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.

image

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

image

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.

Why This Good Cook is Finally Caving Into Costco

I have been trying to simplify my life so that I have time to read to my children before bed.  My latest decision was to buy pre made meals at Costco.  This has been a long time coming.  I’ve considered myself a good cook.  I know that you are supposed to put your roux through a strainer before you make gravy, you should always brown your onions first before you do anything with them, and that bacon will make any soup taste better.  DSC_0471

Even so, I’m feeling kind of done with cooking,  Costco makes great fresh stuff.  Yes, it’s more expensive, but is it really?  How much celery and spinach and bad strawberries have I pushed down my disposal this year?  What about the moldy cheese and the dry bread and the rotten hamburger?

And with so many things going on at night—scouts, church, husband late from work, back to school nights or whatever, making dinner and cleaning up after dinner was just getting to be too much.

On the day of this picture here, I had actually picked up food from Kneader’s and we just had a picnic at the park.  If I could afford it, I would do it every night.  But one night is o-kay is it not?  Besides, look at the cute pictures I got.

Putting on dinner is fast.  Clean up is fast.  Mom’s not grouchy.

We’ll save the good cookin’ for Thanksgiving.

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?”
image

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. 

41rq2WdZd+L

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.  

DSC_0505

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).

DSC_0504

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.

DSC_0068

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.

91eCI9eMcPL

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.

DSC_0264

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.

brigham-young-82928-gallery

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.