The Cloud That Stole the Sunrise

I enjoy driving my daughter to school. We sometimes talk through the entire 20-minute trip, while other times we just listen to music. Then there are times we make up stories. Here’s one that Claire and I came up with when we were inspired by a pretty amazing early morning sky just last week:

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There once was a cloud that was very jealous in his heart. He traveled the skies of many countries and was sometimes hailed by onlookers as the bringer of shade, the producer of rain, and the creator of shadows.

And these accolades produced what originally seemed to be just a very small thing: pride.

But as time passed, the cloud grew so great in his own eyes and so important among his own thoughts that very soon he was all he thought of.

There was, however, one thing bedsides himself that the cloud nearly always marveled at – the sunrise. And the more he marveled at it, the more he longed for it. And the more he longed for it, the more he plotted to have it.

When it rises, there is a brief period of time in which the sun seems to linger midway along the horizon. Its rays spread upward into a sea-blue sky and crisscross themselves as they create a kaleidoscope of otherworldly reds and purples and pinks and oranges.

Lesser concerned clouds take little notice of their own subtle role in this event. They simply are there, paying little mind to the shades and colors, the beams of light that intersect them and reflect through and over and under and within their billowing forms. Our cloud, however, was not among the lesser concerned.

More and more, he watched the sunrise with such envy that it consumed his every thought.  He would hear the peaceful sighs of the onlookers below, hear little ones as they commented on the brilliant work that captured their budding imaginations and transformed an otherwise dull and grey day into a fantastic epic of hope and light.

“How dare the sunrise do this to me!” he said sternly to himself.

“How dare you do this to me!” he said to the sunrise itself.  “How dare you…”

With that, the angry cloud rumbled and thundered as it moved to block the sunrise.  He pushed himself directly into its colorful rays and pushed away those other, lesser concerned clouds around him.

He said, “I want that sunrise for myself, all to myself, and I want it…now!”

And then, the most amazing thing happened.  Children on their way to school were the first to call attention to it.  Families and bus drivers and other early morning risers paused in awe.

The clouds that he had previously labeled as “the lesser concerned” gathered back into their place near the light and a quiet settled upon them all.  They welcomed the jealous and lonely cloud into their midst and shared the light and warmth of that sunrise.  Rays of color quickly coursed around and under and over and through him and he immediately knew that he could not contain it, could not hold it all to himself.

In the coming days, children and families and bus drivers and other early morning risers looked forward to the dawn as they never had before.  Many even described the time as something “like the picture perfect portrait of a thousand brilliant sunrises.”

And a previously jealous and lonely cloud stood happily, peacefully, among it all.

‘Speak Up!’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

 BF speech 1

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn, and…birthday parties; but he did not like to speak in front of an audience – here is his story:

Baby Frederico was mesmerized by the story that was unfolding before him.  It was third hour Science and the teacher had spent the week describe an amazing list of the world’s most unusual animals.  Today’s example was the Box Jellyfish, which actively seeks out and hunts prey with its 24 eyes and deadly venom.

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But the reason he was so interested in finding out about such a crazy animal was not that he particularly loved science or unusual animals.  No, he was interested because it reminded him of the speech he was going to give this week in front of what was expected to be a very big crowd of grown-ups.  The Box Jellyfish seemed like the perfect symbol of that crowd, who he expected to be “actively seeking him out and hunting him down with its 24 eyes and deadly venom” while he spoke.

Why had he said yes to giving a speech?  Why oh why oh why?  It was a speech about not being a bully, something he felt very strongly about and enjoyed speaking his mind on at recess with his friends and at home with his family…but here at school with grown-ups?!  It all made him terribly nervous and it hurt his stomach and it refused to let him sleep at night or play during the day or even read his favorite superhero comic books. He wanted to do it; and he didn’t want to do it.  It would be his chance to talk about something he knew would make a difference, but it was also the scariest thing he had ever done in his short life so far here on earth!

The day at school dragged by as Baby Frederico became more and more nervous about the afternoon’s event.

Finally, it was time to make the long walk to the school’s auditorium, where all those box jellyfish-like people were surely waiting for him.  However, as he opened the door and peered inside the large room, he noticed that nearly all of the people there were familiar to him.  They didn’t seem all that scary and none of them came close to resembling a venomous jellyfish.

After his speech, Baby Frederico listened as the room erupted in applause and smiles.  He was especially thankful that he had said yes to giving the speech, but he was truly surprised when he and his family opened the door to their car to go home.  There in the seat was a special snack that his mother had carefully and colorfully wrapped for him – his favorite – a grape JELLY sandwich!  He could only laugh as he thought of how grateful he was that as he ate, not one tentacle of venom was anywhere to be found.

Let’s End Bullying

Rachel

Our 13-year old was asked to give a speech for an anti-bullying campaign called Rachel’s Challenge here before our community last night.  It is an important topic and deserves the full attention of this blog space today.  She wrote every word of it on her own and we are proud that she has chosen to take this stand with so many others across the country:

“Think about the first time you were bullied. Now, think about the first time someone was genuinely kind to you. These two events are crucial in everyone`s lives, as they are the events that almost completely determine how you act in situations the rest of your life. Did you walk away from that bully? Were you a bully back? Or did you show him or her kindness?

In a September 30, 2013 column in The New York Times, it was reported that, among 12- to 17-year-olds, 47 percent of girls and 34 percent of boys report having been bullied either face-to-face or online.

I am in the 8th grade and I was invited to be a part of the Rachel`s Challenge (RC) group last year by one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Amy Adam. She really embodies the principals that RC teaches and sets. And Mrs. Adam did not only get me involved with RC, but she showed me how you can be kind to people that are not necessarily so kind to you.

The class that I was in was especially ornery and I was always so amazed at how Mrs. Adam would not lose her cool.  She would not yell.  She would just smile and say, “Quiet down boys,” and keep right on teaching. So when Mrs. Adam invited me to be a leader for RC, I was honored because the those marvelous, kind, caring qualities that I saw in her – she actually saw in me too!

My teachers asked me to tell you how I think Rachel`s Challenge will change our schools. Well, I believe that every single person on this earth has the ability to possess those caring, and genuine qualities, they just need a little encouragement to show them outwardly.

And that is really what RC is all about. It is a kid-run organization that is here to simply show kindness to everyone no matter the circumstance and encourage those people to pass the kindness along. And think, if every one person is kind to every person they see, then that chain reaction that Rachel talked about will go into effect, and the kindness will spread and grow and eventually, the whole world will be a member of Rachel`s Challenge whether they know it or not.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this thought from author F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light, it scattered the night, and made the day worth living!’

Thank you all for allowing me to share these thoughts with you that have really been on my heart lately. Good night.”

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Here is a Baby Frederico story about bullying and a book review from “Bully” at our site:

1.  http://fatherknowsbooks.com/?p=912

2.  http://fatherknowsbooks.com/?p=851

Part 2 of ‘ You Could Be Your Own Twin’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here. Part 1 of today’s story can be found here.  Enjoy!

 Bus BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and independent bookstores; but he did not like being made fun of…….. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico could barely move.  He felt so embarrassed and angry at Billy the Groundhog.  How could he be so mean, especially to Baby Frederico, who always tried to be as kind as he could to him.  Once when they were in Kindergarten, he even shared his blocks with Billy when the other children wouldn’t let him explore with their group at the science center.  What had happened to him?  And why was Baby Frederico the lucky one to be his target this week?

But then, something that was nothing short of miraculous happened as Baby Frederico stepped on the bus.  Their driver, Gustav, welcomed him as he had never welcomed him before.  Grenelda sat near the front and smiled as the jolly bus driver began to speak.

“Hey there Baby Frederico.  Welcome to my bus,” he said as he broke into the happiest laugh anyone on the bus ever heard before or since.

“You may not know it my friend, but anyone who rides my bus and has an imaginary friend gets special treatment.  I had one of my own when I was a boy and I miss him now that I’m tall and old!  I wish you would have told me about him sooner Baby Frederico.”  He laughed again as he pulled the door closed and merged the big yellow bus back onto the road.

“Mine’s name was Charlie Chupa.  What’s your’s?”

Baby Frederico was nearly speechless.  How could he be having such a conversation about something that only moments ago was a secret between only himself and Grenelda?

“B.F.  His name is BF.  He’s green and looks kind of like…me.”  Baby Frederico could feel his strength coming back.

Gustav just smiled as he drove along toward the school.  It was good to remember the old days and his old friend, and Baby Frederico was to be thanked for that.  He also noticed the other kids on the bus, even grumpy little Billy the Groundhog.  They were laughing and smiling and telling stories about their imaginary friends.  Grenelda and Baby Frederico noticed it, too.  It seems that nearly everyone on the bus had an imaginary friend…even Billy.  He mentioned it as though it was the greatest thing in the world to have an imaginary friend.  He even told Gustav, right in front of Baby Frederico, that everyone should have at least one imaginary friend, no matter how tall or old he becomes!

But the greatest surprise for Gustav’s bus kids occurred the very next morning when they each stepped onto the bus for school.  Near the very front of the bus, just behind Gustav’s big driving chair, was a sight they could have never imagined only the day before.  Right there in Seat 1 was the grandest decorated bench you have ever seen – it had streamers of every color and little twinkling lights draped across its back, and a large hand-painted sign that read ‘Reserved for Imaginary Friends Only.”

As Baby Frederico and Grenelda the Grasshopper took their seats, they listened in amazement as every rider – from the tiniest cricket and the tallest scissor-tailed flycatcher to one “former” bully groundhog and an old bus driver – talked about whose imaginary friend was the hippest, funniest, and smartest one among them.

And Baby Frederico knew his favorite – very well indeed.

‘You Could Be Your Own Twin’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

Imaginary friends and bullies…*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. The backstory can be found here. Enjoy!

BF Mirror 2 BF Mirror

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and the songs of Jackie Wilson, but he did not like to tell people about his imaginary friend. Here is his story:

Baby Frederico has a great friend. He first met him when he was very young and his Mama and Papa’s friends would peer down into his crib and say, “Well, look at that sweet little thing. He is so cute and green.” Baby Frederico could understand them perfectly and wondered who they were talking about in the crib with him. He never thought they were talking about him because they always said things like, “That baby” or “He is so cute and green” instead of saying, “You baby” or “You are so cute and green.” He began to wonder who “he” was and finally decided that there must be someone else in that crib with him – thus was born his very own wonderful, imaginary friend.

Whenever he would look in the mirror, he would say, “Hello my friend. How are you today? You are hip and green and your scales are so shiny today. Nice job!” He would smile back at himself and laugh all the way to the bus stop, where he and his friend Grenelda waited for the big yellow bus to take them to school.

But one day, he stopped laughing. Here’s how it happened: He was riding home from school on the bus when his best buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper asked him how his imaginary friend was doing. Grenelda knew everything about Baby Frederico because she was his buddy. She often said she even liked his imaginary friend as much as she liked Baby Frederico! On this day, however, Grenelda never noticed that the school’s biggest bully, a smile-less groundhog named Billy, was listening to their entire conversation.

Baby Frederico and Grenelda loved to make up stories about his imaginary friend, who of course looked exactly like Baby Frederico in every way, and the friends were laughing and telling funny stories all the way home that day.

But the next day, when they arrived at the bus stop, there was Billy the Groundhog and he looked meaner than ever.

“What’s up?” said Baby Frederico, trying to be as kind as he could to the grumpy groundhog.

“Nothing,” Billy said. “Nothing that is, except that you’re a big baby because you still play with an imaginary friend.” He then began to laugh so hard that he nearly choked himself. At that moment, the big yellow bus pulled to a stop in front of them and the children climbed on board. But Baby Frederico just stood frozen to the sidewalk. His stomach churned and his face burned red.

Baby Frederico was embarrassed. How had Billy known about his imaginary friend? What could Baby Frederico say in reply?

What do you think he should do? Will he just change his name and move to another country? Will the bus driver snicker and tell him that no imaginary people are allowed on the bus? Will everyone on the bus laugh at him? Will Grenelda stand up for him? Will Baby Frederico just smile and introduce everyone on the bus to his favorite imaginary friend? Stay tuned next week to find out!

 

‘Bullies’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico (and Claire!)

This is a special day, for my wonderfully creative 8th grader decided to write this week’s Baby Frederico story for you.  Claire knows him well and is especially interested in this week’s story topic.  She is encouraging those who bully to stop; those who are bullied to tell someone about it; and those who are neither to take a stand and help the one who has been bullied.

Bullies BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and Incredible Hulk comic books from 1982; but he does not like to see anyone being bullied. For from the time they are very young, all iguanas are taught to practice respect. Baby Frederico, being an iguana, learned this  important lesson quite well. Here is his story:

It was around the middle of the year when Baby Frederico`s new teacher came to his school. Mr. McHiss was a very intelligent and kind snake. But everyone in his class overlooked those nice qualities as soon as he said, “Hello classs! My name isss Mr. McHisss!” The class erupted with quiet giggles as he told them how he “decsssided to ssstart teaching and how excsssited he wasss to be teaching them.”

Baby Frederico let out a small giggle when Mr. McHiss said the first few words because he didn`t expect it. But as his classmates` giggles continued right along with their teacher`s speech, he knew it wasn`t right. Turning to his best friend Grenelda the grasshopper he said,” Our class is being very disrespectful. Shouldn`t we do something?” With a nod of her head, Grenelda began hushing her classmates. This worked for a few minutes, but after a while silent laughs became visible on each student`s face once more.

Later at lunch, Grenelda and Baby Frederico decided that they must do something about the giggling. But just as they had begun to talk, the two meanest boys in class came over to the table where the two friends were sitting.

“Hey!” they said, “We`re going to write a note with all the ‘s’ words we can think of and pass it around in class. Mr. McHiss will be so embarrassed!”

Baby Frederico looked up at the boys, “What`s so bad about talking different anyway? I think it`s kind of cool actually.”

Grenelda spoke up too, “Yeah! What`s so bad about it?”

The two boys looked at each other, trying to find an answer. They really didn`t know why talking different would make somebody be labeled as weird.

One boy said, “Well… I mean… I guess…. maybe it`s not so bad. Actually, we might sound kinda funny to him because we don`t hiss!”

“That`s right,” replied Baby Frederico.  “But he would never make fun of us for it because he knows it would make us sad. I think that is really what is meant by practicing respect – what we say can make a difference, for good or bad.”

Later, each of Mr. McHiss’ students returned to his classroom and apologized for making fun of him.  Mr. McHiss was very proud of them and even told them a story from his own childhood:  One day, a cricket named Michael visited his school, which in those days was a school entirely for snakes like Mr. McHiss. Everyone made fun of Michael because he DIDN’T make the “s” sound at all! It was there and then that Mr. McHiss learned a wonderful lesson about practicing respect.  He decided to be the one person who would be kind to Michael and not make fun of him for being different.

“After that, I decided that no one was going to bully Michael, or anyone, ever again.”

The students began to applaud as Mr. McHiss finished his story.  And it was then and there that a classroom full of students of all shapes and color and sizes and sounds learned to practice respect for each other and for all time.

Look at this Book! Bully

* 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: Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2013, Roaring Brook Press).
Time to Read: short and just right for both the bully and the bullied
Summary: A small bull is bullied, which leads him to become a big bully himself. When a billy goat stands up for his friends who are being bullied by him, the bully quickly realizes how mean he has become and changes his ways.
Best Quote: “Wanna play?”

Our View: The single most surprising thing about this book is its perspective. It reads just enough through the eyes of a bully – both when the book starts and he becomes a bully and then when he is called a bully. This is powerful, relevant stuff for the life of children. It also helped me see the importance of defining the term bully for children everywhere. When a bully actually understands what it means to be called a bully, change just might come after all. The words and illustrations are sparse, making this book all that more powerful and helpful to young eyes and ears, and just right for this big issue. This is the kind of book that will be a lifesaver in your classroom or your home.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “FriendChips” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.