Look at this Book! – I’m Gonna Like Me: Letting off a Little Self-Esteem

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page.

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Today’s great book:  I’m Gonna Like Me:  Letting off a Little Self-Esteem by Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell (2002, Joanna Cotler Books/HarperCollins Publishers)

The Author’s Book Website:  http://www.jamieleecurtisbooks.com/

Time to Read:  short and sweet; great for naptime or anytime

Summary:  from the dustjacket…”Through alternating points of view, a girl’s and a boy’s, Jamie Lee Curtis’s triumphant text and Laura Cornell’s lively artwork show kids that the key to feeling good is liking yourself because you are you.” 

Best Quote:  “I’m gonna like me when I make a mistake and put out the candles on dad’s birthday cake.  I’m gonna like me when I open the box and smile and say ‘Thanks’ even though I got socks.”

Our View:  Superstar Jamie Lee Curtis is best-known among everyone at our house as a superwriter.  Curtis’s series of books with the wonderfully detailed and colorful illustrator Laura Cornell are the perfect medicine for children as they figure out their place in the world and learn of the priceless gifts that reside within them.  This particular book is among my college students’ (who are aspiring teachers) favorite choices for reading with young children.  The lessons of this book are focused upon this important issue of self-esteem and helping children come to see themselves as unique and special because of that uniqueness.  This is a wonderful book to keep in your collection and share just when your child could use a little extra help in seeing that they are one-of-a-kind…and that’s a good thing.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe - “A Little Cup of ES-STEAM” - created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Dad, How Do I Look?

Julia

Our youngest, age 9, decided it was time to get her first real haircut, and by real I mean having it trimmed several inches shorter than ever before and having it cut by her mother and sisters’ real (and outstanding) beautician at a real beauty shop here in town.

When she came home tonight I was genuinely excited for her. It is beautiful and is the kind of haircut that, if she were a famous actress, would be named after her because it matches perfectly who I know her to be.

At first, she was so proud of the risk that she took to do such a thing (I now realize that this is a risk because I have lived through the experience of such risks with my wife and two older daughters…and, believe me, such events have their risks).

A few hours later, though, all that lion-hearted certainty seemed to melt into a puddle of shadowy uncertainty. It was a kind of “what-have-I-done” look that began to slowly form across her sweet face. An anxious worry began to nip at her heels.

And for some reason, she bypassed every girl in our house on this particular evening to come find me. I was in our bedroom reading a new book when I caught a glimpse of her quietly slip into our closet and peer into the floor length mirror just inside its doorway.

I could sense the tension and waited. She gloomily whispered, “Dad, how do I look?  Does it make me look like a boy?”

These are the questions that we fathers and brothers and boyfriends and sons find risky…and if we do not find them risky we will find ourselves making light of things that are not necessarily “light.”  Knowing the difference between an important question and a simple question takes three things:  answering poorly, learning to answer rightly, and a good woman to teach you the difference.

My answer to our youngest daughter that night was simple to her, and complex to me.  I told her I thought it was beautiful and that she clearly still looked like a girl, but to come sit with me and “let me look at it up close.”  I pretended to measure and then I described the color and shape and style.  We laughed and she remembered several female book and television characters who reveled in their short hair and clearly looked like girls. It was a conversation that lasted no more than 4 or 5 minutes, but it seemed to be what she needed for now.

I know from experience that there will be so many moments among the years ahead when the questions will grow deep and profound and difficult, but I’m not sure they will be any more or less deep or profound or difficult either, just different.

And so it is with that phrase – “Dad, how do I look?” – the question means less than the answers to which it leads.

Father Knows Five 12-27-13

*Every Friday we serve you an “a la carte” style list of 5 unique videos, articles, ideas, etc. from all kinds of locations. (If you are viewing this blog through your email subscription, please follow the link to our website to view all videos.)  See you next week…

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In honor of my own father’s birthday today, we celebrate five television favorites that he shared with me when I was a boy, and that quickly compelled me to read them all in book form:

1.  In my mind, there was never a more fascinating book for boys than “the noble savage”, Tarzan of the Apes, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1914.  My fascination with this wonderful series (there would be 25 sequels in it) actually started when my father and I began watching the old black and white television show of the same name on Saturdays when I was no more than 6 or 7 years old.  The NBC series starred Ron Ely and ran from 1966 to 1968 before I began seeing it in reruns in the 1970′s.  Here’s a great article that was written early in 2013 about Ely’s adventures on the set: http://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/tv-radio/389956/Ron-Ely-looks-back-at-Tarzan

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2.  Bonanza – the longtime western television series ran from 1959 to 1973.  They even made some great adventure stories for children.

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3.  Rifleman – it starred Chuck Connors and ran from 1958 to 1963.  I loved the comic books from the series.

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4.  The Adventures of Superman – this television series originally ran from 1952 to 1958 and starred George Reeves.  The comic books quickly became my favorites when my dad and I began watching the series in syndication in the 1970′s.

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5.  The Incredible Hulk – the television series starred Bill Bixby and we never missed a moment of it.  It ran from 1978 to 1982 and included some of the best storytelling of any series in the genre.  For me,the tv show led to the comic books, which eventually led to some of the novels based upon the series.

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‘The Old Red Truck Finale’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

To read Part One, click here.

To read Part Two, click here.

BF Christmas

As the gold and silver ornament rolled to a stop near the front door of the Frederico home, Baby Frederico noticed a glimmer…or was it a spark….jump from it.  It couldn’t have been a glimmer, thought Baby Frederico.  There is no sunlight; it’s dark now.  No, it had to be a spark, or something like it, because it was as though the light was coming from somewhere INSIDE it.  Baby Frederico reached down to pick it up, but the old man stopped him.

“No need to do that son.  These little things get away from me all the time, that’s why Bear is here.  Bear, you know what to do.”

Baby Frederico watched as the old black dog slowly pulled himself up from where he had been resting and went to the little ball.  He lay down right in front of it, and then let out a simple but very forceful breath of air from his nose.  The ball jumped so quickly that Baby Frederico wasn’t even sure it had really jumped.  Then, as though it had been commanded to take action, the ball rolled right in the front door of the house.

Baby Frederico started to ask the old man if he had seen it all, too, but he had already followed the ball inside.  The old dog was close behind.

When Baby Frederico walked into the house, he could not believe what he was seeing.  It was as though someone had dumped hundreds of glimmering gold and silver and blue and green and red and orange and purple ornaments right in the middle of his living room.  The countless ornaments shimmered so brilliantly that Baby Frederico had to cover his eyes as he adjusted to the light.

The old man breathed a sigh of relief as he surveyed the incredible scene.

“Well, looks like our job is nearly done,boy.”  He patted the old dog as he spoke and then knelt down and picked up one of the glowing balls and looked it over.

“Yes, these will do nicely,” said the old man.  He then turned his attention to a bewildered Baby Frederico.  “Here’s what will happen.  At midnight tonight, every single one of these ornaments will make their way to the homes you listed on this piece of paper.”  The old man pulled a familiar piece of notebook paper from his shirt pocket.  “Your home, Mr. Frederico, is their headquarters.  We heard your wish, and then we read it on this piece of paper, and these little guys will stop at nothing to make sure it’s resolved.  Do you understand?”

Baby Frederico was stunned as he spoke, “Understand?  I’m not sure I do.  Do you mean these are for everyone?  I mean, for everyone around here?”  He paused before he asked the only real question he had now, “And where did you find my note?”

The old man laughed, “So many questions for such a little green guy.  Here’s what you need to know, you asked for some help in bringing a little light to some darkness.  We heard the request and we aim to please.  And…we’ve waited so long for anyone to ask it, we decided to do it up a little bigger than you were thinking.”

As the old man spoke, it all came back to Baby Frederico.  He had been at school and had been frustrated that one of his friends had been so upset about something, but wouldn’t tell him what was wrong.  He had even left school early and Baby Frederico was worried.  The troubled day continued as another friend cried about being bullied in the hallway near her locker.  Someone had told her she looked funny and, when she cried, several others taunted her all the way to her next class.   At lunch, Baby Frederico sat with another friend who had lost his grandfather the week before and missed him.  Another wasn’t sure that his family would have enough food to make it through the weekend.  Another was worried that their electricity would be cut off soon, and it would be a bitterly cold evening ahead for her and her family.

In the last hours of that terrible day, Baby Frederico sat at the top of the stairs in his quiet and warm little home.  He was full of concern and anxious about what to do about it.  He could smell the sweet honey roast that his Momma Mia was cooking.  He heard his Papa Frita playing Christmas hymns on his old accordion.  The house was full of peace and full of hope and full of joy…and full of light.  But what about out there, thought Baby Frederico.  What about out there, where it’s dark?

It was then that Baby Frederico made a list of all the people who were troubled that evening in his little town.  He hoped and wished for them something, but what?  He continued to write until his family called him to dinner.

Baby Frederico was still lost in thought, when the old man spoke again.  “You remember now, don’t you?  It was a long list, that’s for certain.  But it was our kind of list, and we knew we could help.  These ornaments you see here will go out tonight accompanied by as many trees as we can fit on that old red truck out there.  I’ll drive.  Bear will keep watch.  And you will navigate.  Each home gets a tree and each trees gets an ornament.  The ornaments will take care of the light, which will in turn take care of the darkness.  We should be done by morning.”  The old man then turned to address the room, “Let’s go to work!”

As if on cue, the ornaments sprang to life and rolled toward the truck.  Dozens of beautifully shaped evergreens stood at attention in its bed, and each ornament found its place among their branches.

What a night it was!  Baby Frederico and the old man and the old bear of a dog and the ornaments and the trees visited homes across the town.  Front yards were given one tree and one ornament.

But the most exciting event of the night would occur just as the old red truck and all its passengers pulled away from the darkened homes and their quiet front yards.  With a whispered whistle from the old man, the ornament would glow a brilliant, sparkling light and the tree would come to life.  The darkness was immediately erased and each little home would begin to glow in the warmth of its new light.  The event repeated itself over and over again throughout the night.  Baby Frederico was mesmerized by it each and every time.

“The Giving of the Trees,” the old man announced as he pulled the old red truck to a stop near the mailbox outside the Frederico home.  “This event shall from this day forward being called ‘The Giving of the Trees.’  It shall be a tradition and it shall continue.”

Baby Frederico stood silently at the window where the old man sat with his old bear of a dog in the old red truck.  “What do you mean?” he asked.

“What do I mean?  What do I mean?  Let’s see, you old bear of a dog.  How shall we explain such a thing?”  The old man scratched his chin and wrestled with the idea for only a moment before continuing.  “Baby Frederico, when you wrote that list of troubles it went straight to the heart.  Anywhere there is darkness, that darkness will tell its occupants that nothing, and I mean nothing, can dispel it.  Nothing can take its place.  Nothing can outwit it or conquer it or erase it.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  But, and this is a secret that should really be no secret at all, that’s just not true.  Darkness lies.  Light comes, even in the magic of a little tree ornament or on a piece of notebook paper, and the darkness has no choice but to leave.  Light comes and something about that light brings a glimmer, a ray, a spark to its occupants.  It brings an idea or a challenge or a plan or a dream…and it never lies.  Now the trees, and those little ornaments, all of it just points to something greater, something that is full of hope and full of joy and full…of light.  And the darkness, well, it cannot remain.”

Baby Frederico could feel the bitterly cold wind begin to rise across the wheat field just behind him.  The temperature began to wrestle with the wind and snow began to drift at the fenceline.  He could hear his Momma Mia call for him from the front porch of their home.  He peered across the lawn to where she was, just for a moment, and then turned.  The old red truck and the old man and the old bear of a dog were gone.  A gold and silver ornament was all that remained in its place.  Baby Frederico picked it up and it began to spark.  Somewhere deep inside it, it began to glow.

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I Hear the Bells on Christmas Day

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I am overwhelmed by the peace and joy that this Christmas season brings to so many in  our world today.  Beyond the Bible, there are few stories or songs or poems that truly grasp the meaning of this wonderful day.  However, there is one piece of classic literature that means a great deal to me and to my wife and children at this particular time of year.  It is a poem, originally titled ‘Christmas Bells’ when it was written in 1863 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and now most well-known (with only a few changes) as the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  It is our prayer for you on this Christmas day that you will see beyond the lights and the trees and the gifts and the food to the heart and soul of it all.  I am grateful that Longfellow once saw it, too.

Christmas Bells (1863)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play, and wild and sweet The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime, A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said; “For hate is strong, And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Longfellow                           Bells

‘Frosty the Snow Man’ – Look at this Book!

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page.  To celebrate the holiday season, we are reviewing a great Christmas book every Tuesday this month!

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Today’s Great Book:  Frosty the Snow Man by Annie North Bedford and illustrated by Corinne Malvern (1972, Little Golden Books)

Time to Read:  short and sweet for bedtime or anytime

Summary:  From goodreads.com…Everyone’s favorite snowman with a magic hat, a button nose, and eyes made out of coal comes to life on Christmas every year.

Best Quote:  “And the magical part was that while they were with Frosty, the children could stay out and play in the snow and never get shivery cold.”

Our View:  There are three things I cherish from my childhood and that my mom treasured for me until I became a father and she handed them all over to me - Star Wars people, Hot Wheels, and Little Golden Books.  Today’s special book comes from that last group and is the original Frosty the Snow Man, the very first version of this story I ever heard as a child.  It was first printed in 1951 and I received this 1972 edition when I was in the first grade and played Frosty in the school Christmas program.  I loved that story and loved that song and always felt some genuine grief when Frosty melted as he said, “I’ll be back again someday.”  I can honestly say that I think in all the years we have built snowmen, I think of this story at least once during their creation!  This book version of the story is great, with a little more information and good illustrations that give you a sense that you are reading something of a true American holiday classic.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe - “The Popcorn Man Mix” - created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

The Art of Taking a Bow

 “It’s hard for a fellow to keep a chip on his shoulder if you allow him to take a bow.” - Billy Rose

Bow Julia

I was sitting with my mother and father-in-law at our youngest daughter’s Christmas play at school this week.  It was a wonderful, kid-filled story of learning that the holiday is worth much more than receiving gifts…that the heart of the season is giving.  It was told in music and drama, and the children were dressed in great outfits to fulfill their respective roles in the program.  There were a dozen or more Santa Claus characters and, for some reason, only one Mrs. Claus.  There were reindeer outfits and snowflake people and even children (mine included) with battery-powered Christmas tree lights on their shirts.  It was festive and funny and had many opportunities for lots of children to have a speaking part, dance or sing at the top of their lungs.

The most intriguing part, however, was the bowing.  That’s right – bowing.  After every song, whoever was spotlighted in the action – the actors, the singers, the dancers – whoever it was for that particular scene (and usually it was 10 or more children spotlighted in each song), the music teacher would pause the play and have the children who had done the particular work for that song/scene step to the front of the stage and take a bow.

It was interesting because you could immediately sense the importance of this moment to the children.  Their faces grew vibrant and, though some had appeared nervous while doing their part for the scene, they threw off such worries when it came time to step forward and bow.  It seemed as though they felt as special and important and appreciated as much, if not more, than the great Academy Award winners or Grammy superstars of years past.

At one point near the end of the program, my mother-in-law leaned over and said to me, “Bowing is clearly important.”

She’s right.  You could feel the necessity of it that day, as I have never felt it before.  These children had spent long hours and countless school sessions working with their teachers to create this event for us, but also for themselves.  I am grateful for a music teacher who notices such things and senses the long-lasting importance of it all.

It’s a simple idea, just three little words:  take….a….bow.