When To Give Up on a Book

I started reading Heidi with Ricky and Deborah two months ago.  If we continue at this rate, we will be done by next May. Since Heidi is just a five-year-old little girl, I thought it would be a perfect book for Deborah, and while it is so beautifully written, it is just too difficult for them to understand.  While I often define words as I read, I was finding that entire paragraphs, entire pages were beyond Ricky and Deborah’s comprehension.


We will come back to the book in three or four years because there are definitely reasons why it’s a classic.  I have never read a book that gives a five-year-old such a rich and deep character.    One night I actually told my children we were going to play detective.  I was going to read a passage of the book that would a “clue” to Heidi.

For example we read about Heidi’s first dinner with her grandfather.  While she saw him roasting cheese on the fire, she found some plates and glasses and set the table without being asked.  “What does this tell us about Heidi?”

We talked about how Heidi was proactive.  That meant that she could see what needed to be done and just did it without being asked. This concept was a pretty mind blowing one for my kids.

Then we talked about how she coaxed Peter’s goats to safety instead of forcing them and made Peter promise he will never beat the goats again. What did that tell them about Heidi?

While we’ve had a few great moments, overall, it’s just been a little too frustrating.  So we started the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales.  Deborah loves them!  We’ll tell you more–

It’s Official. I’m the New Halloween Scrooge and It’s All the Captain’s Fault

Yesterday, I told you how much I enjoy getting booed every year by our neighbors.  Somebody leaves a plate of treats at our door and tells us we’ve been booed.  We’re then supposed to hang up a sign on our front door so we’re not booed again and we’re supposed to boo two other families.


But I have set a policy that the boo stops here.  Why bother putting up the sign?  And really, why bother booing my neighbors?  I have no problem taking all the treats that come my way, and I don’t want to burden my poor neighbor with an assignment to make treats for other people.  She’s way to busy for that, I’m sure.

But this year, my husband (the captain) stayed home on Monday from work, and he took over my job for the day so I could write.  I know, I know.  I’m totally spoiled, but then again, all of my entitlement behavior can be traced to all the times I’ve been booed.

Unfortunately, the captain discovered we were booed before I did and because he is such a man of duty, he got right on top of things.  He went out and bought brownie mixes (and Cap’n Crunch and Swedish fish:  that’s another story, but let’s just say that my children think the captain should go shopping more often.)  He made the brownies and found plates and even found the aluminum foil.

Worst of all, he put up the sign that said we have been booed!  WHAT?????  No more secret plates of treats this season???? No more pumpkin loaves or sugar cookies or caramel cakes on my doorstep?  I felt no giddiness, no anticipation as I opened my front door this morning.  All I found was the newspaper with no candy wrapped inside. Apparently, Deseret News has not been booed yet.

I’m feeling a transformation coming on—I’m afraid I’m turning into the new Halloween scrooge.  Bah and boo hoo to you! Or I should say boo humbug?!  Let the ghosts come to haunt me!  As long as they bring treats.

Have you been booed?  Are you a man/woman of duty or a total slacker?

The Boo Stops Here!

I don’t know if this is just a Utah phenomenon, but we have been “booed” every year since we moved here.  What does that mean?  It means that someone leaves a plate of treats at your door with an assignment to “boo” two other families, which means you get to leave treats at their door, and then they get to boo two families and on and on. I know.  If you do the math on this, you do not come out ahead.


By Halloween time, everyone has been booed and feels really fortunate to have been included in this great community builder.

But then there are people like me.

It’s not like I’m a Halloween scrooge, but there are just far too many details for me to handle here.  For one, I have to make two copies of two pages, and I don’t think we have a copy machine although if we do, I have no idea how to use it.  Then I have to make lots of treats and find plates for these treats and then find aluminum foil to wrap them in and then coerce one of my video game playing boys to make the delivery.  This is all so beyond my skill level.

And besides don’t get me wrong.  I love getting booed.   In fact, I love getting booed several times a season.  Yes, we are supposed to put up the sign on our door that says we’ve been booed, a sort of Halloween passover if you will so that other people have the opportunity to be booed.   But hey, if people want to boo us, why should I stop them?  We were their first choice after all.  Can I help it if we are popular?

And if I choose to eat the brownies and destroy all the evidence that we were booed before my children come home, really, who is hurt?  It’s a service because my super busy neighbor doesn’t have the time to boo other people so why should I add another thing to her plate?  I will absorb ALL of the plates because I’m just that kind of person.


This set up has been working great for me until my husband decided my behavior was unacceptable . . .

Tomorrow you will here the tragic end to this saga.

It’s Time to File a Complaint with the Tooth Fairy.

When I went to pick up Ricky after school, he was grinning was a large gap in his teeth.  Phew!  He had been stressing out over that tooth for a week!  Naturally, he asked if the tooth fairy was going to come.

“Sure,” I said.


But when he brought up the tooth fairy at dinner, everybody decided to bring up their grievances.  Apparently, the tooth fairy has not been especially reliable around here.

“I saved five of my teeth that the tooth fairy never came for.” said Eli.

“Well,” I explained.  “‘The tooth fairy only comes when your little, like Ricky.”

“Well the tooth fairy forgot to come when I was five,” said Davy.

Wow, do my boys hold grudges.  As should they!

What is wrong with the tooth fairy?  How can she let down my dear sweet children?  We’re thinking about filing a complaint but where do we send it?

Ricky obviously was concerned that night.  “Did you call the tooth fairy, Mom?” he asked.

“Uh—yeah, I did.”

“Does she know where I live?”


“How do you know?”

“I told her when I called her, and anyway, it’s not like I even had to call her because she already keeps track of all of that.  It’s part of her magic.”   Ricky seemed assured enough and put his tooth under his pillow before he went to sleep.

At 7:45, Ricky came up to breakfast and just as he was about to sit down he gasped.  “I forgot to check under my pillow to see if the tooth fairy came!”  He started to run down the stairs, but I grabbed him.

“You need to eat your breakfast first.  I don’t want you missing the bus again.”  He sat down, and I raced out to the garage to find the captain, also known as Captain Cash.

Ten minutes later, Rick went down to look under his pillow, and there was $2.  He gave us all a nice gap toothed grin.  Maybe she’s a little bit more organized this year.  We’ll give her another chance.

How is the tooth fairy service been at your house?




Why Family Trees and Chocolate Chips Should Always Go Together

Last week for our family home evening, we made a family tree.

This week we quizzed our kids on it.

I looked at my little four-year-old girl and said,  “Debi.  What is your mommy’s mommy’s name?”


“Yes, but what is her name?”

“Uh—I’m trying to think.”

“Well, Debi,”  I said.  “You really should know her name.”

“I need a hint.”

“I just gave you one, Debi.”

Rebekah 10-14-10 387

The captain figured he could give better hints than I could  so he  looked at our little girl and said, “Your nana has the same name as you do.”

And the lights turned on.  “Debi!” she yelled.  “That’s Nana’s name!”


I do have to say the kids loved guessing the names.  That may have had something to do with the chocolate chips that I was throwing out to anybody who could get the right answer.

My favorite part was when Davy, who was really wanting some more chocolate chips decided to dash downstairs and have a peak at the family tree.

“Hey, he can’t do that!” yelled Eli.  “That’s cheating.”

“Actually, it’s innovative,” I said.   So Davy and Eli raced down the stairs trying to figure out the maiden name of their father’s father’s mother.

Davy came running back up blurting out, “Lily!”

“Uh–yes, her middle name is Lillian. But what is her maiden name?”

The captain, really getting into this hint business said, “I’ll give you a hint.  There is a country in her name.”  (Her last name is Israelson.)

Ben blurted out, “Tennessee!”  The captain busted up.

“California!” yelled Ricky.  And so family history is one of the things we need to teach our kids.

Davy and Eli ran back downstairs again and Davy yelled, “Ireland.”  Getting warmer, Davy.

Finally we told them that their father’s father’s mother’s maiden name was  Israelson.  We will be adding a few more branches every week.  Where’s the chocolate chips?

So how many of you know the maiden name of your father’s father’s mother?  Hah!  It’s time to look it up!

Yep. I Used to Raise Pigs and Other Family Stories.

One of the unanticipated benefits of reading more to my children is that I start telling my children more about my own history and family. Perhaps I’m in the story telling mood or I’ve just slowed down a bit at the end of the day or the stories themselves trigger memories, but these personal stories seem to be even more interesting to the kids than the story I’m reading.


When we read Charlotte’s Web, I told Ricky and Debi how I used to raise pigs for the stock show. I told them how one time the mama pig died and so my dad (Baba) had to bring all the baby pigs home so we could feed them with bottles. They stayed in our backyard for several weeks, and we loved baiting them with the bottles, making them chase after us to get their milk.  When they were strong enough, we sent then back to their pens on a nearby farm until they got big.

“And then you killed them?” asked Debi.



My older boys with their Baba. But my two youngest ones don’t remember him so they need stories.

When we talked about the different plagues of Moses and how one of the plagues was flies, I told Debi how much her Baba hated flies.

I told her how our backyard used to butt against a field, and our neighbor had eight cows. The flies loves those cows, and those flies were always coming into our house, landing on our watermelon and Baba’s garden grown corn and banana squash.  Baba had several fly swatters he used on them as soon as we had had the opening prayer.  Sometimes he would curse about them but since they were a plague in Moses’s time, we figured this was warranted.

When we talked about the plague of locusts (grasshoppers) that visited the Egyptians, I told how Baba used to tear their heads off in his garden because grasshoppers liked to eat his tomatoes. I don’t know if I’m sharing the best stories about their Baba with them, but so far, they seem pretty impressed with him.  As they should.  He was a man you respected, and you never messed with, especially if you were a fly.

What memories have you shared with your children?

And I WILL be getting pictures of pigs when I was a little girl pronto.  Mom?  Your photo albums?

Deborah Meets Her Pig–the Aftermath of Charlotte’s Web

Debi was so excited to finally meet a pig. While reading Charlotte’s Web, she had petitioned me several times for her own little Wilbur.

Finally we got to the darling animal farm at Thanksgiving Point and Deborah was thrilled to see real pigs.


Until . . .

One pig had the nerve to poop in front of her.

Deborah was horrified.

“Ewwww Mom,” she said, just like my boys would say it when they found something wonderfully disgusting, but she was very disturbed, burying her face in my shoulders.


They really are disgusting.

She wanted to leave the pig pen immediately, and it was all I could do to get her to pose for a picture.

I guess we won’t have to buy a pig after all.


When did your fantasy turn into reality?  How did you deal with it?

The New Scary Book We Are Reading

If you can believe it, we finished A Wrinkle in Time, and we have now moved on to The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In other words, we are reading Sherlock Holmes.

Davy was very resistant at first, saying that he hated Sherlock.  I asked him to give me a few readings first, and now he’s hooked.  Trouble is, now Eli does not like it.  Davy is definitely into scary while Eli is not.

The Neighborhood Halloween Parade

Ha! Ha! Ha! A “scarecrow.”

A tip if you are reading this to yours kids:  the first part is a little tough to get through.  Basically, the whole point of the first few pages is to show how brilliant Sherlock is.  Somebody goes to his office when he’s not there and accidentally leaves his cane. From the cane alone, Sherlock can tell you everything you want to know about the guy who left it.  But he does it in a tedious and confusing way, and so knowing I had an impatient eleven year old, I just said, “So you guys know that Sherlock is a genius detective, right?”


I then got right into the very frightening family history of the Baskervilles.  It was straight forward and easy to understand.

What Doyle does so remarkably well is suspense.  He builds up slowly and carefully until the terrifying moment.  For example, before the evil Henry Baskerville is found being eaten by a phantasmal hound, we pass another man who is terrified out of his wits.  Then we see the reaction of the first witnesses, their horror before we experience the actual horror ourselves.  The build up is brilliant.  Doyle takes his time, letting the fear slowly sink in.

He gives us just enough details to great both a sense of mystery and terror.  Davy really loves it now and says, “Well, I didn’t think I’d like it because I didn’t know it would be so scary.”

A warning—the scene where they find Baskerville is quite graphic.  You may want to tone it down a little if you are reading it to your kids.  That’s up to you.  Davy is eleven, but loves scary.  Eli is thirteen, and it’s a bit much for him.

What makes me feel a little better about it is there truly is a mystery here.  You have clues, Sherlock puts them together, and then we figure out at the end who the culprit is.  Even though it seems like we have ghosts involved, in the end it’s just like Scooby Doo.

Do you have any favorite mysteries?

Should Men Still Pay for the First Date?

A recent survey by NerdWallet shows that 77 percent of people in a relationship think that men should pay for the first date.


But many argue that this tradition is outdated. Consider the title of this recent Atlantic piece, “It’s 2014: Why Are Men Still Paying for First Dates?” or an article in the Huffington Post: “Men Still Paying for First Dates … and Women Are Partly Responsible.” As Suzannah Ramsdale of Marie Claire argues, “Feminism. It’s all anyone has been able to talk about for most of 2014. So why, then, do most people believe men should pick up the cheque on the first date?”

In fact, one study implies that women might be hurting themselves by letting men pay for the dates, sacrificing future gender equality for the short-term benefit of saving a little money at the movies.

However, I disagree. Yes, we live in a world where women have big ambitions, but when a man pays for the date, he is saying that he is willing to provide for his future wife and children. His date might be smoking him in their chemistry class and snagging all of the summer intern interviews, but that’s not the point. The point is that he’s willing to provide.

He knows that his wife will have to bear risks that he won’t have to bear. Only she will have to deal with the exhaustion, the pain and the anxiety of delivering a child. No matter how much he is willing to do for her, he can’t take on her morning sickness for even one day.

And while men have come a long way in helping raise the children, studies show that working women feel more torn between their families and their jobs than their husbands do. Only 37 percent of working women want to work full-time while 79 percent of working men say they prefer to work full-time.

The reality is that people who have not yet had children don’t really know yet how they are going to want to divide the bread winning and child-rearing responsibilities. They haven’t had to deal with sleepless nights and a crying baby or grapple with postpartum depression. They don’t know what it’s like to have twins or what it’s like to raise a child with special needs. While having children can be a great joy, there are also challenges, and it may provide a woman great peace of mind if she knows that the man she is dating is willing to shoulder the greater financial responsibility in the marriage.

I’m not surprised that 77 percent of the people polled still think that guys should pay for the first date. While women may not want to marry men that insist they stay home, they also might not want to marry a man who insists she bring home the bacon before nursing the baby.

What do you think? Do you think men should pay for the first date?

I originally published this at KSL.com.  Go there to see some pretty interesting comments.

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:)