Why Turning Off the Television is So Hard to Do

I don’t know how this happened, but we’ve been on a movie binge this last week.  It’s funny because I hardly ever watch television or movies, but once I start watching something, it’s easier to watch the next night, and within a few days, I feel that I need to watch something every night.


Ricky and his cousins started played a simple game in the streets of Strasbourg, France. I was grateful that I took this moment to watch.  (It helped that my phone was not getting reception.)

It’s harder for me to get to bed on time and get up early, and it just throws everything off.  The saddest things is when Deborah asks at 9:15, “Are you going to read Heidi to us?” and I have to tell her that it’s too late.

I am just always stunned at how quickly our mind form habits.  When I’ve read to my children three or four nights in a row, I just can’t wait to read to them that night.  I look forward to it all day.  And when I’ve watched television three or four nights in a row, the same things happens.  I can’t wait to watch whatever show I want to watch that night.

I am always astounded at what amazing beauty we have in this world–the easy access we have to great literature, art, music, architecture, theater, and film, but I often sell myself short, watching or reading whatever is easiest, looking at pictures of George Clooney’s wedding or Robert Pattinson’s new girl friend, wasting time on whatever throws itself in front of me instead of seeking from the best books.

When I read the Bible or listen to Bach or watch a Shakespeare play, my soul expands.  I feel stronger.  I feel more connected with humanity, more understanding of those I might be inclined to judge, and more awestruck that I live in a world that has such beauty.

I need to be more proactive in seeking these things, setting goals to learn and teach my children.  I also want to observe my children more.  For many of us, children are our muses, inspiring us to write, paint, take pictures.  They have helped us live more abundantly.  Truly they are the most beautiful things in our lives, and they teach us what it means to feel joy in the moment, if only we will look.





I am curious.  What have you done to bring more art in your life?  More beauty?  How do you make time to really connect with your friends and family?  How do you discipline yourselves to spend less time on empty things that don’t matter?  I would love your suggestions:)


Why Are Mothers Killed Off in Children’s Fiction?

Have you noticed how often the mother gets killed off in children’s stories?  We’ve been reading Heidi, and her poor mother died of a broken heart.  A recent Atlantic article lamented that the mothers were so often dead, and a recent article in the Deseret News asks why Ana’s parents had to die in Frozen.

Both articles have some great insights, but they don’t get to the heart of it.  Mothers keep their kids from doing something stupid.  Writers, on the other hand, need their characters to do stupid things.  So they kill the mother off.


Take Ana, in Frozen for example.  What mother would let Ana go out to find her sister in the middle of the night?  Alone?  In the winter?  And without her coat!!!!?   But if Ana had had a mother, we would not have gotten this adorable scene.

A mother would have never let her son be as clueless as the prince in Ella Enchanted.

I’m sort of paraphrasing this dialogue, but you get the gist.

Ella:  Why are you such a meanie prince?

Prince:  I’m not mean.

Ella:  Your kingdom has enslaved all the giants, and they make the elves dance, even when the elves don’t feel like dancing.

Prince:  We don’t make the giants slaves!

Ella:  How could you not know this?  You’re the prince.

Prince:   I don’t know anything  because I’m so good looking.  Haven’t you noticed my great hair? Seriously, it’s like two hours every day, and then I have this huge fan club of screaming girls to manage.   Oh, and I don’t have a mother.  She used to tell me everything that was going on, but since she died, there is like NOTHING going on upstairs.

Ella:  Well, it’s a good thing you have me.  I’ll clue you in, and then you can kiss me.

Prince:  Well I guess that’s worth it, giving how hot you are, but just how much do you have to clue me in?  I’ve really enjoyed being clueless.

Anyway, if we hadn’t had a clueless prince, he wouldn’t have had to go with Ella to straighten things out with the giants, and then we wouldn’t have gotten one of my favorite scenes in all of movie history.  I mean, seriously, if the prince’s mother had had to sing it, it would not have been the same.

So moms, don’t take it personally if you end up dead in most children’s stories.  You know what a full time job it is to keep your kids from doing something stupid.  Unfortunately, writers simply will not tolerate you.  Their job is to lead their characters into very very stupid situations.  You, mom, make that very difficult to do.

Do you think moms get the shaft when it comes to children’s books?

Reading to Children When You Are Exhausted

You may have noticed that I didn’t post yesterday.  Actually, most of you probably didn’t notice.

I have an excuse though.  I am dealing with the worst case of jet lag ever!  Even as I write, there is a high chance I may not finish this sen—


As you know, my little Ricky and I went to Germany last week to visit my sister.  Since we’ve been home, we’ve been crashing sometime between 6:00 and 9:00 at night and waking up sometime between 2:00 and 4:30 a.m.  While you would think that getting up so early would be greatly improving my productivity, I’m still netting around five hours a night, and I’m walking around like a zombie.

Ricky is pretty funny too.  I usually bump into him around 5:00 a.m.

Last night he said, “Will you read that part of Heidi to me that you read last night?”

“You mean that part where you fell asleep?” I asked.

“Yeah,” that part, he said.

Two minutes later he asked, “Do you think you could not read Heidi tonight?” as his eyes dropped closed.

“Ya sleepy?”

“Yeah,” he said before drifting off .  As you can imagine, the jet lag has interfered a bit with our reading routines, but I’m been still trying my best to keep it going!

Last night as I read A Wrinkle in Time to my older boys, I keep nodding off.  After all it was almost 8:30.  Davy was sorely disappointed that I hadn’t read much so I got myself up, got in my pajamas, and then went back down to his room to read a bit longer, but I fell asleep again in five minutes.

Finally, I got into my own bed with Debi in tow, explaining to me that since I hadn’t read Heidi to her, I owed her a Persian Cinderella story.  I got in bed and started reading it to her, and was just dying about halfway through.  I finished the book early, hoping she wouldn’t that there were about ten pages left.  I wouldn’t know because I was out before I could even hear her protest.

This morning I was delighted to see that I had slept in until 4:45 a.m.  So why am I so tired?

The Gorgeous Bavarian Alps aka Heidi Land

Here are some more pictures near the place where Heidi grew up in Johanna Spyri’s children’s classic.  While these are pictures of the Alps, they are pictures of the Bavarian Alps which are on the German border instead of the Swiss border.  The mountains are not quite as steep but you still get the general idea.  Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!



Can you imagine living here?  No wonder Heidi protested so strongly when her Aunt Dete came to take her away from the Alps.  I would have too!


We did quite a lot of hiking uphill just like Heidi and Pete do in the book.  Want to know a little trick for getting a tired child up a hill without carrying her?  You hang on to her hand and walk faster than she does.  Then when she is dragging behind you, you yell, ‘We-e-e-e-e-e-e!” and pull her up fast until she is ahead of you.  She laughs, and you walk  ahead of her again and yell, “W-e-e-e-e-e-e!”



We went to a lovely festival in the Bavarian Alps called When the Cows Come Home.  The men dress up in their lederhosen and bring the cows down from the mountain.  A lot of people watch this event and drink lots of beer.


Drinking beer and eating pretzels. The Germans sure know how to celebrate.

Look how crowded we were going home on the bus.  Can you find Emily and Ricky?


And we were exhausted when we came home!


Welcome to Heidi Land

On Saturday morning, we drove up to the Bavarian Alps.  While technically Heidi grew up in the Swiss Alps, they are all still part of the same mountain chain.

I don’t know if Ms. Spyri, Heidi’s authoress, did not share enough rainy days in her story or if it just rains more in the Bavarian Alps then the Swiss Alps, but it was pretty miserable when we arrived.


At least I have an umbrella. Nobody thinks about the cows.


Ha! Ha!  Did you notice that these two red jacketed ladies are not the same person?  I am in the first picture and my sister, Mindles is in the second.  Isn’t my sister gorgeous?  So I’m really quite flattered if you got us mixed up.  And why did the poor babe and mother not have the umbrella?  They certainly should have!

Mindles said this is their third time there, and it is always like this—cold and rainy.  Fog shrouded our mountains, and I wondered if Ms. Spyri had exaggerated all the sunny days in her book, pulling a stunt similar to naming one of the coldest places in the world Greenland.  Anyway, her book is basically the best travel brochure the Alps have ever gotten, and so it should be accurate.

The rain was a very wet and cold rain, not the kind of rain we get in Utah, where the minute it starts raining, the clouds are having second thoughts about it because let me tell you something.  The clouds in the Bavarian Alps are fully committed.

Still, at about 11:00, the clouds let up, and the sun made her appearance.  She was tentative at first, kept ducking behind wisps of clouds, but I kept encouraging her, telling her she looked just lovely and had no reason to be shy.

She finally came out in full glory, and I laid out on a bridge to nowhere and slept, missing out on the cattle parade.  Fortunately, they were having them every half hour so I will post some pictures of that soon.

5 Ways To Help Your Children Enjoy Reading

I’ve really loved reading Heidi to my little ones, but sometimes we come across passages that are difficult to understand, and it’s hard to sustain their attention.

Here are a few ways I have learned to help them understand what’s going on.


1.  Immediately define a word that they might not know. 

Immediately define a word that they might not know.  My Aunt Gayle, who taught first grade for years, gave this advice.

She told me to just define the new word quickly and move on with the story.  For example, you might say “On the left stood an enormous–enormous means very large– mass of rock.”

“Should I ask them first if they know what the word means first?” I asked.

“No, just immediately define a word that you think they probably don’t know and keep reading.”

“Should I just substitute the simpler word directly?” I asked her.

“No!” she said with all of her school teacher authority. ” If you want to increase their vocabulary, they’ve got to hear words they don’t know.”

Doing a quick definition made all of the difference.


2.  Put your child in the protagonist’s shoes. 

This is very easy to do with Heidi since my little Debi is the same age as Heidi.

“How would you like to walk up a mountain with three heavy dresses on, Deborah?”

“It would be hot,” she says.  “Why does she have to wear three dresses?”

“Why do you think she is wearing three dresses?” I ask.

“I want to wear three dresses!” Debi answered.  Of course.

“Would you like to wear three dresses if you are climbing up a mountain under the warm sun?”

“N-o-o-o-o!” she said.

“Do you think she had to wear the dresses because it would be too hard to carry a suitcase up the mountain?”

3.  Make it a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. 

I just love asking the question, “What would you do?”  Sometimes the questions are really simple  like, “Would you want to stay with grandpa at the cabin or would you want to go up the mountain with Peter?”

But when a character must make a very important decision or when the character is faced with a difficult moral dilemma, these questions can become very powerful.  This helps children think through moral and ethical issues, giving them practice for when they are faced with their own tough decisions.

4.  Use pictures as much as possible.

Younger children need pictures to hold their attention.   Last night we  went on the computer and looked up pictures of the Swiss Alps and bluebell flowers.   And while the Heidi edition we are reading has a few pictures,  I checked out a few children’s pictures books of Heidi as well.  It’s great when they draw their own pictures too.

5.  Hold your children as you read to them.

Hold your children as you read to them.  This will keep them close.  Stroke their hair, scratch their back, squeeze their arm, and they will also become more emotionally connected to the story.   They will associate these stories with your tenderness which will make them love the stories forever.

What ways have you

What Children Have to Say About Heidi

We’ve been reading Heidi, and I just had to record this conversation with my kids.  It was so charming that I just grabbed a piece of paper and started taking notes.  This is roughly how it went (my notes are sort of sloppy).


And where do you think cheese comes from?


Me:  Would you guys like to eat cheese roasted on a stick like Heidi did?

Debi:  We should try roasting some cheese and marshmallows.

Ricky:  I want to go camping.

Me:  OK, so let’s see where were we?

Ricky:  I know what’s the best stuff to take camping—fire, wood, stick, sleeping bags, tents, marshmallows, graham crackers, frosting–(ah yes, the three food groups).

Debi:  Hey, I have an idea!  When we get bored, we can go camping!

Ricky:  So like in five or ten or seven weeks, can we go camping?

Debi:  Yeah!

Ricky:  Wait–can we go only go camping once a year?

Me:  Well, no, but it’s sometimes hard to go—

Ricky: I’ve notice that smoke is kind of hot.

I don’t give much advice on this blog, but today, you’re gettin’ some.  Actually, I’m just repeating the advice that my friend gave me eleven years ago and which I finally applied last week.  The minute your children say something adorable or funny, write it down.  My friend kept a separate notebook for each child.  I don’t know if I’m up for that level of organization, but I am going to get a notebook and keep it with me while I read to my children from now on.

Do you guys right down the funny things your children say?