Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scattered Links - book review & $50 Amazon card GIVEAWAY

Scattered Links is a story of survival.  It's a story of overcoming hardships, and learning to trust others.  It's also a story of adoption.  

Oksana has a hard life in Russia, but at least she's with her mother.  Only her mother is expecting a baby.  A baby they can't afford to feed.  

After Oksana delivers her mother's baby by herself, she makes a choice no one could have foreseen the outcome of.  

Before she can tell her mother her secret, her aunt Ludmila drops both Oksana and her baby sister, Natalia, off at the local orphanage.  

Oksana manages to get away and find her way back "home" to where they had been staying, only to find her mother and aunt gone, so she returns to the orphanage, where at least she can visit her baby sister occasionally.  

Once, when she goes to visit, she is horrified to discover her sister is being adopted!  Without her!  Oksana tries to stop the strange couple from taking her baby sister, but does not succeed.  Days later, the couple returns with Natalia, and tells Oksana they've decided to adopt her, too, so the girls can be together.

Scattered Links is told from Oksana's point of view, and author Michelle Weidenbenner does a great job of helping you see what's going on in her head, and why she behaves the way she does.  It's easy to understand 14 year old Oksana taking on a parental role with 9 month old Natalia, and a particularly telling line for what Oksana is feeling is when Katie insists on carrying Natalia somewhere and Oksana thinks, "no hiding behind her today."

Jack and Katie, the girls' new parents blunder along, trying to help Oksana the best they know how, but it's aunt Laura, Katie's sister, who helps Oksana find herself.  Laura runs a horse rescue, and Oksana bonds with a horse before she bonds with any of the people in her new life.

There's a huge plot twist, but I don't want to give it away.  You'll want to read it for yourself.

My one issue actually has to do with the acknowledgements at the end of the book.  After admitting she does not have a child with RAD, she speaks condescendingly about parents who struggle with their adopted children who do have Reactive Attachment Disorder.  As an adoptive parent who knows first hand that it's not always happily ever after, I didn't like that.  The rest of the book was worth reading.

About the Author
Michelle grew up in the suburbs of Detroit with five brothers.  She enjoys writing her novels and encouraging writers and readers alike. She is living her dream writing stories of real people searching for their dreams and confronting their fears, showing the passion of the characters' plights, often giving her the ability to show the reader the 'other' side of the story. When she is not writing she enjoys life on the tennis court and is known as “Queen of the Rim Shots.”

Her debut novel, CACHE a PREDATOR, a geocaching mystery. was launched in July, 2013 and has been an Amazon best-seller in the crime/thriller category.  Her other works include: Willow, Scattered Links, Kelly’s Story, Eclair Series, and The Vision in a Kiss.  She has won contests in both The Writer’s Journal and The Writer’s Digest. Love is Just a Word (Scattered Links) was a bronze medalist is the 2010 Frasier Contest, a 2011 semi-finalist in the ACFW Genesis Contest, and won the Aspiring Writer’s Contest withe THE READING ROOM, 2013.

Follow the Author
Website,    Facebook,    Twitter,    Google+,    Goodreads

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I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Egg Hunt at Home

Words can't convey how good it is to have this guy close to home again.  After a long stint in Nebraska, with deployments overseas, it's wonderful to have him stationed in California.

He brought his girlfriend and her son over for Easter.  Since we had enough eggs filled for each child to find a dozen, with 6 left over, he hid 3 for her, and she hid 3 for him before we let the kids loose.  It was very cute to watch the lovebirds.

Aren't they adorable?

We usually give Sam such a hard time about egg hunts, but he did well this year!  He was not the last one hunting, and he did not stomp around muttering about how stupid this is.  I think he's finally outgrown his egg hunt issues--just in time to enjoy it for a couple years before he's too old!

All my "hunters," lined up and ready to go.

I told the big kids they could not pick any eggs up off the ground until Hannah, Katie, and B had each gotten their dozen.

A rare shot of Josiah.  He's usually pretty camera shy.


It was such fun to see Katie learn the concept of egg hunts this year.  I love all the "firsts" that come along with adoption.

"Can we pick up the ones on the ground yet?"

Hannah was the first one to get to 12 eggs.

B brought along his bucket for hunting.

Once Katie and B had their 12, the bigger kids could pick up the harder ground eggs.  And just like that, it was over!  Egg hunts always seem to go so fast.  I think it takes longer to fill them than to find them.

Are you familiar with Candy Tax?  It's how we, as parents, get to teach our children about taxes.  It's really a Life Skill when dad swoops in and appropriates a portion of your earnings.  --At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

While I have you, Vistaprint has a deal going on personalized mugs through Friday.  $5.99, plus FREE shipping for new customers.  This would be a good time to start thinking Father's Day or End Of School Teacher Gifts.

Zach's girlfriend, H, took this picture.  B fits right in around here, and does great running with the pack.  After the novelty of the candy wore off, he spent some time out back with Josiah helping him ride a skateboard.

It was a nice, relaxed, low-key Easter.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Egg Hunt With Friends

We have some friends that moved out to the country recently.

They invited us and some other families out for an egg hunt!

It was nice to get out in the fresh air and sunshine, and let the kids run amok.

My kids miss our trampoline.  It got destroyed while we were in China.  I'd like to replace it at some point, but there's always something else to spend the money on, you know?

Luke did really well there.  He fussed some, and whined through lunch, but overall, he was content to just sit and stare.


The girls had fun playing in the playhouse.

And then the hunt was on!

The big kids had hidden the eggs for the little kids, so when Eli saw that Katie didn't have any yet, he took her to where he knew there were still some eggs that hadn't been discovered yet.

Melt my heart!

For as much prep as an egg hunt can be, it seems like they're over in a flash!

Katie carried her basket around for at least an hour afterwards.

Later, one of the mommies took some of the kids down to the pond so they could see the tadpoles, and they saw a turtle, and a frog.

It was a really lovely day.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pipe Cleaner Play

There's something fun about the simple things.  I think in our keep-up-with-the-Pinterest-mamas world, we tend to forget that.

I saw a craft that I wanted to try out on my kids because I was thinking of taking it to share with other mamas & kiddos at a homeschool co op that's trying to get off the ground.

I wasn't terribly impressed with the original craft idea, but I'm glad I saw it, because it inspired me to do a little shopping.  (Not that it takes much to inspire me, unfortunately.)

In addition to the green pipe cleaners, or should I say, "chenille stems," I got a pack of rainbow pipe cleaners, too.

And after the craft flopped, the kids played with them.  Oh yeah.  That's the idea.

I need to remind myself that I'm not supposed to guide their every project.  That's creativity comes from free expression.

That's the beauty of homeschooling.  My kids don't have to make exactly the same craft as 30 other kids in their class are making.

They can find their own sweet spot.

Brianna did these, adding pom poms to the mix.

I should have used this as a tree in Hannah's diorama for her Tiger report at school.

Eli's got a guy, a leprechaun, a rainbow, and a pot of gold going here.  

For Katie, I set her to work poking beads on a pipe cleaner as a fine motor skills activity.

You know, one of those moments where I think she might struggle with something because of her hand differences?

Silly mommy.  Katie can do pretty much whatever she wants.

Although it's not a great picture, she *loved* the bracelets she made, and wore them for days.

Even Hannah made a couple, when she came home from school.  Notice the trays?  I don't remember which catalog I ordered them from, years ago, but these are similar.  We use them ALL the time.  For paint, for sorting, for all sorts of things.

Coming full circle, the big kids saw how much fun the girls were having with the pony beads and ended up spending a couple days creating with them while we did our read aloud time.

I know for me, we tend to have a lot of the open-ended play/craft supplies on hand.  It's a matter of getting them out, making them available to the kids, and then letting them take them in the direction they choose.

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