It was a dark and stormy night. Outside it was 61 degrees below zero, the snow was 77 feet deep, and the relentless Siberian wind was knocking at the windows and whistling down the chimney. We were in the dead of a long, hard winter, and daylight was limited to maybe 4 hours a day — if we were lucky. The remaining hours of those days were filled with darkness. Snowbound, my children and I huddled in the house as my husband worked 25 out of every 24 just trying to save the ranch from impending doom. I cradled our newborn baby in my arms and attempted to entertain the 7- and 5- and 3-year-olds. Within days the children and I had eaten the last of the graham crackers and watched every movie in our family DVD library 34* times.
*Some numbers in the re-creation above have been exaggerated to emphasize the seriousness of the situation.*
Clearly, something had to be done lest we who were housebound not survive the cold winter.
I remember that night vividly. The baby was about two weeks old. The weather was relentless. My husband was gone most waking hours. I was out of ideas and unwilling to let the kids build yet another house-long “circus train” using only their imaginations and, oh yeah, multiple random objects dragged out of every room. There was only one thing left to do: Clearly we would need more glowing electronic distraction if we were going to survive this stage of our lives.
So, though I typically like to claim that we don’t need creature comforts to enjoy a rich and meaningful life here at the PV, I sat down that night and ordered a Roku (which enables our TV to pick up the wireless internet connection in our house). Then I signed up for Amazon Prime, through which we not only get free two(-ish)-day shipping on boxes of diapers (and, yes, other items too, if one was to buy something other than diapers) but also access to Amazon’s online television and movie channel. Next, with a few taps on the keyboard, I signed my debit card number over to Netflix, gaining even more online movie and television options. I’d been contemplating all those purchases for some time, but that night I just threw in the towel and went on a big spending spree.
(The kids binge-watched three seasons of the Netflix original series Spirit Riding Free on my computer that first night we had access to it… but that’s another story for another time.)
Last summer I had cancelled our Dish Network subscription because we, the Blakes, were fed up with television. The senseless and maybe even inappropriate commercials. The all-too-convenience of it — which often resulted in the kids watching something less than intentional and less than ideal, simply because it was on and it was easy. We cancelled Dish and removed the temptation from our house.
Fast forward to the new year. We had a new baby, it was very cold outside, and all of a sudden I kinda missed the Disney Channel. But couldn’t there be a smarter option?
Why, by golly, there IS a smarter option! Once our family started watching television with the Roku, I was able to truly appreciate the benefits of 2018 technology. Though I have always resisted the race of technological progression (I’m the girl still using the flip cell phone, remember?), I can now attest that the right kind of technology sure makes life easier. Episodes of The Magic School Bus and Reading Rainbow are now available on demand in our living room! I choose what to watch and when it’s watched! We are no longer victims to television scheduling gurus! It’s entertainment, but intelligent!
Inspired by all the goodness, I’m even taking things one step further: I have officially vowed to never buy a cumbersome DVD or CD again in my life. I’m going completely digital, folks. I have officially entered the Twenty-first Century.
The catch, of course, is that one can’t watch everything on Netflix and Amazon (although you can probably get close to it if you make purchases a la carte with that trusty debit card number both online companies conveniently have memorized; I, for instance, purchased the first season of The Pioneer Woman digitally to watch on the Roku. Spendy, but certainly what’s expected of a true PW fan). So what does our Roku lack now? Mostly the news and the NFR and spring baseball — and I think we could buy other channels on the Roku to fulfill all those needs.
But there’s this, too: to make up for the shows that aren’t available, Netflix and Amazon both put out original stuff, as well as feature content that we wouldn’t otherwise ever watch.
Case in point: Harry & Snowman. It’s a documentary about Dutch immigrant Harry deLeyer, who strove to make a name for himself as a horseman in post-World War II America. He eventually achieved incredible success, with the help of a horse he had bought off a canner truck for $80. Harry and his steed, Snowman (a rejected Amish workhorse), shook up the elite, old-money world of East Coast show-jumping in the 1950s, setting amazing records and winning many fans along the way. We recommend!
Also: Down the Fence, a documentary that follows several reined cow horse trainers, and their equine companions, on the road to the national championship event held annually in Reno, Nevada.
Again, we recommend.
So, winter is over now. But I still don’t regret my stormy-night TV shopping spree. The question now is whether or not my husband and I should watch a grown-up show after the kids are in bed. We really should go to bed. Sleep makes us feel more human! But so does sitting on the couch together and watching grown-up shows! Ya know?
The good news is, whenever we do choose to watch, our friendly Roku is ready and waiting to show us exactly what we want to see. Thank you, dear Roku, for helping us through the winter. You have renewed my faith in technological advancement.
© Tami Blake