Why Don’t Men Read More Female Authors?

We took our boys to see the plays Henry IV Part I and Sense and Sensibility.    

But while Shakespeare is considered the universal playwright, Austen is supposedly the pioneer of chic lit.  Why is Austen so often categorized as a women’s writer?  



It’s not fair.  

Henry IV is hardly a play that gives equal attention to the sexes.  While the men play a king, a prince, several earls, and a fat guy that steals the show, the women play a wench, a few singing Welsh women, and a wife.  They have maybe 1% of all of the lines of the play.  None of these women have any power or influence.  Only men are allowed in the rooms where the politics are really going on.      

Sense and Sensibility, the girlie book, is stuffed with male leads.  There’s the charming, but untrustworthy Willoughby, the ever loyal Colonel Brandon, the stumbling but endearing Edward Ferrars, and the loud and generous Sir Middleton. The male leads are actually given quite a few lines which just proves that a woman wrote the story because we all know that men don’t talk that much.  (But Austen can feed women their deepest fantasies, can’t she?  A man that reads poetry? Sigh.) 

While I had no problem going to see Henry IV, my youngest boy threw fits about Austen while the other two seemed uneasy about it, like they were worried someone they knew might see them going into the theater.  

After the play was over, I asked my oldest what he thought.  He was sitting in the passenger seat of our van, looking out the window.

“I liked it,” he said.  

“You did?!” I answered too excitedly.

“I mean, well actually, you know Austen is all the same though.  It’s like the same plot every time.  Why did she have to write six books?  She could have just written one.”

“You liked it!” I sang.  Ha! Ha!   

I can’t think of a time where Austen is more relevant, especially to boys.  The book/play is a comedy of manners, and Austen’s whole message seems to be, “This is how you treat people.”

Be polite even when you’re feeling cross.

Help your local farmer when he’s stuck int he mud.

Ask people about themselves.   

My youngest son was still groaning about the play afterwards,but today, when I stopped on the side of the street to pick him up from school, he asked, “Should we offer those girls a ride?  They live in our neighborhood.”  Then he actually rolled down the window and did it.   Money well spent if you ask me.  

Do you know men or are you a men that read books written my women?  What are some of your favorite books? 


And Your Kids Can Enjoy Shakespeare Too!

Phew!  I’m here at the library if you can believe it.  Alone.  I don’t know what to do with myself.  Ah, but I do!
We had a breakthrough this weekend, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  As you know, I’m a blogger with great ideas, but the execution is a bit challenging.  But this 101 children’s classics idea had to be a sure winner.  After all, I love to read, and it’s such a noble goal to read 101 classics to my kids, right?  But then I posted sporadic entries moaning about how crazy life was and that government institutions were requiring birth certificates and immunization records, and everyone must think I am very good at filling out forms because they sure keep handing them to me.  It was hard to get to that reading.      

We made it to the festival!

Ah! But then there was light.  We went to the Shakespeare Festival in our big red van, and as much as they tried, the boys just couldn’t wander off too far from me.  Grabbing the opportunity, I told them all about Henry IV Part One.  Either I was a good story teller, or else I had seized all of their iPods (it’s hard to tell), but I actually held their attention!    
Henry IV is such a guy’s play. 
You’ve got Hotspur who acts like he’s all that and wins all of his battles, but he has a really hard time keeping control of that temper! He’s also dealing with anxiety and even trying to stave off depression.  He’s basically an insecure jock.
Then you’ve got Prince Hal who is your classic underachiever.  He’d rather party than face his royal responsibilities.  Deep down he has no respect for his loser friends, and he despises himself for not manning up.  But when he does finally accept his noble birthright, he is a shining star.   
Hotspur stages a rebellion against the prince and everyone must choose sides fast!  Then you add Gandalf, a crazy king, some good Welsh/Elvin songs, a funny fat guy, thieves, lots of sword play, and you’ve got something boys like.  You also know where Tolkien got all of his ideas.  

Debi loving the puppet show!

Here’s an example of how to summarize a scene of Shakespeare so your kids will get it.   
“So Hotspur is now freaking out because his dad and Gandalf are not showing up to the battle.  The only guy that is showing up is the spy.   Hotspur’s all,  ‘So is Prince Hal so drunk he’s falling off of his horse?’  The spy answers  ‘The prince looks GRRRR-e-a-t!  Like a knight in shining armour!  A Greek God!’  So yeah, Hotspur is flipping out now, but he’s still got to hold it together for the rest of the team.”  
My boys get these characters, and they want to know how Hal and Hotspur deal with all of their emotional junk.  The two H’s have got to keep up a good front while still trying to suppress their fear, failure, jealousy, and self-doubt. Shakespeare’s really good at showing that internal struggle which is one of the reasons he’s a certified genius.  Sure beats Ironman.
Anyway, the story captured my boys.  They want to be cool, win their games, pull off a good practical joke, and find some awesome friends.  Henry IV teaches them how to do all of that.  

I had to get these two girls together. Aren’t they beautiful?

We got to the play in plenty of time to fish and chips, smoked turkey legs, and shortbread.  
Did the boys actually like the play that night?  Some more than others.  The captain loved it too and then shared some brilliant insights that were worthy of a PhD dissertation.  
Am I going to count this as one of their 101 Classics?  Yes!  After all, they heard the whole play did they not?  

Really, Seriously, I Do Have Control Over My Life

Keeping up with this blog has been harder than I thought.  So has reading with my children.  Life is just too crazy.


Yesterday I was at the grocery store picking up a few things, and I noticed that their Tide Detergent was only $8 if you had the online coupons.  Not understanding how this worked, I took the detergent up to the register where the clerk told me that I could print off their online coupons and then bring them into the store for extra savings.

“Wait a minute,”  I said.  “So I need to go home and print the coupon off and then come back here to get the discount?”  The clerk acted like this new policy was very reasonable.  I don’t know if he felt that way after I left the Tide detergent with him at the checkout.

I called yesterday to see if the mountain of paperwork had finally been approved so that Ben could run cross country.   He had a meet that day.

“It hasn’t even been to committee yet,” the lady answered.  What?  This transfer student request has to go to a committee?  Who pays these guys?

Oh and did you know that if you call Comcast to order services, not only do you get to talk to a robot at the beginning of your call, but you get to talk to a robot at the end of your call too?

These little annoyances each day add up and take away precious time, and I struggle to not let it get me down.

But I’m still trying, finding pockets of time to read at least to Deborah.  We checked out a stack of Brothers’ Grimm Fairy Tales from the library this week.  It seemed a decent way to prepare for our trip to Germany next month.

It’s truly a delight to read to her.  I love snuggling.  Feeling closer to her.  We found this darling comic strip style book at the library.  It’s really hysterical although a lot of it went over Debi’s head.  Still, we both got a good laugh out of it.  And there were no cable companies, coupons, or committees involved.  You guys have got to check it out!


Since When Did School Registration Become Such a Nightmare?

I set out to read 101 children’s classics to my kids.  I figured I had another fourteen years, and I could use picture books if I was falling behind.  This goal seemed noble, wonderful, and quite reasonable.  IMG_3050

But then I had to register my children for school.  There were a gazillion forms and many documents I had to produce.  We needed birth certificates to prove my children were born, vaccination records to show they didn’t have polio, and utility bills to show we weren’t trying to sneak in from Spanish Fork.  

I admit that I’m not highly proficient when it comes to filling out forms and producing documents.  The secretary always returns the form to me, saying I forgot to filling in this part or sign here or that my handwriting is completely illegible. Which is totally not true.  I taught myself calligraphy in the eighth grade.  

On Thursday, I tried to reason with a school secretary.

“Can’t we still at least let Eli choose his classes today?”  His back to school night was that night, and it would be nice if he could meet his teachers.  

“I cannot let him meet with the counselor until we have all of his vaccination records.”

“I just had his vaccination records yesterday.  But I have them in this big folder with birth certificates and forms and utility bills and I have five kids and—“

“We can’t do anything until we have his vaccination records.”  

“But I’m taking another son to the doctor tomorrow.  I could get the vaccination records then.  You would have it before school starts. Can’t he select his classes today?”

“I am sorry but we cannot process anything until we have those vaccination records.”  

And then I started bawling.  I told her about how tough our move was, but the secretary didn’t soften one bit, and that’s when I started to wonder if I was talking to a robot.  

Whatever the case, this woman was one formidable gatekeeper. 

As you can imagine, I’m not a huge fan of gatekeepers.  I’m the kind of girl that looks for a place to climb the fence. Naturally, I don’t get along with librarians, secretaries, German airline ticketing agents, or anyone that asks for a form of I.D.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I find all of this stuff so draining.  Am I the only one who finds it so?  Trying to get our son registered for cross country was another ordeal.   They required us to register online where they asked me what I had done on September 3, 1978.  

OK, so it wasn’t that bad, but close.  It was one of those deals when you get stuck on a page, and it won’t let you advance, and you have no idea why, and there is no one to call for help.  Fortunately for me, I could call the captain, and he got it straightened out.   He also has the scanning documents skill set, which this registration also required.  

However, on Friday, the day before his race, we got an e-mail saying that because the scanned transcript wasn’t official, the application had not been approved.  

“What?” captain asked.  “The registration specifically said that the transcript did not have to be official.”  

“Welcome to my world,” I said.  So Ben did not get to run in his first meet, the meet that might have helped him get to know a few kids before school started.  

Sorry about the whining.  I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes get frustrated because I have this vision of what I want to do, but I get so inundated with demands, requirements, deadlines that the things that want to do always get put on the back burner.

I was so tired last night, that I asked Eli at 9:00 p.m. if he could put Deborah away.  And no, I hadn’t read to her.  

The kids busted up. It wasn’t that funny.  Still, on the bright side, there was one wonderful secretary who got Eli’s vaccination records faxed over from the doctor’s office.  They were faxed before I hung up the phone with her, and next time I see her, I am going to HUG her.  We did finish Charlotte’s Web this week.  We started Heidi, although it reads like a grown up book to me.  I read many chapters of The Whipping Boy to one pouting son and started A Wrinkle in Time.  

Maybe I’m doing better than I think.  

What things drain you?  

We Made It to Shakespeare!

So last time I talked about how excited I was to go on my Shakespeare trip with my friend and then how bummed I was when she told me she didn’t think she could go (after I bought the non-refundable tickets).

The worst part was that she couldn’t give me a yeah or nay until the night before we had to leave.  Yeah, and I’m not so good at suspense.  I love it in a Masterpiece! Mystery, but dealing with suspense in real life is the pits!  Inspector Poirot never had to figure out whether or not to hire babysitters or whether or not to book a hotel or whether or not to RSVP to a wedding dinner scheduled smack in the middle of Henry IV.

In the end, my friend was able to go.  Everything fell into place.   We laughed a lot on the way down.  I felt like a giddy nineteen year old again, and unlike my boys, my friend thought me hysterically funny!   I loved the plays so much that I booked tickets in two weeks for the fam.  I’ll be writing about those as soon as I have some time.


We made it!


Little Mermaid at Tuachan was fabulous and Ursula stole the show!

That went over really well.

“Hey guys, I thought we’d take a little family vacation to Cedar City and see some Shakespeare.”

“No-ho-ho,” as the boy make fake gestures of dying.  And he claims he’s not a thespian!

“Well it’s not all Shakespeare.  We’ll be seeing a Jane Austen play too.”

“What?! That’s even worse!”  But I know he’s secretly excited.  Anyway, he will not be able to claim that something’s come up, and he won’t be available to go.   We ARE going!


Just so you know, I have yards and yards and yards of stuff I want to write.  But school registration and broken dishwashers and loads of doctor’s appointments have kept me pretty busy.  Please stay in touch with me because next week the kids will be in school and I will have two hours to myself everyday.  I can’t wait!

What’s been a favorite road trip you’ve taken with a friend.

What Moms and Pulled Taffy and Apparently Spiders Have in Common

I’m back!  I was on a bit of a vay-cay last week, and boy did I need one!  One morning I just thought, “I need to go to the Shakespeare Festival,” and then I was calling a good friend and booking tickets.  (I had invited the captain to come, being the literary genius that he is, but he had to work. Thank you, good captain for always manning the fort.)  

december 012

We give up a lot for these precious vessels.

I booked decent tickets for Henry IV, great tickets for Comedy of Errors, and the best seats in the house for Sense and Sensibility!  I couldn’t believe it!  We were going!  

And I should have known better than to say at dinner, “I’m so happy, happy, happy! I can’t believe I’m going to the Shakespeare festival!  I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait!  This is the best day ever!”

Did I not remember the movie where the guy said, “This is the best day of my life!”  

Did I not remember the captain whispering to me, “It’s all going down hill from here!”  I about dumped my whole bucket of popcorn on the captain for thinking such negative thoughts, but he was right.  The happy guy got struck by a bolt of lightening twenty minutes later.  Captain has some amazing prophetic abilities when it comes to film and literature which means that he can be a bit of a downer when I drag him to the local Cinemark.    

Anyway, I forgot all of this while I was chirping like a bird, singing little ballads about my upcoming Shakespeare trip, and the Cap didn’t say one word to me.  But he thinking it.  I know he was thinking it, because the next morning I received this text from my friend.  “Something’s come up, and I don’t think I can go.”  

What???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Her family needed her at home, and I couldn’t help but think, “Oh my goodness, this very thing happened in Charlotte’s Web!”  

1 charlotte's web

Wilbur, the pig, needs Charlotte, the spider, to go with him to the state fair so she can weave a web over his head that says, “Humble” and everybody at the fair will come to Wilbur’s stall and the judges will sigh in wonder and Wilbur will win first prize and Mr. Zuckerman won’t butcher Wilbur for bacon.  

So the spider here is critical.   

But the spider’s not sure she can go to the State Fair because she’s got to lay all of those 514 eggs.  In order words, her maternal duties are calling.  

I wonder if E.B. White meant to hit on such a big issue.  This is a children’s book, but wow, does he nail it on some major women’s issues.  Don’t we all feel this tension as mothers?   Don’t we feel like that taffy we see buying pulled at the fair?  We want to help our friends.  We want to leave our mark on the world.   But our children need us.  And our kitchen sink really needs us.  Pull, pull, pull.  Stretch, stretch, stretch.  Sigh.  The only solution is to eat lots of pulled taffy.

Must sign off!  The children are calling!

When have you felt most pulled between motherhood and friendship and just trying to be a decent super hero in general?   

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of this cliff hanging story!  


Why Moms May Need Friends Most of All

Our children’s books are filled with great friendships, and I’ve been quite moved by the sweet relationship of Charlotte and Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. 

My dear friend from high school, Melissa,  was moving to the East Coast, and she tried to gather us all for one last hoorah! before she left.  We were supposed to meet for lunch—it would be about a 35 minute drive for me, very doable, but then life happened, and I told them all I couldn’t make it.  Another friend was depending on me for a ride, and in the end, the lunch just didn’t happen. I assured everybody that as soon as things “settled down,” we’d have to get together again.  We never did, and now Melissa  lives in Virginia.  I look back and the reasons I decided I couldn’t go now seem pretty trivial.  Yes, we were trying to get our house ready to show, but you know, I could have made it all work,  and the house would have still sold if I had gone to lunch.  But I missed an opportunity to reconnect with those dear women.  Goodness, Melissa and I were going through the same emotional draining experience of a move, and I could have cried on her shoulder or at least laughed about it all.   Instead, I decided to tackle my challenges alone, thinking friendship needed to be saved more sunnier days.   And yet friendship is just what makes our days sunny.


So, when a friend called the week we were moving in, saying she was going to only be in town for the week, I guess I wised up.  When she came, my dryer wasn’t working, the lawnmower wasn’t working, there wasn’t a lot of food in our fridge, and except for a few public spaces and our underwear drawers, our house was still mostly unpacked.

She had her concerns too—the usual, “One of my kid’s is snotty, and the other has diarrhea,” but I told her it didn’t matter.  Come anyway.

We hung out together all day, just like teenagers.  We even ordered pizza.  And then we really talked.  We didn’t talk just about the surface stuff, but about the stuff that really mattered—our families, great books, religion, God, and the crazy world we lived in.

I was already appreciative that she read my blog, and frequently left comments, but I was really touched when she said she was actually doing some of the things I promised you guys I was going to start doing.  She was playing tennis twice a week with a friend, while I am sure I’ll be getting to that any day now.  She was teaching her son to be a gentleman and open doors for her, where I had kind of forgotten that goal.  And she had already finished Charlotte’s Web, listening to in on the way from California to her kids.

“What?” I asked incredulously.

“Well you told us we should read it.”

“Well I haven’t even finished it yet!” I retorted.  “I should have finished it first!”  She shrugged her shoulders.

So basically, Rach and I are are the yin and the yang—I come up with the ideas, and she actually executes them.  So I got back on track with Charlotte’s Web.  Tennis, anyone?

Seriously guys, friendships and happiness are closely linked.  Get the list on happiness here.

How do your friends help you?

The Importance of Friendship in Children’s Fiction

There are so many classic friendships in children’s literature:  Charlotte and Wilbur; Peter Pan and Wendy; Scout and Dill; Tom and Huck; Anne and Diana; Harry, Hermione, and Ron.


Not only are these children great friends, but their friendship makes the story.  These friends are loyal, and they put themselves on the line for our hero because if they did not, she would fail. The whole story would fail.

Our hero must have friends because she is going into a dark and dangerous world and having a friend that has his back means everything.  Even if they quarrel and leave each other, friends always comes back at our hero’s greatest hour of need. So we forgive you, Ron Weasley.

Sadly, the theme of friendship seems to take a back seat or even die altogether when adults become the protagonists of the books.  We might have friends like Charlotte and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, but their friendship plays second string to their romances.

But once we get into mainstream fiction, we have much more dangerous and powerful forces at work:  sex, money, greed, jealousy, and politics, and these ruin the best friendships.

If you don’t believe me, consider these great  books.

Friends that are bystanders/powerless to help:  The Great Gatsby, The Portrait of a Lady, and I, Claudius.  

Friends that are not to be trusted:  The Da Vinci Code, Catcher in the Rye, The Count of Monte Cristo, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, The Once and Future King, Wives and Daughters, Othello, The House of Mirth, Angle of Repose, and Gone with the Wind. 


Friendship becomes very muddy while navigating adult literature.   Perhaps this is why so many of us turn to children’s literature.  We know who we can trust.

Fortunately, there’s not a lot of adultery, money, greed, and politics interfering with my friendships, but that doesn’t mean that I l have an easy time maintaining them.   I have five children, dinner to get on the table, a budget to maintain, and a husband who barely gets enough attention as it is.  So it’s very easy for me to put off making that phone call or put off getting together for lunch with a good friend until it’s more convenient, which of course it never is.

But as I’ve been reading more children’s literature, I’m beginning to remember.  I’m slow beginning to treat friendship as a higher priority.

How do you find time to maintain your friendships?

Rabbits and Wheelbarrows

On Tuesday, I made a reading goal for the day.  It was this:

1.  Read the Velveteen Rabbit with Ricky and Deborah.

2.  Read one chapter of Charlotte’s Web with Ricky and Deborah.

3.   Read one chapter of Fluff Dragon with Davy.


We did meet the goal—in three days.   That’s ok; we are just getting started on this project, and it may take some time for us to get in great habits.  I found this article about making time to read quite inspiring.

We got through Velveteen Rabbit, but that’s a pretty wordy picture book, I must say.  Yes, it’s a classic, but Margery was quite the talker.  It’s very British and a little formal and even seemed to drag a bit.   Still, it’s a sweet story, and my children enjoyed it even though we have to take a break for a day or two before we finished it.

One of the unexpected bonuses or reading is getting fun idea.  The Velveteen Rabbit’s little boy liked to pushed his bunny around in the wheelbarrow.  So we decided to try it.  We even put on our bunny ears.






It occurred to me after Davy about got close to toppling the wheelbarrow that this may not be a wise activity.  I googled, “Is is safe to push around kids in a wheelbarrow?”   All I got was an article about the famous tightrope walker, Charles Blondin, who regularly pushed things like wheelbarrows and stoves across Niagara Falls.  When he asked if anyone in his audience was willing to get in the wheelbarrow as he pushed it across the falls on a tightrope, he got no takers.

Well we are certainly safer than Charles Blondin.

Did you ever get some great ideas from a book that you tried at home?

I Didn’t Have Time to Read to My Children Because I Was Organizing my Jewelry and Other Excuses

Yesterday, after revealing my ambitious plan to read 101 classics with my children, I read nothing to them.

It was a busy day, but what day isn’t?  When does any mother look at her morning and think, “Oh my.  I have nothing to do today.  How jolly!”  (Sorry, but I’m going through a bit an anglophile phase right now.)


That lovely necklace around my neck is now untangled. It’s also why I didn’t read with my children yesterday.

Yesterday I got distracted organizing my jewelry.  It’s alarming just how entangled necklaces can become with each other!  I am certain that my coral and aqua necklaces were secret lovers the way they resisted my intervention.

Earrings have the opposite problem.  They are repelled by their mates, dropping into bottom drawers and falling behind desks if it means they don’t have to sit next to each other.  Now that I think about it, they’re probably not mates at all but brothers.  You should have seen how much they were poking each other, and their poking hurts!  My right ear lobe would know.

It’s ironic that I wasted so much time sorting through my earrings given that my right ear lobe has closed now and is no longer accepting customers.  I supposed I could wear an earring in my left ear, but I don’t know what wearing one earring in the left ear means these days although I am sure it is something dangerous.   I could be encouraging the state of Nebraska to secede for all I know.

Speaking of wasting time, I did find time to play about twenty games of Word Scramble, a game that so alluring because it only takes 2 minutes to play, and hey, I have two minutes.  And two more minutes.  And two more minutes.

So today I am going to try something different.  Today I am going to set some reading goals just for today.  Yes, it is more exciting grand to set large goals, goals like reading 101 classics to your children, but if I am serious about this, I must set more bite sized goals.

My goals for today

1.  Read the Velveteen Rabbit to my children.   It is a picture book, but hey, I could mark off my first of my 101. Yeah!

2.  Read one chapter of Charlotte’s Web with Ricky and Deborah.

3.   Read one chapter of Fluff Dragon with Davy.

Do I think I am up for the challenge.  Yes, I do!

What distracts you from read with your kids?