Book ideas for kids

Books

We’re down to the last full week before Christmas–does that seem crazy to you?  I’m getting close to done with my shopping, but have at least half a dozen more items to find. If you’re in the same boat and are on the hunt for books for your kids, I thought I’d share some my kids have loved over the years.  Some of these I’ve shared here in the past, and some are new additions to the list.  And just a heads up– amazon is currently offering 25% off any book (or book set) if you plug in the code BOOKDEAL25 when you place your order.

READ-ALOUDS  FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

1. The Napping House
2. Tacky the Penguin
3. You Are My I Love You
4. MRS. TOGGLE’S ZIPPER
5. Five Minutes’ Peace
6. But No Elephants
7. Dinner at the Panda Palace
8. Hedgehog for Breakfast
9. Henry’s Awful Mistake
10.Shoe-la-la!

 

CHAPTER BOOKS FOR NEW READERS

1. Junie B. Jones

2. The Stories Julian Tells

3. Amelia Bedelia

 

BOOKS FOR JUNIOR HIGH AND OLDER

 

1. Inheritance 4-Book Set (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini is about a farm boy who discovers he is really a dragon rider.

2.Percy Jackson and the Olympians (5 books) by Rick Riordan is a story about a boy who has adventures with Greek gods and sea monsters.

 

3. Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix is based on the premise of a society where each family is allowed only two children, forcing any subsequent children to live in hiding.

 

4. Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke is about a girl catapulted into peril when a story read by her father surprisingly comes to life. These books have some language, but the storyline is utterly intriguing.

5.  The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games. This series is about a boy who discovers a world under New York City where he is forced to fight giant rats, spiders, and bats, and in the process becomes an unexpected hero.  the later books in the series get somewhat violent.


6. Warriors series: Volumes 1 to 6 by Erin Hunter  This series is about cats who have great adventures.  It was the very first series my 12 year old daughter really loved.

 

I hope some of these book ideas help you with your Christmas shopping.  If you know of books that are inspiring and interesting for teens, I’d love for you to tell me about them in comments, below.  As always, I encourage you to do some research and don’t be afraid to trust your instincts when deciding  what is appropriate for your kids to read at various ages.

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This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase them on amazon, I will earn a few cents for each purchase.  This does not increase the cost of the books to you, but it will help support all the free content here on this site. And don’t forget to use that 25% off code-  BOOKDEAL25

My baby is 10!

No frugality post this week– sorry, today we decorated gingerbread houses instead. I did remember, however, that I hadn’t yet shared any pictures of a very momentous event in my heart– my sweet and sassy lil Julianna turning TEN years old.  Be still, my heart.  We ended up celebrating twice, once with friends and then again the next night with family. Here she is having fun with her sister and their friends who spent the night.
10

Here’s Julianna and her friends again, getting ready to pulverize a pinata.  They had lots of treats, including BBQ chips (her fave) and stayed up late to watch TWO episodes of High School Musical.  The next day we even fit in ice skating and frozen yogurt.  Whew.

10 Yrs Old

Here she is with her little nieces and nephews, getting ready to blow out candles at the family party.  As the happy birthday song was winding down, Ascher puckered up to blow Julianna’s candles out all by himself, which idea Ranger nixed by covering Ascher’s mouth just in time. We all got a laugh at him policing his cousin.  Crazy how much kiddos learn in less than 3 years on earth.  They are so much fun. I’m so glad that even tho my baby is getting so big, we still have plenty of little ones to enjoy.

10YrsOld (1)

 

Talking with our adopted children about their first family

Joy for the Journey panelAt the adoption retreat that I attended last month, the organizers put together a fabulous panel of birth parents and adult adoptees who talked about their experiences–  Robyn Afrik, Dr. Fran Edwards, and Darrick Rizzo were just some who spoke. Very often in the adoption ‘triad’, the voice of the adoptive parent is heard loudest, and birth parents and adoptees are sometimes not heard, or are marginalized, so it was really meaningful and rich to hear from others about their experiences with adoption.

There was a wide range of experiences among the adoptees. It was moving to hear about the hard and the good, and about the variety of relationships they experienced. Some adoptees shared stories about reunion with their first family. Others talked about rich relationships with adoptive siblings, or parents.  Some relationships with both first family and adoptive family were excellent and others were less satisfying. But I got the impression that those who were able to make contact with first family were glad to get some questions answered and know at least something about the people from which they came.  Even if someone is very happy with his or her adoptive family, it’s a really big, hard thing to not know anything about your first family.

Also hugely interesting to me were the words of the birth parents. There was so much longing in their voices as they described the agonizing decisions that led to not being able to parent their children, and also so much pride as they talked about their children now.  It seemed so obvious that they’re still parents in their hearts, even though they made the hard choice not to parent. One birth dad, Darrick Rizzo, signed papers as a teen because he was promised an open adoption including contact with his son, only to have the adoptive family disappear and not allow any contact.

I know that it can feel intimidating to adoptive families sometimes– the idea of having open relationship and contact with birth family, and in other cases it isn’t even an option.  But I came away from that discussion convinced that it was deeply appreciated both by the adoptees and the birth parents who were able to be in reunion.  I’ve read that it can be a key to emotional wholeness for many adoptees. I think we as adoptive parents would be wise to understand that, and to foster connection whenever it is safe and possible, even if it can sometimes feel scary to us.

Those brave story-tellers also left me remembering how important it is for us as adoptive parents to be honoring in our words about our children’s birth family.  I know there are birth parents out there whose choices are less than stellar.  Some children even need to be removed from family due to neglect or abuse.  Especially in situations like that it might be tempting to lay blame, or to be less than honoring in our descriptions and words. Our momma-lion instincts rise up and feel angry on behalf of our precious ones, and all that they endured before they came to us.

But still we need to remember this:  our children came from their first family. Their very DNA is entwined. If we disparage their first family, we’re also disparaging our children, whether we intend it or not. And our children will feel it. For the sake of our children, it’s up to us to find ways to honor the very real relationship that already exists between our children and their first family.

Denying it doesn’t make it go away.

Talking about it doesn’t make us less their parents.

It just shows our children that we’re brave enough and strong enough to be trusted with their feelings and wonderings and thoughts. Not all kids will choose to talk to us about those feelings.  In fact, some of the adoptees that I spoke with said that many adoptees feel disloyal even broaching the subject.  But that truth makes it even more important for us to be the instigators (at least sometimes) of such conversations– proving to our children that it’s okay to wonder, and to have questions, and longings for the loved ones in their mysterious past.

Maybe even to be brave enough to take steps to help our kids unshroud some of that mystery.

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Our son’s meeting with his first family

Friends and Ferguson

yes, they're sisters

A few weekends ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at the Joy for the Journey retreat for adoptive mommas.  Some of the most memorable and sweetest time on the trip turned out to be visiting with a new friend named Adrienne who drove me to and from the airport, a drive of about two hours each way.  As embarrassed as I am to admit it, this was probably the third time in my entire life that I’ve visited at length and talked in depth with an adult African American woman.

As a momma of Black kids, it hasn’t been anything I consciously chose.  It’s just how it happened. We live in a predominantly white area.  I am surrounded by white friends.  It feels awkward to try to hunt down African American women in our area with whom to form friendships that in the beginning might be based just on color.  And yet I do long for more diversity in my life, and wish that my past efforts to connect hadn’t been so ineffective.

I saw such humor and beauty and strength in the women that surrounded me that weekend in Pennsylvania.  I long for more connection with adults who look like my own children.  And if I long for it, I can only imagine my children must wish for it even more deeply. I came away from the weekend with a deep conviction that I must do better at broadening my world and my friendships. Be braver. Be bolder. Step out of my little comfy white box.

I actually wish that for all of us– that we all could live more integrated lives- the type of life where we’re just as likely to be friends with someone who doesn’t ‘match’ us in skin tone as one who does.   I think we all would be blessed to know people of every color who we honor and value, whose opinions we respect, and whose hearts we know and trust.

That’s actually one of the cool things that adoption has done for our church family.  In a Sunday school of 40+ children–ours is a tiny church–  there are 8 African American kids, along with a couple Korean Americans. I really hope that the early friendships all these children are enjoying will make them less likely to later make snap judgments about the people around them on the basis of skin tone.  I want them all to grow up to be the type of people who know and love people for who they are, and who will base merit on character and worth in Christ, not color.

I really appreciated listening to this 30-minute podcast In Wake of Ferguson:  Brant and Sherri talking about racial tension.  In the podcast they spoke frankly about reality of racism and racial profiling, and our place as Christians living in this imperfect world. Sherri acknowledged the frustration that can come from hard experiences but says that any anger and hostility is best placed in God’s hands.  It’s well worth a listen.  I also really appreciated these thoughts from Journey Mama.

Have a blessed Monday!

Books, frugality, birthdays, and an awesome pencil sharpener (do these topics actually go together?)

My birthday girl, a few years ago...time flies!Life has been nutty around here.  Wednesday alone I had three different interviews for Forever Mom.  By the end of the day both of my phones had dead batteries and I felt certain I had lost all ability to construct a complete sentence.  Whew!  What’s really cool is that people are interested in Forever Mom–here’s a review on adoption.com. (By the way, if you go read it, will you also share it on facebook so more people can see it?  Thank you so much!)  I am so humbled and so grateful that folks are appreciating the message of the book.  And also relieved.  Because, honestly, my heart went right out there in every page. I’ve never felt so trembly-kneed when sending something out there.  So thanks for all your support.

I don’t have many frugal thoughts this week– it was kind of a fish sticks and corn dogs and cereal kind of week around here with all busyness. I did bookmark this great-looking blog post sharing 52 Meatless Meals so that I can intersperse all the rich holiday food with some frugal and good-tasting meatless dinners. I also earned a free turkey at Winco.  (They have a promo where if you spend  $100, you get a free turkey– yeehaw!)  The man in line behind me looked in my heaping cart and told me I should have gone through the line twice and gotten two turkeys.  He was right.  I actually ended up spending $300 on groceries yesterday– apparently I’ve skipped shopping lately too, because we were out of so many things.  So I could have gotten THREE free turkeys, but ah well. Now we are stocked up and I hope that I remembered most of what I’ll need for the next couple weeks.  Potatoes were on a screaming good sale 99 cents for 10 pounds– so we currently have about 4o pounds in the pantry, and I am signed up to bring mashed potatoes to every Thanksgiving gathering we’re attending.  (That reminds me– I still need to buy sour cream.  Because in my opinion, mashed potatoes reach greatness through butter and sour cream.  And maybe garlic.  But I’m aware that not everyone agrees about the garlic.)

 

For those of you who asked, I am in the process of getting an email subscribe feature added to my blog.  I should have done it a long, long time ago but somehow never got around to it.  I will let you know when it is up and running, since I know a lot of people prefer to read blogs in email form.  Thanks to those of you who emailed me lately and encouraged me to get it together.  :)

 

Finally, I have meaning for awhile to tell you about a REALLY neat pencil sharpener. Let me tell you, as a homeschooling mom of many, I have bought SO many pencil sharpeners over the years– from the old fashioned manual kind that you mount on the wall to the really nice electric kind.  I don’t know if it is just a function of having a lot of kids, but every sharpener I’ve ever owned til now has always ended up disappointing me. So when I heard about this one from Classroom Friendly Supplies, I was all attention.  This sharpener is different in that it holds the pencil for you, which I think makes it much more likely that the pencil will enter the machine straight and be sharpened properly. (Watch the video to see what I mean– it’s a little different.)  I also need to disclose that I was given a sharpener for free in exchange for a review. The bottom line is we’ve been using this sharpener for several months, and we really like it a lot.  It makes pencils SO sharp! The only thing I don’t love is that the clamp that is supposed to hook it to a counter is a little chintzy– we can’t make it stay. But since the sharpener holds the pencil for you, it’s not a big deal to just hold the sharpener steady with one hand while turning the handle with the other.  I am working on getting a freebie to give away here on my blog, but I don’t have it yet. I will keep you posted.

Anyway, we are off to homeschool craft day and then we are celebrating my BABY’s tenth birthday– oh be still my heart!! There she is above several years ago with a PENCIL in her hand, which is my very best attempt at making this post actually hang together.  Pencils.  Birthday girl.  Books. You get it?  OK,  that’s all I have for you today. But as usual, I’d love to hear about your frugal successes for the week! So comment away!

Need a new Christmas story?

Christmas Stories for Kids For many years when we had a whole slew of little ones, each November I would secretly gather together all our Christmas story books, wrap them up individually in gift wrap, and then let our kiddos open one story book each night during the weeks before Christmas.  Always I would sneak in at least a new book or two, so that along with rediscovering the old favorites, the kids were also surprised by a new book.  In case any of you are interested in such a tradition, I thought I’d share some of the stories we’ve enjoyed most over the years.  (Don’t tell the other books on the list but these top two are our very favorite!)        

This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click through and order, I will receive a few cents from Amazon.  This helps support all the free content here at Owlhaven, but doesn’t add a cent to your cost.  Thanks so much for purchasing!  And by all means, feel free to add your own book suggestions in comments, below.

Chat with me?

Remind them how precious they are

Hey friends, THIS afternoon on FaithGateway LIVE at 2pm EST/ 11am PST I’m chatting about my new book Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting! Whether you’ve adopted, are considering it, want to support loved ones, or just want to hear more about our adoption journey, come join the conversation!
Here’s the link: http://www.faithgateway.com/author-chat-with-mary-ostyn/  Hope you can join us.

releasing

Tattoos

 

If you ask my teens how I am at releasing, they’d be quick to tell you it’s not my forte.  The youngest three teens in the house are 16, and still I remind them to wear jackets in 35 degree weather, eat protein every meal,  turn off the xbox at 10:30 and take Emergen-C when they have colds. I make them finish school before facebook, ‘force’ them to hang out in the living room with us for an hour during story time in the evening, and don’t allow phone use after 10PM.

SO there’s that.  But here’s some of what I have released. They’ve been allowed to have jobs and cars two years sooner than any of our others, which means some of them missed most of our family camping trips this summer. They are free to take a class or two at the local community college each semester during high school. They drink coffee quite routinely.  And awhile back I finally relented and let them read Harry Potter and the Hunger Games.

I am a person who appreciates nice-looking stylish clothing, but these days I bite my tongue while kids wear huge ratty sweatshirts and tired batman t-shirts over and over and over, when in closets reside heaps of nice stylish clothes. I let them wear jeans to church (unheard of during the growing-up years of our now-grown kids).  Some of them wear shorts all year unless it’s snowing.  At least one kid goes around long-haired most of the year, and on this particular day four of my kids are walking around with ball-point pen’ tattoos’ on their arms.

And yet, when a new friend the other day asked me if my teens were ‘running amok’, I quickly and laughingly said no.  Overall, they’re good kids.

I’ve released my own wishes in other harder areas tho.  I sometimes (at least temporarily) allow disrespect from teens to a degree that was unheard of from our now-adult kids.  It pains me, but with this particular batch of teens, the needs are different, and the responses to correction are vastly different.  I’ve found that with them correction is much more effective when gently stated awhile after the fact, instead of rushing in to offer a consequence when we’re both upset.  Come to think of it, that’d probably have worked better with my big kids too, but they somehow responded okay to the younger-momma ham-handed me, the girl I can still sometimes be.

I’m like any mom, playing it by ear– giving this tremendously hard job my very best, most prayer-filled, most on-my-knees guess.  But I am realizing more and more that even within the limits of God-honoring parenting, there is tremendous latitude.  There’s not just one proscribed, perfect way to respond.  God is the one who made all my kids different, with different needs.  And in this particular phase of life, it seems that God is teaching me that sometimes the most effective path is to release some of my ideas about what is right for our family, and to value my people more highly than I do my own longings and desires.

Oh, this growing-up is painful stuff.  Maybe by the time my kids are all grown up, I will be too.

Hearing shark music?

Photocredit: Jeremy Giddens

I’m very much enjoying the new book by Daniel Siegel titled No-Drama Discipline.  Last night I read a bit to John that had both of us laughing with rueful understanding.  Siegel was writing about how our kids’ actions can be very alarming to us at times, leading our over-active imaginations down scary paths.  He warns about being too quick to hear ‘shark music’ — you know, that stressful music in a movie that warns you that a bad thing is about to happen? He says, “Before you know it, your adorable ten-year-old has become a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart toward the cardboard box she lives in under the bridge down by the river— all because she got mixed up about which way the “greater than” symbol points!”

I’ve had moments like that even with toddlers.  But I’ve found ‘shark music’ moments to be increasingly common when parenting teens.  I think it’s because decisions begin to feel like they have higher and higher stakes. It can seem obvious to an experienced adult that a teen’s decision is unwise, but not nearly so obvious to the teen. Instead of viewing an action as a single isolated incident, it’s soooo easy to feel stressed, imagining a future path filled with similar (or worsening) choices.  Pretty soon your anxiety level is all out of scale with your kid’s current decision, making it almost impossible to respond in a wise and caring way.

Thanks to Siegel, John and I now have a new shorthand way to remind ourselves to chill out and stay in the moment:  SHARK MUSIC.  :)

Ever hear shark music at your house?  How do you help yourself get things back in perspective?

Need a getaway with a friend?

So today is a big day at the Owlhaven– it’s release date for Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting!

The prayer of my heart for Forever Mom is that it will encourage and equip adoptive mommas to love their children well.  I went into adoptive motherhood having read many books, and thought I was well prepared.  But still I was surprised by some things, ill equipped to deal with others, and at times didn’t truly understand my kids’ hearts or love them as well as I longed to.

In thinking through and living through some of the challenges at our house, and in talking with lots of other adoptive mommas, I discovered that there were lots of us– ready to love our kids, but not quite aware of the different needs of kids who didn’t begin life in your home. Over the years I’ve shared some of what I’ve learned here on my blog.  Forever Mom shares what I’ve learned in greater detail, as well as telling stories from many other moms on this wonderful, blessed, yet challenging path of adoptive motherhood. And the crazy/wonderful bonus is that the skills that help us better parent adopted children also can help us more empathetically parent any child!

With Andrea, the lovely founder of Created for Care

So, to celebrate Forever Mom‘s release, I have a really, really fun giveaway.  For several years I have had the pleasure of attending and speaking at a wonderful adoptive-momma getaway near Atlanta, Georgia, called Created for Care.  The event is so popular that the creators of the event now host it twice a year, once in February and once in March.  And still it sells out completely  within hours of tickets going on sale.   The 2015 events, as we speak, are both completely sold out.

BUT, thanks to Andrea Young, founder of Created for Care, and my awesome publishing team at Thomas Nelson, here I am with TWO tickets to the February 6-8 Created for Care conference, as well as a hotel room for two nights.  Win this package and you and a FRIEND can attend the conference together!  All you have to do is get yourselves there, and all meals, lodging and activities will be covered from Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. Snacks, too–the Created for Care team will pamper you like crazy! Isn’t that a sweet deal?

If you are interested in this lovely package,  look below for the ways that you can enter the contest.  Make sure your friend enters too, to increase your chances of winning!  SO excited that two of you will have the chance to go to this fabulous adoptive-momma retreat!

And don’t forget– everyone who buys Forever Mom before November 4th gets some neat freebies!

preorder-banner

To get those freebies, just send proof of purchase (ie- receipt, order confirmation, etc) to ForeverMomBook@gmail.com, and the free package will be emailed to you.

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