Home at Last

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The other night we were sitting together in our daughters bedroom with them just before bedtime. We read an old familiar classic, Home for A Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown with illustrations by Garth Williams. It’s as kindhearted a book in both words and illustrations as I have ever read to the kids and it gives me a great opportunity to try out my animal voices – from singing baby birds to a grumpy old frog – in the narration.

It is an easy read, lasts only a few minutes, and it’s large in size for my end-of-the-day-40-something year old tired eyes.

As a matter of fact we were all tired that night. Little stresses had hounded each one of us throughout that particular day and so the atmosphere of the room was weary and anxious and impatient…until we began to read. A page in, the harshness of the world thawed a bit and we began to feel closer to home and each other once again.

Books as medicine for the soul, you say? Good point. Maybe so. It sure worked for that bunny.

Life in a Book Room

Book room cool

CJ and Sibs

My sister and her husband recently created a little book room for their three children. It has all the necessities: lots of books and lots of character and lots of coziness…and of course, children!

In my imagination there are few things that compare to a family book room – a place that just fits a child and their books. It can be nothing more than a tent made from blankets or become as extravagant as a treehouse bunk bed structure built right inside their bedroom.

When our children were smaller, I would often find them sleeping on our book room floor…and covered in books. With the treasure of childlike exuberance and pint-size stature, they reveled in the quiet and the warmth and the smaller space which seemed like a mini-mansion’s library to them. They were home and they were safe and they were reading.

The book room. Whatever it looks like and however expansive it is, a book and a child can make it so.

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‘Sing Your Address’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

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*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!

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn and…lots of snow!  Here is his story:

Baby Frederico was excited about winter and snow and snow sledding and snowballs and snow ice cream and icicles and snowmen and trying to ride his bike on the long snow-packed driveway that ran from his garage to his mailbox.

There was just one thing, though, that he wanted more than anything – a snow day out of school.  He longed for it.  He prayed for it.  He held his breath every time he watched the local weatherman give his hopeful snowy forecast.  Surely someday there would be enough snow to get him out of school, for Baby Frederico desperately wanted that someday to be this week. It needed to be a very big snow that would make the roads impassable and encourage teachers, especially his teacher, to stay home and drink hot chocolate!

This was Kindergarten and Baby Frederico had been thinking about something that brought all kinds of worry into his little brain – during Circle Time, the teacher was going to ask each student to stand up and recite their home address and tell something about themselves, all by themselves.  He couldn’t stand the thought of it. Not only did he not know his address, but he didn’t know anything about himself that the other kids would think was interesting. He had a long green tail, two eyes, two ears, four legs, and he was in kindergarten…what else was he supposed to say!

That night at dinner Baby Frederico told his Momma and Papa about his troubles. They listened carefully and then his Papa smiled and said, “I’ve got it! You can sing your address and then tell them about your comic book collection. They’ll love it!”

That night, Baby Frederico and his Papa made up a funny tune that would help him easily remember his address. They gathered up three of his favorite comic books and put them in his book bag. No longer was BF worried and he slept peacefully through the night.

The next day there was enough snow that school was cancelled, so BF sang his address all day long and couldn’t wait for school to start again.

‘If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo’ – Tuesday’s 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.

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Today’s great book: If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo by Mary Jean Hendrick with illustrations by Jane Dyer (1993, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich)

The Illustrator’s Website: http://www.harpercollins.com/author/microsite/about.aspx?authorid=14891

Time to Read: short and sweet; bedtime or anytime

Summary:  from the Kirkus Review – “Every Saturday, Leslie makes an eponymous offer to one of the zookeepers: “…you can send the zebras to my house.” They promise to remember but aren’t encouraging (“Oh, no…Monkeys…need things to swing on”). Then something does go wrong–heavy rains, flooding–and, one memorable night, the keepers bring the animals to Leslie’s hilltop home, where they put the elephants in the garage, the monkeys on the swing-set, an alligator in the tub, ostriches in the hall–but just for the night. The keepers are grateful; Mom is surprised but polite: “The next time you invite friends home, would you check with me first?” It’s a simple, enticing idea, gracefully and logically developed by this new author and ably abetted by Dyer’s watercolors, which nicely capture the animals’ appeal and the cozy, dependable family so willing to take them in. A real charmer. (Picture book. 4-8)”

Best Quote from the Book:  “I’m glad I remembered that if anything ever went wrong at the zoo, we could bring the animals to your house.”

Our View:  One of the ways in which I have chosen books for our children is to base the choice upon things we like to do in real life – and going to the zoo was always a treat, especially when the kids were little.  That’s why this book is so special to me and often helped me wind up a great visit to the zoo with this bedtime story.  It brought a connection to the events of the day and a funny way of thinking about what might happen if they really decided to bring one of those animals home for the weekend!  I really do enjoy reading this particular book to the girls just before bedtime.  With three daughters five years apart in age, I have had the pleasure of reading and re-reading it to them for more than 16 years now.  It has even become part of our family’s lexicon whenever we talk or visit zoos and it never fails to get the younger children talking about what it would be like to have such things as elephants in our garage and lions in our closet and monkeys on our swingset.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe - Animal Crackers!  - created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Man Finds Phone

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.”                                                                                                          - George Moore

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Books Welcome

I lost my phone yesterday!  I know – doesn’t it make you cringe at the mere thought of it?  I got in my jeep after work and headed home, and when I arrived there it was gone.  Maybe it was somewhere at my office or, horror of horrors, I had somehow dropped it in the parking lot as I was getting in my car. I worried about it on and off throughout the evening and then awoke ready to get to work and that parking lot, just in case.  I arrived early, but there was nothing there, not a smashed phone in the parking lot nor a lonely phone setting on a desk in the office.  I searched the world over and couldn’t imagine where I had left it. Where could it be?

And then it suddenly hit me, what if the phone was IN MY CAR?  What if it had simply slipped off the passenger seat and lodged itself somewhere between the seat and the door or maybe it was under the seat in one of those hard-to-reach spots?  I ran to the car and there it was, lying peacefully under the seat right next to a Sonic peppermint candy and two mechanical pencils.  I had searched everywhere for the thing I needed, the one thing I thought was lost or at least misplaced.  And there it was, in the one place it was supposed to be.

I have done this way too often in my life with things more important than a phone, jumped to the conclusion that surely what I need is further away from me than it is nearer to me.  That’s why I wish I could meet the man who wrote this quote, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.”  Something worse than losing his phone must have happened to compel him to compose such a profound sentence.  His singular sentence speaks to me and reminds me and convicts me.

No wonder the mat outside our front door says, “Welcome.”

A Romance Among Books

Nearly every time I am at my wife’s childhood home, I look for something to read – and that is because my in-laws are magnificent reading people.  I was extremely lucky to have found my wife and her family, and one of the best things about them is their home.

Connie and Mike 2013

Whether it is the latest magazine and the most interesting book (new or old) or the latest column on the web – my wife’s parents know about it and love to share it.  They subscribe to everything with a word or sentence in it and will entertain a new book at the drop of a hat.  Who do you know that reads Sound & VisionArchitectural DigestFamily Handyman, AND Oxford American?  I know someone and it is them (and why they are this week’s special photo above)!

I remember early in our dating life together when I would be invited over for dinner or to watch a college football game or assist in moving a piece of furniture or just stopping by to pick up their daughter for a date – and the books!  You wouldn’t believe it.  Every topic of every kind hidden within the pages of old, new, tattered, classic, big, little, hardback and softback books; beautiful works with spines covered in colors and titles and drawings that practically asked me to pull every single one of them from the shelves (and made me nearly late for romantic dates and exciting football games and abundant family dinners).

And the way in which their books are used – it is as though this family believes that books are much more than books – they are for display and decoration and art as much as they are for reading.  The built-in bookshelves surround the fireplace and the walls and provide the backdrop for the sofas and recliners, while other rooms include desks and end tables with just the right amount of space for special books that have lived with the family for generations.  The books themselves might be standing up straight with their spines facing outward, while others are casually leaning up against an antique clock or stacked diagonally over and under one another.  There are always new and interesting books on the coffee table and even a variety of magazines pouring out of a big woven basket near the recliners.  More than 20 years later, it never fails to amaze me that I can enter this great home a hundred times throughout the year and find something new to read every single time.

It is no secret that I fell in love with my wife and her family in those early days of our life together, and that marvelous house full of books and words and columns and conversation remains the icing on the cake.

Decorate Books