work has been featured by companies such as the USPS and Target. 

BF411EF0-6F5E-49C1-88A5-30707F586EA6If you’re into the new craze of decorating your Bible with your own thoughts and colors, then this is absolutely the Bible for you. The wide margins give ample room for those notes and drawings that I’ve seen all over Instagram. The only downside I can think of to this Bible is that it’s quite big and heavy. It’s probably not the one you want to carry around with you every day for basic reading. But for studying and taking notes in your own home, it’s a great option. You can purchase a copy of the Bible on Amazon.

If you want to win a copy of this Bible for your very own, just fill out the Giveaway Tools widget below. The giveaway will run through Thursday, November 30 at 11:00 p.m. PST. Winner will be contacted via email and announced here on December 1st, 2017. Good luck!


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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

5 Random Things: November 2017

Whew! I’ve been MIA for too long from this space. Here are a few things that have been going on in my life to kind of get you up to date.

1. Birthdays

CB797D4B-784A-4240-97FB-2A577278A9FASeahawk turned 14 almost a month ago. He’s growing up into such a fine young man, and I’m really proud of him.

B655F81B-A863-4D3E-9D96-329201757EC0Three weeks later, Dragonfly turned 2. He’s such a little doll, and we all love him loads. He’s definitely a joyful child – and all boy! For his birthday present, Will and I got him a foam sword and shield with yellow decorations on them (his favorite color is “lellow”), and he’s been spending the past couple of weeks clobbering his brothers, especially Small Fry, who has a matching sword and shield set (in blue).

2. Ballet

The big boys are participating in the local performance of The Nutcracker again this year. Hopefully I won’t neglect to write about it like I did last year. I’m super excited to see their performance – they’ve been rehearsing 2-3 times a week for about a month now.

3. Newspaper

Last January, Will took the plunge to start his own newspaper for his comic strip. It took a lot of work to get the first issue up off the ground (between finding advertisers with no sample to show them and figuring out where to circulate), and his first issue was passed out to every elementary and middle school (public school) student in our hometown last spring. The second issue followed up before school let out for the summer, and now that school is back in session, he’s released the third issue to schools. He’s busily working on the layout and artwork for the fourth issue, set to come out sometime in December, before the schools break for Christmas. In addition to creating the content for the paper, he’s working hard to sell more ad space and pick up additional schools for distribution. It’s a lot for just one guy to do, but he’s working it and doing a fabulous job. If you know a school district that might be interested in carrying the paper, contact my husband at

4. Knitting


EC40A5C5-896E-489D-86A1-E269F34F14ABI knit two adult sized sweaters for Christmas – one for my mom and one for my stepdad. I can’t wait to give them to them next month! In addition to the sweaters (which take about a month to do one that big), I also knit 7 pairs of mittens to give to my nieces and nephews for Christmas. I’m really glad to have all of my Christmas gifts prepped and ready before Thanksgiving (except for what we get for our own kids, that is).

5. Homeschool

The month of September found us floundering a bit in our homeschool, so I found something new for us to do curriculum-wise, and that is the Easy Peasy, All in One Homeschool. We’ve been working hard on that each day since October, and I’m much happier with what the boys are learning now. It’s nice to have a schedule so I don’t have to worry about “are they doing enough?” Following this schedule, I just know that they are doing enough.


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Learning by Hearing Yourself (Sound for Life review)


For my final review of the 2017 Homeschool Review Crew year, I have a very interesting product to talk about. The Forbrain headset is from Sound for Life LTD, and its purpose is to help people age 4 and up to help improve attention, short term memory, concentration, and verbal working memory. They recommend this headset for people with attention difficulties, speech and language issues, and poor memory. 

No one in my family has any of those problems. 

That might make one wonder why I requested to review this product then, and that would be a fair question. In fact, I almost didn’t request simply because I didn’t think we were the right fit for the product. But then I got to thinking about a couple of things going on with us right now (one new and one not).

First, Seahawk. This is a bit of a delicate issue, growing more so as he ages. But as it pertains specifically to this review, I can’t really beat around the bush. He’s a terrible speller. I had a thought during the request period for this product that maybe if he wore it each day and recited spelling rules and words, maybe something would click in his brain and help him to retain the words he consistently misspells (that always becomes thate, for example). 

The second thing is that our Rosetta Stone microphone broke a few weeks ago, so it’s been a bit difficult for the kids to get a good handle on their foreign language (French) pronunciations. So we’ve been using the Forbrain headset to help them be able to hear themselves during their lessons. 

E9921E8E-FCCF-4AC5-B1B4-8BED9D3D4846Now that I’ve discussed what its intended uses are and how I’d planned for us to use it, let’s talk about what it is. Forbrain is a headset which has little pads that sit in front of your ears, a band that wraps around the back, and a microphone coming off a little box on the right side. The box contains a rechargeable battery (and all the mechanical stuff that make the product work, I’m sure). There’s also a power switch on the box. To use it, you first turn it on, then place the headset on your head properly. Then you start talking. It doesn’t matter what you say – if you (or your child) is studying, then say the things they need to remember. If you’re working with a child who has speech difficulties (ages 4 and up only), then they can just repeat what you say. If your goal is to help improve memory issues, then read a book out loud. The important thing is that the speaking happens. You see, when the person wearing the headset speaks aloud, they can hear their own voice. I’m not entirely sure how that happens considering there’s nothing that goes inside the ears, but it does. By wearing this headset while speaking, people can hear their speaking mistakes for themselves, thus prompting them to correct themselves over time. It’s really a remarkable tool.

8481DC51-2216-4734-9D30-1BBF37D23E72How did it work for us, a family of people who aren’t necessarily the intended audience for this product? I’m happy to say that I’ve been really pleased with our progress. I can hear the difference in my children’s French pronunciations after a few weeks of using Forbrain. Additionally, Seahawk doesn’t put that pesky silent E on words that shouldn’t have it anymore – at least not as often. He still has a long way to go to become a “good speller” (or even an adequate one), but I really think that his being able to hear the spellings of the words he struggles with the most will help him in the long run. He’s the most auditory learner of all my kids (so far), so listening to things – even his own voice – is a huge help for his learning. Consistent use of this product will help him over time. I’m sure of it.


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Forbrain {Sound For Life Ltd Review}

Book Club: An Invisible Thread

Book Club with Lori

I’m so bummed out that I wasn’t able to read this book; it was on my “really want to read” list, and one that I suggested for Book Club. Unfortunately, the library didn’t have any copies available in time for me to get my hands on one – not even in the Overdrive Digital Library. Head on over to Lori’s blog, though, and read her thoughts.

This month we’re reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian turned WWII soldier. I’ve already got the audio book downloaded to my phone, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting my post up in December. See you then!


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Bringing Little Children to Jesus (review)


I wrote a few weeks about the Halloween tracts from Let the Little Children Come. Today I have a complimentary product to tell you about. It’s the Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools Sampler Pack, and it contains several little tools for children witnessing to other children. Let’s dive right in.


First up, and just right for this time of year, is The True Story of Christmas. This is a mini book (most of the things in this pack are mini books) that tells of the birth of Christ. The words are easy to understand, so even a very young child can make sense of the story.

On the topic of holidays, the kit also includes The Lost Easter Egg, another mini book (one of the characters shares a name with Seahawk!) that explains why the eggs aren’t really all that important when it comes to Easter. 

When I wrote about the Is There Anything Better than Candy Box Tracts, I suggested that one thing that would make a good filler would be a “wordless story” book or bracelet. Well, guess what? The Sampler Pack comes with both of those. The book is a very small (about 1/4 the size of the other mini books in the pack), and has no words or pictures. It’s just colors, one per page, and each one gives an important piece of the gospel story. There’s a whole page on the Let the Little Children Come website devoted to this tiny book, which was developed by Charles Spurgeon in 1866, and how to use it. I’m not going to go over all of that here, but I did want to mention what each color represents. 

It begins with a green cover, to remind us to always grow in Christ. The first page is gold, to remind us of Heaven. But then it leads straight into a black page, because our sin prevents us from going there to be with God. God knew we would sin, and therefore came up with the way back to him – the sacrifice of Jesus, represented by a red page. Jesus’s purity allows us to become as white as snow, so that’s the next color. The gold and green are then repeated to close out the book. This is a wonderful tool because it works in any language. The colors don’t have to change in order to explain it to anyone who’s listening.

To go along with the Wordless book, there’s a bracelet version of the colors. This comes with an adjustable cord (to fit most children and adults) and a bead of each color. Children are told the story as they put the beads on in the order in which they’re presented, and then they have a physical reminder of the story they were presented. If you’ve got an older crowd who may not be interested in a beaded bracelet, there’s also a silicone one available (on its own or in the Sampler pack). 

6C758CAE-089B-4043-9842-4724A606D273My favorite items from the kit are the animated books. Each one tells a story related to the gospel, and the pictures look a little funny on their own. But rub the black-and-clear transparency sheet (included in each book) over it, and the pictures come to life right before your eyes. There are 3 of these in the kit: The True Story of Christmas (which I talked about earlier), Where’s Everyone Going?, and John 3:16. 

The Easter book is one of two pop up books, which are always popular with little kids! The other one is called The Most Amazing House, which tells about Heaven (in my Father’s house there are many, many rooms).

As far as using these products, we haven’t really done much with them yet. I looked at all of them (and really liked every single one!), but because of where we live, there hasn’t been much opportunity. We hope to move soon, though, and I think it will be really neat to give these to my boys once they start to make friends in our new neighborhood so they can witness to the people around them. That’s my long-term plan, anyway.


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Gospel Tracts and Evangelism Tools {Let the Little Children Come Reviews}

How to Knit a Washcloth


The next three posts will focus on knitting things that aren’t clothes. While my very favorite things to knit are sweaters for my family (both my kids and some extended family), there are situations when you need or want to knit something that you can’t wear. Let’s start with a simple washcloth.

3C68E271-E019-4AF9-8B82-62995CD73409I’ve only ever knit one style of washcloth, and it’s not a terribly difficult one. You can get your own copy of the free pattern here. I recommend 100% cotton yarn for washcloths. This type of yarn is very stiff and can be difficult to work with, so I don’t necessarily suggest this as a first project, despite the fact that it’s really easy on the stitches.

Start by casting on 3 stitches. Obviously three stitches isn’t enough to create an entire cloth, so you’re going to have to increase, or add more stitches, to the rows. So, once you’ve cast on your three stitches, knit one row straight (this means “without increasing”). Turn the work, and knit one stitch. Into the second stitch, you’re going to knit two stitches. The first one will be knit normally; the second (done before you pull the original stitch off of the needle) is knit through the back of the stitch. Once you’ve knit both of them (the front and the back), then you slide the old stitch off of the left needle. Then knit the final stitch normally. By doing this, you now have four stitches instead of three on your right needle. Turn the work (by switching needles/hands). Knit the first stitch normally, then KFB (knit front and back) into the second stitch, then knit normally to the end of the row. Continue in this manner until you have 45 stitches on your needle. Your washcloth will be triangle shaped at this point.

Once you get to those 45 stitches, you need to knit 3 rows straight. Then it’s time to decrease to create the other half of the triangle. With the full needle in your left hand and the empty one in your right, knit the first stitch normally. Then knit the next two stitches together (k2tog). This means to knit normally, except instead of knitting through just one stitch, you’ll go through the next two at the same time. After the decrease, knit all the rest of the stitches normally. You’ll repeat this row until you’ve got yourself back down to just three stitches. Knit those three straight, and then bind them off. Weave in your ends, and your washcloth is done!


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Knitting Flat vs In the Round


There are two basic ways of knitting, and different patterns will have you do it different ways. The first way is “Flat.” This means that you’re working in rows, going back and forth, making a piece that is… wait for it… flat. If you’re making a garment, knitting flat means that you’ll have seams to sew up at the end (unless you’re working on a cardigan). Not everything is a garment, though, and therefore requires knitting flat – such as a washcloth. It would be silly to have a tubular washcloth, so you knit them flat.

Knitting in the round, just like knitting flat, is exactly what it sounds like. You connect the first stitch to the last one and knit around and around in circles, creating a tube of fabric. For clothing, this is ideal because you don’t have to worry about sewing the flat pieces together at the end to create the tube you need. 

There are lots of tutorials around on how to join your stitches to start working in the round, so if you’re interested in that method (which I highly recommend; it’s much easier in the long run than knitting flat), it will be easy to find one of those. YouTube can be your best friend 🙂


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Knitting a Gauge Swatch


Most patterns will give you a gauge for the pattern in order to have your finished article turn out the same size as that of the designer. This is important because otherwise you’ll put in loads of work on a garment and it just might end up really huge or really tiny, depending on how your gauge compares to that of the designer. Here’s how to check your gauge.

Choose the yarn and needles you intend to use for the project. Cast on a few stitches. I like to do 30. Knit 3 rows. On the fourth row, knit 3 stitches, purl to the last 3, then knit those last three. On the fifth row, knit across. For the sixth row, repeat round 4. Continue in this manner until you have about 6 inches of knitting, then knit 3 rows at the end. Bind off. This is called a gauge swatch.

Once you’ve knit your gauge swatch, you need to measure it. For a long time, I just used a measuring tape to do this. I’d set the tape on top of the knitting and count the stitches over a span of either 2 or 4 inches. Now, I have this tool, which I can lay on top of my swatch and count the stitches in the cutout, which is a 2-inch L shape (for stitches across and rows up and down).

So… you’ve knit your gauge swatch and yours matches up with the pattern says you need. That’s great! You’re ready to start knitting with the assurance that your garment will fit as intended. But what if your stitches aren’t the same as what the pattern says?

That’s easily fixable. First you have to know whether your count is more or less than what the pattern calls for. If your pattern calls for “18 stitches over 4 inches,” simple division tells you that that’s 4.5 stitches per inch. It’s easy to think that if you get 4 or 5 stitches per inch, that’s “close enough.” This just isn’t the case. Think about it: an adult sized sweater is 30 inches or more around. If the gauge for the pattern is 4.5 stitches per inch, that means for a 38 inch sweater (random number), you need to cast on 171 stitches. If your gauge is 4 stitches per inch (and you don’t correct it, which I’ll explain how to do in a minute), then those same 171 stitches will give you a sweater circumference of 42.75 inches. That’s a lot bigger than the 38 you were going for! Looking the other way, if you’re getting 5 stitches per inch, those 171 stitches are going to give you a sweater that’s 34.2 inches. That’s also no good. So you can see, it’s really important to be dead on with your gauge if you want the garment to fit as expected.

Fixing your gauge for the project is as easy as swapping out your knitting needles. Using the example above, let’s say your gauge is 4 stitches per inch using the needle recommended in the pattern and on the yarn label. The pattern requires 4.5 stitches, so this means you’re not getting enough stitches per inch; yours are too big. Swap your needle out for one of a smaller size. This will make your stitches a bit smaller, and you’re likely to get the gauge pretty easily with just one size difference. The exact opposite is true if you’ve gotten 5 stitches per inch using the subscribed needles. You have too many stitches, which means yours are too small. Try a bigger needle. 

Of course, you can always adjust a pattern instead of adjusting your stitches if you want, but that’s a lot more complicated and requires a fair amount of math. I prefer to adjust my needles instead.

I hope this helps you understand gauge and why it’s important, but more important, how to make sure you get it right and how to fix it if you don’t.


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