Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's It Like, Living Green? GIVEAWAY

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial. 

We received What's It Like Living Green?: Kids Teaching Kids, by the Way They Live, a book by Jill Ammon Vanderwood.  This 141 page paperback is an award winning book for children ages 9 and up.  It sells for $11.69, and is printed on 30% post consumer recycled paper.

This book covers various aspects of the 4 Rs:  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Responsibility.  There's a quiz to get you thinking about your family's consumption, and then ideas to motivate you to do better.

There are brief testimonials from a variety of people, telling about the green choices they're making.

If environmentalism were a religion, this would be a children's devotional book.  The sections are bite sized for frequent, yet brief reading.

Eli picked the book up, and was soon telling me about asbestos, impressed that it was stronger than steel, since steel is used to armor tanks.  I'm old enough to remember having asbestos in schools as a kid, so we talked about that.

The book was published in 2009, so some of the information is a little outdated, but much of it is timeless.  It mentions resources like Freecycle, and gives a lot of ideas for reusing things that might otherwise be tossed out.

As a parent with kids from China, I'm sensitive to how China is portrayed to my children.  Every country has it's imperfections, but I want my girls to be proud of their heritage, and I try to present China in a good, yet realistic, light.  For this reason, this will not be a book I have Hannah and Katie read when they get older.  Words like "inferior sanitation practices" and "without regard... for their workers" are bad enough, but a closing sentence on one section asks, "Do we really want to continue to purchase inferior products from an environmentally unaware country?"  As a matter of fact, yes, I do.  Oh, I'm all for buying local!  And that's great for produce, and whatever else we can purchase that way.  I talk to my kids about the idea of "stuff" having to travel to get to us, and how it's better to pick "stuff" with the shortest trip, so we're conserving energy in transport.  But I will continue to purchase traditional Chinese clothing and uniquely Chinese products.

You can win a copy of What's It Like, Living Green? by entering below.  US only, please.

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I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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CTC Math

CTC Math is an online math program for all grade levels, Kindergarten through High School.  We received a 12 Month Family Plan membership to CTC Math for review.  This membership normally retails for $297, but there's a sale going right now, where you can get it for just $118.80.  A single-student membership (as opposed to a family plan) is even cheaper.  CTC Math is a very affordable alternative to in-person math tutoring.

I selected Eli as my tester, because his existing math program was not working for him, and he was getting further and further behind.  I asked him to work on 3 areas each day, and in less than 2 months he's done over 70 lessons.  He's currently got a 70% efficiency rating, but that's because he has a tendency to try a section and then give up at like 3% if it's not something he's interested in.  Most sections he has an 80-100% score in.  As the parent, you can set the bar for what defines a passing score.  I have it set at 90%, so on the reports, anything over 90% is blue.

Eli likes CTC Math because the computer explains the process to him, aloud and visually, as opposed to his math book, where the directions are written, and he usually gets an, "Ask your father/brother/sister," from me when he needs more explanation.  I like the Aussie accent of the presenter!

CTC Math Review

Record keeping is super simple with CTC Math.  In addition to all the reports available online in the Parents Area, I get an email every Sunday, detailing Eli's progress from the prior week.  I've chosen to print these and keep them in our school binder, so on our weekly sheets, I just write "Eli - CTC Math" and I don't have to worry about what lessons he did or what scores he got, because it's all in the weekly reports!  I can see at a glance if he has 3 blue bars for each school day or not.

The only "issue" we had while using CTC Math was that I was not clear enough with Eli about what section I wanted him to work from.  As a 7th grader, Eli should be working in the Basic Math and Pre-Algebra area (although the beauty of CTC Math is that he can work in any level).  Looking over his reports, I noticed he'd completed sections in both Elementary Measurement and Elementary Geometry.  I chalked that up to "review work" for him and explained that he is no longer an elementary student and he needed to work at his level.  He also poked around in the high school Geometry section, and ended up passing 33 lessons in that level, which I was pretty impressed with.

CTC Math contains a Speed Skills area, to increase proficiency in basic operations.  The computer keeps track of your previous scores, and you work to beat your own times.  For Eli, this replaced another speed drill program he had been using.  There is also Times Tables Shoot 'Em Up, a space themed math game, which can be a fun reward for students.

CTC Math is working well for Eli, and I plan to have him continue to use it, both for the remainder of this school year, and for next school year.

You can connect with CTC Math on Facebook, and you can read what other Crew families had to say about their experience with the program by clicking below.
Click to read Crew Reviews

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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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ONE LUCKY WINNER will win a $50 Amazon Giftcard
Open Worldwide
Ending on Sunday 4th May at 11.59pm EST

Enter Below and Good Luck !!

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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