The Best Vacation: Crash at Another Mom’s House

We took a walk near my sister’s flat.  Can you believe they have grapevines growing a block away from them?image

Anyway, today I decided that we moms need to hang out with each other, and possible crash at each other’s house.  I am always wondering what other mothers are doing differently because certainly not all of them have to deal with such insanity.

But wouldn’t you know it?  Children still have to be bathed and children still squawk, even in Germany.  Kitchens still have to be cleaned and shoes still wander off on Sunday morning, even in Germany.

It’s comforting to know that actually your life is probably more normal than you think.  But if any of you have found the magic bullet to housewifery, one that gives you clean clothes without doing any laundry, please let me know.

My sister’s husband is in the army, and he’s off on a trip, and if you ask me, my sister is the real trooper around here.  You know what?  It’s time to give yourself a pat on the back.  If you changed a diaper, loaded a dishwasher, wiped off a highchair tray, picked up toys, held a baby, buckled a car seat, chased a toddler, or slammed a dryer door shut, then you are a trooper.

I did four out of the eight today.  Not bad.  I’m pretty sure my sister did them all.

I smiled when she read Charlotte’s Web last night to her little girls.

What I Love about A Wrinkle in Time

I am posting today from my IPhone. Can you believe such a thing is possible? I spend so much time cursing technology, but then there are moments that just blow me away.

I am spending my second night in Germany now. I miss the captain. I miss reading to the kids. But it’s always good to get a break from the routine—to get some more perspective. Like yesterday, I said to myself, “Why aren’t my kids doing more chores?”
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I also thought that after my critique of A Wrinkle in Time, I should mention a few things I absolutely love about the book. L’Engle has such a gift with words.

She is so lyrical that it’s like reading poetry. I just love to read it aloud because it has a rhythm, a sense of continuity, and stopping almost seems like a betrayal to the book. Are we not invested in helping Meg look for her father? Every time we stop reading, I feel like we are letting Meg down.

Why I’m Not a Big Fan of a Wrinkle in Time

As I mentioned before, we are reading a Wrinkle in Time.  In fact, according to our Kindle, we are 60% through the book  This book won the Newberry Medal and is widely considered a children’s classic. 

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But let’s be honest here.  The book is odd.  When we first started reading about the gifted little boy, Charles Wallace, my son said that he seemed creepy.  

There are also too many witches in the story, and it’s impossible to keep them all straight.   L’Engle should have followed the one witch per story rule set by the Brother’s Grimm.  Only a few writers have gotten away with breaking this rule, and if it’s done, one of the witches must be green. 

The story also seems to lack direction.  L’Engle is great at building suspense, I give her that, but sometimes it seems as if there’s nothing waiting at the end of the suspense.  And the children seemed pushed around a lot too which makes them feel like not very active protagonists.  We had to get half way through it before it seemed like they were finally making their own decisions.  

Anyway, I struggle because I’m not really a sci-fan, nor a I really into world creation and space travel.  I’m more into boy meets girl and that girl ends up with a castle.  And servants.  Because my fantasy novel contains not wizards or dragons, but servants.  Sigh. 

But my son Davy loves it sci-fi.  He begs me to keep reading each night, and we are turning the lights off way too late.   So we read and read, and I love that.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what I do love about A Wrinkle in Time.  

Have you read A Wrinkle in Time?  What do you think about the book?  

 

Why It’s So Hard to Give Our Children Our Full Attention

Right now, as you are reading this, I am on an airplane, on my way to Germany!  Hooray!  

I’ve been trying to tell my children stories while I drive, but this is a tricky endeavor.  While I’m telling the story, I’m also trying to figure out a grocery list, not get lost again on the way to piano lessons, and remember which dry cleaners has our clothes.  

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Because my brain is always multitasking,  I have a tendency to stop mid-story, and mumble something like, “Do we have any cream of tartar?” or “Was that a cop?”  Sometimes I am interrupted by a phone call saying that a prescription is ready for pick-up, and I usually get this call one minute after I’ve passed the store.  This makes it very hard to build up to a solid climax of Sleeping Beauty because illegal U-turns require a lot of concentration.    

My goal is to finish a story without any distractions.  Deborah is helping me with this.  “Mom!  Finish the story!” 

“Ah yes.  Where was I?  Joseph had a dream.   He dreamed of seven fat cows, and shoot, I was going to buy that beef on sale.” 

“Mom!  The story!” 

“Of course dear.  Joseph saved Egypt and fed his family. Oh dear.  What are we having for dinner?”

“Mom!  The story!”

Yes.  Joseph’s family came back to him, and he wept he saw his younger brother.  You know, gathering family is one of the most important things you can do in this life, and we must always forgive each other and hug each other and share with each other.  I love you, Deborah.”

“I love you too, Mom.  And I’m hungry.”       

How to Manage Backseat Divas

I recently noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car, but I’m the kind of girl that likes to sit by the fireplace (if we had one) or curl up in a quiet place (alas, just a pipe dream).

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My backseat diva.

Instead, as a mother of five, I get to race to piano lessons, stare down red lights, try to park at Target, and return overdue library books.  There is usually a child or two or three stuffed in the back seat, and I try to forget that they are there until one of them has thumped the other with a bag of Costco’s green beans.

I yell a quiet! and warn that if they do not cut it out, I am sure to wrap the car around a telephone pole.  This works for a minute or two until my teenager starts humming the Davy song, a song that he wrote himself and has dedicated to his younger brother, a song sure to inspire more thumping.

But I’ve decided that the best way to keep them calm is to distract them with a good story.  Fairy tales and Bible stories are fool proof as Snow White and Mother Eve prove better than Benadryl.

I started this a few weeks ago, and now, as soon as we get into the car, my little Deborah settles herself in her car seat, snaps on her buckle and orders, “Finish Joseph!” We’re on our third run of Joseph and his dream coat, and I guess it’s time to finally move on to Moses.

Do your children have any favorite stories?

How do you keep your kids quiet in the car.

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.

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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.

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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

When Your Strong-Willed Children Bring You to Tears

This morning, I knelt down to pray in tears.  I have some strong children.  Yesterday, one of these children absolutely refused to do his half hour of reading.  He had chosen the book, it’s at his level, and I even offered to alternate reading paragraphs, but I was getting nowhere with him.

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A hearty crew, they are. Aye! Aye!  

This morning, I had another little fracas with this same son, and after I dropped him off at school, my heart was pounding.  It’s the worst feeling for me to be at odds with one of my children.  Because that like hardly ever happens:)

As I was praying, something the prophet Brigham Young said about the children of Ephraim came to mind.  (If you remember, I sometimes post from a Mormon perspective on Sundays).  I didn’t remember the exact words so I looked it up online.  Before I share the quote with you,let me tell you about the children of Ephraim.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the Mormon church, we believe that we are of the seed of the great prophet Jacob.  Jacob was promised that his seed was be as numerous as the sands of the earth.  Many of us believe we are descendants of Jacob’s grandson, Ephraim.

Ephraim’s family were fierce.  They rebelled against their king (the grandson of King David) and moved to the north.  They were fighters!  I am of this tribe, and my children are definitely of this tribe.

This quote  from Brigham Young gives me a little bit of perspective.

We are now gathering the children of Abraham, who have come through the loins of Joseph and his sons, more especially through Ephraim, whose children are mixed among all the nations of the earth.  The sons of Ephraim are wild and uncultivated, unruly, ungovernable.  The spirit in them is turbulent and resolute . . . and they are upon the face of the whole earth, bearing the spirit of rule and dictation, to go forth from conquering to conquer.  They search wide creation and scan every nook and corner of this earth to find out what is upon and within it.  I see a congregation of them before me today.   No hardship will discourage these men, they will penetrate the deepest wilds and overcome almost insurmountable difficult to develop the treasures of the earth, to further their indomitable spirit for adventure.

Whether or not you are member of our church, I hope the quote will still offer some perspective.  With an unruly child comes an indomitable spirit.  With an ungovernable child comes a child who will not be discouraged by hardship.  They will conquer (hopefully their own weaknesses and not other people).  Hopefully I can channel their energies.  ?

I do know that last night I had the most wondrous reading session of A Wrinkle in Time.  This same strong child begs me to read more and more and more to him.  I finally have to insist that he must get some sleep.

I asked him why he hates reading so much but loves to be read to.

“It’s the expression,” he said.  “It helps me understand it.”

Maybe I need to spend a little more time trying to understand my son.

Have you gotten your children to read?

Hopefully, I can help them channel these strengths.

The Best Attraction in Utah County

The day after I came home from the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, I kept flipping through the schedule, hoping to find some crumbs of a story in there.  Yes, I had gone for two nights and an afternoon, but it wasn’t enough.  Hours on youtube only proved frustrating.  There were few recordings, mostly scratchy and blurry.  The few that were decent cut the storyteller off at the climax.  That is just cruel.

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My friends and I volunteering at the festival. We had to guide people in one of the big tents. I directed a lady to the wrong tent and forgot to do the head count. But the stories were GREAT!

I cannot believe I have lived in Utah County and have not really attended the nationally renowned storytelling festival.  It’s like living in France and not bothering with the Louvre.   It’s like living in Vienna and never going to the concerts.  It’s like going on a cruise and not eating the food.

I want to go again this weekend, but apparently I have wait until next September.  You guys!  This is a national treasure!  The worst part is I can’t even really help you understand how hilarious the stories were about tortured boys scouts, juvenile storm chasers, and horror movie prop stealers.  I can’t do it!  So you’ve just got to take my word for it that you HAVE to go next year.

Here was one of my favorite storytellers, the Irish Clare Murphy explaining how truth hides itself in story.

Have you been to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival?  Who is your favorite storyteller?

The Key to Happiness: A 12 Passenger Van

I want to tell you about the most amazing thing in Utah County.  The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.  It’s held on Labor Day weekend although they wrap things up on Saturday night.  Special events like these can be challenging for big families–especially when you need to buy everyone a ticket, but there are always ways to make things happen.  We decided to become volunteers!

Last week, I took a van load of kids to help set up for the festival.  I love loading our 12 passenger van with children.  It makes me so so so happy.   It brings back memories of when I was a little girl, stuffed between all of my cousins in one of my aunt’s vans.  They would take us to the malls where we would run around like banshees.  Those were good times.  You can ask the security officer if you don’t believe me.

Anyway, I just love stuffing kids in a van because for one, I just love all of these kids and for two, it makes you feel so included–like you are a part of something wonderful, and in this case, we most certainly were!  We were helping with the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

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I signed up to bring our boys and when they told us what time to come, I asked if they could use more helpers.  Yes! was the answer.  When we arrived at Timpanogos Park, they lady in charge said, “This park is closed.  You guys can’t be here.”

“Oh,” I answered.  “We signed up to help.”  I wouldn’t exactly say the lady’s expression was one of dismay, but let’s just say she didn’t seem exactly overjoyed.  I don’t know what made her think we weren’t serious about helping.  Maybe it was the cooler.  Or the football.  Or just the rowdiness in general.

But she was a good sport about it all, and she did let us help.  They only needed us for about twenty minutes, and please be sure to thank us if you sat down on a chair while waiting for your shuttle.

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The best part was that they gave us tickets to see Bedtime Stories.  More on the festival itself coming soon!

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).

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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?