Sleepy Readers

CJ BOOK SLEEP

When you are old and gray and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire, take down this book and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep. - William Butler Yeats

There were several especially quiet days during this past Christmas holiday that my 3-year old niece and I found a good chair to sit in so we could read together.  No matter what book she chose, there were certain times of the day that I could barely make it past page two without her falling into a deep sleep.  It would sometimes take me several minutes to realize she had fallen asleep, and most of the time the book was so good that I just kept reading until the end.  As I quieted my reading and eventually trailed the words off into a whisper, she would sometimes try to open her eyes or even smile just a bit, but otherwise she was, as my grandma always says, “out like a little light.”

It made me think about how relevant books are to the rhythms of life. There have been so many middle-of-the-night anxieties that have awoken me over the years, but the one thing they all have in common is the time they have given me to read (or pray!). It is little wonder that books are as abundant on nightstands around the world as they are in libraries around the world.  There have been times that my nightstand is stacked so high with books that I can hardly find the switch to turn on the lamp that is surrounded by them.

From there, the chronology of events is always the same:  I think I will never been able to fall asleep, so I begin reading.  Eventually, I feel the book start to slip from my hands and I try to keep my eyes open long enough to read until the end of the chapter, or at least the end of the page.  And then, without warning, I am “out like a light.”

One thing I’ve learned:  sleepy readers are the happiest readers I know.

‘A Bedtime FairyTale’ – Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

And now for something different and at the request of our youngest daughter.  A Baby Frederico Bedtime FairyTale:

photo 2 (1)

Once upon a time there lived a little green boy.  His name was Baby Frederico and he had some wonderful friends.  They included his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, Rob the Robin, Julia the Jubilant, Skylar the Smiler, Courtney the Cute, Laine the Laugher, Sarah the Sweet, Katrina the Kind, and Kendall the Caring. They had all met amidst a thousand giggles on a distant playground under a brightly colored construction in the mysterious Land of Centennial.

When the Christmas holiday had arrived in this special Land, the friends celebrated with music and candy and coloring sheets and decorations of all kinds.  However, little did they know that their time together would come to an end, at least for a short time, because the Land of Centennial always closed during the holidays – the drawbridges were hoisted, the carriages were shuddered, and the leaders of that fair Land attended to their own homes and families, somewhere deep and hidden within the Land.

Concerned that they would not play together again for several weeks, the friends agreed to meet next to the long, wooden benches that sat just below the old windows of the Land’s Grand Gymnasium.

Baby Frederico had been waiting all day for this meeting. He could hardly think of anything else. He couldn’t eat his snack; he was bored with board games; and he was certain that the clock that blinked a fluorescent green on the great instructor’s desk had purposefully slowed itself to a maddening crawl.

His friends felt the same way. While the Land’s leaders cleaned floors and washed sidewalks and its instructors put away the clutter of the week, there were others who put away Christmas lights and tree ornaments.  Deliciously Happy Chefs prepared the final lunch in this Land of Centennial – a simple spread of honey wheat loaves of bread and dishes of almond butter and holiday jams, sweet and dill pickles, and tortilla chips dipped in salsa and cream cheese.

When the clock finally tocked, it welcomed the young people of the Land of Centennial to the Time of Recess and Baby Frederico raced to meet his friends in the appointed place.  As he rounded the corner, he noticed all of his friends sitting and talking near the old log benches and smiled.  There they were, the people he had laughed and studied and giggled and joked and ate with for so many months now that they seemed like family.

As he joined them on the bench, the friends told some new jokes and discussed what they most wanted for Christmas, while others worried that the long holiday away from the Land of Centennial and each other would be too long.  They were friends and they needed each other.

Baby Frederico smiled and said, “It’s true that it might be long, but it won’t be so long that we won’t remain friends.  Great friends are friends wherever you go to do whatever you do, whenever you need to do it.  We are those great friends and we shall return to the Land of Centennial as even greater friends.”

And so sat Grenelda the Grasshopper, Rob the Robin, Julia the Jubilant, Skylar the Smiler, Courtney the Cute, Laine the Laugher, Sarah the Sweet, Katrina the Kind, and Kendall the Caring. And, for at least one more time, they met amidst a thousand giggles on a distant playground under a brightly colored construction in the mysterious Land of Centennial.

And they indeed lived “friend-ily” ever after.

-The End-

‘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.

BF Christmas 2

I Hear the Bells on Christmas Day

Bells 2

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!

 frosty

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.

Reading with Jacob

“All I have is a voice.” - W.H. Auden

Jacob Reads 2013

For the past several years, I have had the wonderful experience of teaching a Christian Education class on Sunday mornings at our church.  I enjoy it even more because of my friend Jacob.  Jacob is 32 years-old, smiles often and loves to sing and reads from his heart.  He also has Down Syndrome.

A few years ago, I was putting together our Christmas study series for the month of December and decided to ask Jacob if he would read a particular passage from the Bible that told of the story of Christmas.

As the students and their families settled into the chairs around the classroom, I quieted the group and made a few announcements before asking Jacob to come to the front to read the scripture.  He asked if I would stand beside him while he read, “just in case I get nervous,” he said.

The magic commenced the moment he began to read.  His voice was shaky and quiet, reserved and somehow piercing as he read from the gospel of Luke.  As I looked around, the students were leaning forward, some literally on the edge of their seats, completely silent and completely enthralled by this young man’s reading of one of the most familiar passages in the entire Bible.

After the class ended, I stepped outside the room and into the hall to shake hands and talk with guests.  One particular friend in class had been through an especially difficult year in his home and work and I noticed that he lingered behind as everyone left the room.  “I need to tell you something,” he said as he diverted his eyes to the floor and put his hands in his pockets.  “What’s up?” I said.

“It has not felt like Christmas at all to me this year.  Nothing has proved fulfilling or entertaining or worthwhile at all in my life these past few months.”

He stopped and drew in a deep breath, lost in thought for the moment before he continued.

“I felt nothing at all…until Jacob read.  Something about his voice, about the quiet way in which he related such a familiar passage.  Something about it has brought me peace.  Something about reading with Jacob this morning has brought Christmas back to me.  Tell him thanks for me?”

Reading with Jacob.  If you ever have the opportunity to do such a thing, don’t pass it up.  It could even change your life.

‘Gingerbread Baby’ – 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!

 Ginger Blog

Today’s great book:  Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett (1999, Scholastic)

The Author’s Website:  www.janbrett.com/index.html

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

Summary:  from the publisher…”A young boy and his mother bake a gingerbread baby that escapes from their oven and leads a crowd on a chase similar to the one in the familiar tale of the not-so-clever gingerbread man.”

Best Quote:  “They measured and mixed.  Matti rolled the dough into the shape of a gingerbread boy and they popped him in the oven.  Bake a full eight minutes.  No more.  No less.  DO NOT peek, the recipe read.”

Our View:  If you are at all familiar with the wonderful variety of Jan Brett’s masterful children’s books, you know that one of the most special aspects of her books are the intricately detailed artwork that frames each and every page of her stories.  In this particular work, the Gingerbread Boy actually ends up in a surprising place as he is chased through the forest by a wonderful group of interesting characters.  This is a story that nearly tells itself through the illustrations and is great fun to read with your children.

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