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YA Book Review: Haven by A. R. Ivanovich


Haven by A. R. Ivanovich

I have to start by saying this a really good book.  Sure, there is a believable world created here as a backdrop.  But what I loved was that it was really well-written in a strong female voice.  Katelyn Kestrel is the kind of hero a girl can believe in.   She lives in a mountain valley called Haven–and I mean a valley completely surrounded by towering mountains through which there is no way out.  Supposedly.  No one has been outside of Haven in over 700 years.  It’s sort of a steam punk meets epic fantasy kind of place.  Mechanical carriages to help the horses out.  Running water.  Weather men.  In a land where things are simple.  I like true fantasy, where the setting is more medieval, but I have found that I also enjoy the modernized take on the old standby.  Ms. Ivanovich pulls it off with vigor.

Katelyn is a curious girl, and she wonders what lies outside those mountains.  So one night, after a particularly humiliating experience among her school peers, she decides to try to find her way out.  And some strange pull inside her leads her directly to the only path out of the mountains.  She finds her way Outside.  What awaits her there makes high school look like a day at the park.  A war is waging Outside and she gets caught up in the middle of it.  Her allies Outside are Dylan and Rune, two very different young men who affect her very differently.  Dylan is charming and flirtatious while Rune is distant to the point of cruelty.  What’s cool here is that Katelyn isn’t a gullible girl.  She sees through to who the true good guy is, even from the beginning.  Though she grows to trust Dylan, it takes him a while to get to her.  She trusts Rune from the start.  I liked that I wasn’t supposed to be believing that this girl just trusted and threw herself at everybody.  Believing that anyone could be so… stupid.  There are books like that out there.  You know it’s true.

But that’s not the main story.  Oh no, the main story is that Katelyn has to find her way back to Haven without leading all the crazies from Outside to her home.  Because the Outside world has been searching for Haven for centuries, and it has sinister plans for its inhabitants.  And Katelyn is a prisoner, one way or another, from the moment she reaches Outside.  Super sinister bad guys, untrustworthy good guys, new friends, and bitter disappointments pepper Katelyn’s action-packed adventure, but she stays true to herself and her motives and fights back even when there seems to be no fight left in her.

I can’t say much more without giving too much away, so I’ll leave it at this–this book is kind of epic.  I can’t think of a single protagonist who made a foolish mistake that made me want to put the book down (that happens, too.  You know it does).  They all made right choices.  Human choices.  Believable choices. It rocked.  And the last paragraph… Let’s just say it punched me in the heart.  Pick up this wonderful book for yourself your teens and tweens if your looking for something to truly engage them.  Read it with your littles if they love adventure and you want to teach a lesson about loyalty and courage.

Happy reading.

Love wins,


Story Time: Owl Moon

Story Time: Owl Moon - Crafts and activities for the picture book

The Greatest German Shepherd in the World wanted out at 5:30 this morning.  So I bundled up (because it was -1 degree outside) and stepped out on the back porch with him.  The ground was covered in snow, the stars were bright chips in the velvet night, the air was crisp (to say the least).  I stood there, breathing, enjoying the quiet.  Then I heard it.


If you’re a country dweller you know that even out here, the sound is rare.  I held my breath.  It came again.  I couldn’t have stopped the slow smile from spreading across my face at gunpoint.  Owls are such lovely, mysterious creatures, aren’t they?  All the more so because we rarely catch a glimpse or a sound of them.  We know they’re there, hunting the woods and the fields at night, but they are such silent fliers, such very nocturnal animals, we generally only get to enjoy them in zoos.
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A Mother’s Regret

Here’s what I remember best:

His small hand reaching up for mine in the bright sunshine.  The scent of the baby sweat in his bright blond hair.  His trusting eyes looking at me like I am the most important thing his universe will ever offer.  His willingness to be my best friend and cohort.

Littlest little

I blew it.  I did that.

This is about my regrets as a mother.  Not Life Regrets, because what came after prepped me for both homeschooling and blogging (and gave me the best friend I’ve ever had), and I’m not sad about that part of it.  What breaks my heart when I think of it is how he grew away from me.  And continues to do so.  Littlest was my baby, and even though at different times his older brothers had been the same, he was my Last Baby, and I wish I had been able to pay more attention.  See, I was a SAHM when we first moved to the farm.  And we were giddily happy.  But one week I saw an ad in the paper for a part-time children’s librarian at the local library.  And it was my dream job.  So after discussing it with Martin, I applied for it.  I figured, what, 20 hours a week is a part-time job, and it wouldn’t take me away from my only baby too much but would satisfy my need to contribute to my community.  And, let’s face it, get out of the house for a minute and do something For Me.  I got the call for the interview with the library board.  I went to the interview.  I knew the interview was going extremely well.  Then they told me the job was for 32 hours a week.  Mm hmm.  I know why companies do That.  So, since I didn’t Need the job, I was honest with them.  I told them I couldn’t take a job with that many hours because I had a little one at home; that I was under the impression it was part-time job and I couldn’t accept it.  Imagine my shock when they called me the next day and asked if two of the board members could meet with me at my house.  I agreed to do so.  They came over, offered to hire in another person to work 8 of my hours, and let me bring Littlest to work with me 1 day a week.  What an offer!  I was so flattered.  They must have Really Wanted me to go to those lengths.  I did not consider that the job was still going to take me away from my Littlest for a lot of hours.  I accepted.

Working in that library was wonderful.  I got to know the people in my rural area, met a lot of homeschoolers, and met my best friend (who happened to be the woman they hired along with me).  But I have to admit, I got so caught up in having a life of my own I forgot the reasons I originally turned down the job.  A lot of work and a lot of politics went into that job, and it took my focus.  Away from my baby.  Less and less did he reach for my hand.  He stayed with a wonderful homeschool family while I was working, and I’m truly glad he got that experience.  His dad drove him to his little league games and practices while I was working evenings and Saturdays.  He began to depend on other people.  I kept telling myself I had plenty of time to make it up to him.  I didn’t.

We never do.

Littles with their daddy

Littles with their daddy

I only worked three days a week.  But the schedule was basically 10-6 all 3 days.  I was missing most of his day for 3 days every week.  Then I went back to school because it occurred to me that I loved working with kids so much I could be a school librarian and reach them even better.  So for the 4 days I wasn’t working, I was dealing with online classes, not my Little.  I thought I was doing it for him.  I was wrong.

Not all mothers feel that way.  Some mothers have that same experience and at the end are proud of what they’ve accomplished, what they’ve done for their kids.  Thing is, after a year of working in the public school system, I was completely disillusioned by it and had no desire to continue on.  So now I look back on those years when Littlest still needed me and I wasn’t there as a huge mistake.  Because he’s still closer to his dad than he is to me.  And I’m under no illusions that when these boys all grow up and find mates I will be as important to them as I am now.  And I’m not as important now as I was then.  Since I made the plunge to homeschool, I have tried to re-establish that early relationship with Littlest, but I feel like I am the one constantly chasing him for attention now.  I have never told him I feel this way, and I doubt I ever will.  But it breaks my heart every single day.  I would give quite a bit to see that little hand reaching for me in the sunlight again.

The other thing I remember well is my excitement when Big was accepted at IU.  In fact, I was so excited that I may not have been paying attention to His Reaction.  I imagined his world broadening while he stayed in his dorm–the friends he would make, the responsibilities he would take, the Life that would blow Wide Open.  What I did not imagine was how much he would hate it.  How lonely he would be.  How his innate shyness would prevent him from making a ton of friends.  How homesick he would be, every day, for the entire year he was there.

Big 2He came home for the weekend often.  Usually he left again with a hug and a sad smile.  But there was one time he came home for a couple of days with his girlfriend of the moment.  As they were pulling out of the driveway (me crying on the front porch.  I always did), he turned to me from the passenger seat, and He Was Bawling.  It tore my heart out.  Right in front of his girlfriend, no shame, no hiding it.  My beautiful son was crying harder than I was.  I wanted to run after the car, tell them to stop, tell him he didn’t have to go.  But he was halfway through a semester, and that would ruin both his college career and his scholarship.  So I gave him a bright smile and waved and let him leave.

Ugh.  Being a mother is hard.  It is equally joyful and heartrending.  As his mommy, with no other consequences but proving I love him more than the moon loves the stars, I should have stopped him.  I should not have made him go back.  The look on his face is etched on my brain and I recall it occasionally for no reason at all and cry Every Time.  I don’t think there’s a lot worse in the world than seeing your grown son cry like he did when he was a baby.  I’ve only seen him cry like that one other time, and I’ll never forgive the person who caused it.  So how can I forgive myself for encouraging him to go away to college and being the cause of that sob session?


I can’t.

As mothers, we all have those moments, big and small, that tear us to shreds forever.  That one thing we shouldn’t have said, that other thing we shouldn’t have done.  I have a lot more than these two examples–I am human and I make mistakes.  But I don’t regret most of my mistakes as much as I do those I make as a mother.  I want to be perfect for all of my boys.  I want them to know only love and compassion and laughter.  I want to protect them from the dark, from the bad guys, from the heartbreak.  When I act in a way that is opposite of that wish, I want to don a hair shirt and self-flagellate because nothing is more important in the multiverse than my boys’ smiles.  So even though I make those mistakes, I keep trying and learning and hoping I can be better for them.

Because if I have to have regrets as a mother, I want them to be as few as possible.  For the boys’ sakes, not my own.

Now, I think you’ll forgive me if I go ask Littlest to play a game of Sorry. Yeah, I’m noting the irony.

Love wins,





The 12 Posts of Lit Mama-Wrapping Up 2015

I have had a fantastic year with you, my lovely readers.  So much has happened, and so many wonderful friendships have been made, and my muses (Big, Middle, and Littlest) keep growing so that it is hard for me to continue calling them Littles.  When you’re youngest is looking at 11, they aren’t so little anymore.  In fact, no one asked for toys this Christmas.  I had a hard month, not just figuring out what on Earth to put in their stockings, but dealing with the fact that I’ll never have my own Little running around the house ever again.  Hard times, indeed.  But watching them stretch toward being young men is its own reward, so I’m ready to settle into this new phase and enjoy it before it blinks by, too.

Lit Mama 2015

Writing this blog has been a blessing for me.  I am nothing if not a mother, a writer, a teacher.  Getting to share my ideas and regrets, my joys and my pitfalls, with so many wonderful people has been an outlet I cherish and hope to continue to cherish for years to come.  Some of you may be new to the Lit Mama Homeschool (in fact, if this is your first visit, let me welcome you with open arms), and you may have missed some of the more popular posts from 2015.  Some of you may have been too busy to catch some of the good stuff.  So here are the 12 best Fires I Started When You Weren’t Looking from the past year.  I hope you enjoy them. (I think you’re still able to comment on them, too, so feel free to do so if you have something interesting to add!)



If you’re anything like me, you know that January is a busy time for homeschooling.  Sometimes we’re vamping up the schedule. Sometimes we’re starting over.  Sometimes we are just knee-deep in it and trucking along.  Whatever the case, it’s busy.  My January post How Do You Homeschool? covers most of that, along with scheduling and my own struggles with homeschool-envy… Yeah, I have that!


February is the Love Month, right?  But this past February I ran into an old acquaintance and the experience was, well… Awkward?  Uncomfortable?  Mildly enraging?  A teachable moment for the Lit Mama.  Anything but love!  Read all about it in What to Do When.  And take the advice at the end… it’s better for all of us. 🙂


March is the time, around here, when we start poking our heads out from under the covers and shaking off the long winter sleep.  Last March was no exception for us. Take a look at Marvelous Meandering Homeschool.  The post was wildly popular because it’s about all the amazingly good reasons we homeschool and might just remind you why you do it, too.  Or convince you to give it a try.


April means it’s time to fish here in Indiana, which means a whole new set of learning experiences for the boys.  Read about them in Lessons from Dad, which might also give you a little clue as to just how in love with my husband I really am.  (It’s a lot.  Like, high-school-crush-come-true big.  I’m a ridiculous puddle around him.  But then, he deserves that kind of love.)


Ever wondered why I sign all my posts ‘Love wins?’  There are really good reasons for it, and I tell you all about them in May’s post Love wins.  Plus, if you really want to get to know me, that post is all kinds of insightful about the Lit Mama.  I mean, I guess I could just admit to being a big geek right here, but it’s not quite the same!



Another insight into life for the Lit Mama appears in June’s post This Crazy Cool Country Life.  I was city-born and -raised, so I’m kind of a newbie country girl.  But that just means I get to appreciate it more.  This post is a tour around our farm and lists all the reasons it’s great for homeschooling.  Enjoy the pics!


We have had a Very Rainy year this year here in Indiana.  In fact, while snow is usually a threat this time of year, we have had an unusually warm December and it has rained since Christmas Eve (almost nonstop), and our rivers are once more flooded along with our yards and fields.  July was like that for almost the Whole Month.  So I posted 11 Awesome Activities to Do in the Rain.  They are summer suggestions.  But I dunno, I may have to come up with some winter activities.  Number One:  Be grateful it’s warm and this isn’t 6 feet of snow.


One of the absolute most popular posts on this blog Ever, let alone in 2015, was Easy Peasy Homeschool P.E.  It has some great, fun suggestions for incorporating physical activity into your homeschool day.  Sometimes it’s hard to come up with things on our own, so read this post if you’re struggling with how to get your littles active.  (My littles who are now big tend to groan these days when I break out the dice–but they know better than to refuse to play!)


Another wildly popular Lit Mama Post was September’s Make the Coolest Solar System Model Ever.  We’ve had this model hanging in our classroom for years, and it really is incredible.  We added each planet to the model as we studied it, so the Littles have no problem remembering which planet is where.  If you want to have a lasting solar system model that your littles will continue to use, check out the post.  And let me know how your own models turn out!


For more about my personal journey, check out October’s post, Homeschooling with Hypothyroidism.  And once you’ve read that, come back here and read that since I wrote that post I HAVE LOST 25 POUNDS.  I am super stoked about this, and intend to share that journey with you, too.  Once I’ve lost a bit more.  So I can really wow you with my unprecedented success.month-november-autumnNovember

In November, I posted about reading Dickens for Christmas.  The post has a lot of great ideas about guiding your little homeschoolers through classic novels.  Plus, it gives you a little insight into my Dickens obsession.  Well, a little more insight.  I tend to write about it A Lot.


It’s been a slow month for Lit Mama posts.  December usually is.  It’s such a busy time of year for all of us, right?    I honestly didn’t have much to choose from this month.  I hope I’ve not let you, my beautiful readers, down too much, but you should know by now that my kids always come first, before Anything and Everything, and December is a month for them.  I hope you forgive me.  Even so, I wrote this post about Composer Charts that might give you an idea for studying composers or any lesson in your homeschool.

If you’re looking for great craft ideas, free worksheets, recipes, or other ways to make reading fun, check out my Story Time category.  I promise to fill the next year with more Story Times so you can enjoy reading with your littles.

I am so grateful to you for the year I’ve had as the Lit Mama.  May 2016 be blessed for all of us.  May your struggles be few, your joys be many, and your journey as bright and sunny as can be.  May you remember, in the coming year and always,

Love wins,