‘Win or Lose Part 3’ 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 Race 2

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and superhero Lego mini figures, but he did not like to lose.  Here is part 3 of his story (for part one and two click here):

Where was he? That was all Baby Frederico could think as he stared at the scene before him. Everything seemed to be covered in a foggy mist that crept along before and behind him. He could hear two things: the sound of a car racing its engine and the sound of Grenelda playing her cello. He searched to see them, but he could only hear them through the deep darkness that was now nearly enveloping him.

Suddenly, the sound of the car came near him, too near him. It was so close in fact that he could smell the rubber burning from the tires as it raced somewhere right beside him.  To his left, the sounds of the cello suddenly became so loud and eerie that Baby Frederico could hardly think.  He began to shiver from fright.

And then the car again…and the sounds of that cello. They swirled around him until the fog and the noise and the shivering fright itself – all of it seemed to spring to life and carry him through the darkness.

He awoke with such a start that he nearly fell out of his bed. Where was he? He slowly looked around and finally and thankfully realized he was home and it was morning and it had only been a bad dream.

Baby Frederico wasted no time as he sprang to life.  He knew what he must do and raced to Grenelda’s home.  He knocked frantically at her front door, but there was no answer. He waited and listened…and that is when he heard the sweet sound of a cello, Grenelda’s cello.

Baby Frederico followed the familiar music to her backyard and there she was, his best buddy. He waited until her song was complete and walked over to where she was sitting.
Before she could say a word, Baby Frederico apologized and asked her forgiveness. She was more than happy to do it, but she asked why he had been so angry.

Baby Frederico was embarrassed but he did his best to explain why he had become so angry when he had lost the car race, “Well, I thought that I didn’t like to lose and that if I won, that would be the only way I would ever be happy…and now I know that’s not true. Friendship is more important than winning.”

Grenelda was so happy to have her friend back that all she could think to say, well, it was exactly what needed to be said – “Baby Frederico, if you have a friend in this big old world, then you have already won.”

‘Win or Lose Part 2’ 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 Race 1

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn…and parades with marching bands full of trombone players; but he did not like to lose.  Here is part 2 of his story (for part one click here):

The moment Grenelda the Grasshopper’s purple and pink car won the race, Baby Frederico was mad.  He did not like to lose and he did not like that he lost to Grenelda and her, well his, purple and pink car.  And he told her so!

Grenelda was surprised and suggested that they try the race again because, “Surely you’ll win this time buddy.”  They raced again…and again….and even a third time – but each and every time Grenelda’s car won the race!  And Baby Frederico became angrier each time.

BF Race 2

In fact, Grenelda had never seen Baby Frederico get so upset – especially at her, his best buddy.  She was hurt, yes, but what really surprised her was how quickly all the fun they had while they were building the racetrack and talking and laughing all afternoon had so quickly and painfully come to an end.

Baby Frederico left her standing in the hallway with nothing more to say about it, so she decided it was time to leave and began the short walk home.  She felt terrible inside and even wished that she would have never won even one of those silly races at all.  She knew she had not cheated, that it was just how the car went down the racetrack that caused her to be the winner.  She knew she had done nothing wrong, but she still felt terrible.  Baby Frederico was her friend and now she missed him.

It had only been a moment when Baby Frederico, feeling embarrassed and sorry for they way he had acted, came back into the hallway to apologize to Grenelda…but she was gone.  He had no sooner realized she was gone, though, when he caught another glimpse of that purple and pink car and the long racetrack that they had built down the hallway…and he became angry all over again.  He did not like to lose.

That night, Baby Frederico slept fitfully and had a dream that turned into a nightmare.  When he would finally awake from it, everything would be different….(more next week!).


The Physics of Childhood

Hot Wheels 3

“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.” – Abigail Van Buren

How do things move?  It is one of the most basic questions that can be asked in regard to the science of physics.  In early childhood, movement is everywhere and is itself such a normal part of a child’s life that getting them to think in a developmentally appropriate and imaginative way about such things  and how they move is not hard at all.

When I was young, the physics of childhood flourished in me through an assortment of toy cars and later bicycles and go-carts and trying to build just the right ramps to turn each of them into the General Lee – the starring car of my favorite television show when I was a boy.  I remember the way it felt to get my bike just inches off the ground as it lifted its front wheel into the air from my makeshift ramp.  I was in heaven and imagined myself flying across rivers flanked by “Bridge Out” signs all along the way.  Some 30 years later, I can still remember the thrill of all that playing and working and experimenting!

Hot Wheels 2

So tonight the girls and I decided to take a walk down the toy aisle at our local Target.  I was especially intrigued with their Hot Wheels assortment and the girls and I soon picked out the coolest 3-lane racetrack that I had ever seen.  The girls each chose two Hot Wheels (at only .97 cents, this must still be the cheapest toy in the store!) and we headed home to do some racing.

In my mind, the best part about Hot Wheels tracks are their interchangeable styles, which gives way to some of the most interesting configurations and layouts you’ve ever seen.  I dared the girls (ages 8 and 13) to find a way to bring every set of tracks (we have six separate playsets, four of which we inherited from my gracious nephew Zachary!)  together to create one colossal PHYSICS event!

After more than two hours of thinking and talking and hypothesizing and experimenting and failing and succeeding (and a little Motown music in the background to keep the mood up) – and some very funny debates between the two of them that ended at one point when my 8-year old said, “It will never work,” to which my 13-year old responded, “Don’t say another word” – it was time to bring it all together and see the domino effect that would start with 3 cars colliding into 3 more cars and so on until the final car hit the finish line.

30 Hot Wheels and 22 feet of track later the physics of childhood keeps moving along – right before my eyes and among my kids “the scientists!”

Hot Wheels 1


‘Win or Lose’ 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!

 Science Car BF

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn, and…the way it sounded to say “Pottawatomie County”; but he did not like to lose.  Here is his story:

Five, four, three, two, one…go!  The race was finally on and Baby Frederico’s heart was beating faster than ever.  He and his best buddy Grenelda had been waiting for this Saturday race all week long and it was finally time to see who would win.

The cars had been lined up perfectly along the starting line of the bright orange tracks that Baby Frederico and Grenelda had set up along the long hallway at his house.  They loved this hallway.  It had been a bowling alley, a Nerf bow and arrow target course, an air-powered balloon/water bottle car testing facility, an art center, a paper airplane race course – and today it was the perfect spot for their long-awaited Hot Wheels race.  It included six long lanes of ramps and loops to guide their favorite cars from his toy chest at one end of the hallway straight into the winner’s circle at the other end of the hallway.  They had even found a way to use Grenelda’s old girly-looking Barbie swimming pool, which they placed just beyond the final ramp so each car would make a massive, spectacular, wonderful, wet splashdown at the end of the great race.

Baby Frederico was certain he would win.  It was his racetrack and his cars and besides, Grenelda was a girl.  She couldn’t win a race with Hot Wheels, especially with the car she had chosen – an old pink and purple van that Baby Frederico had received from his grandma (who clearly did not understand that he would never like anything that was purple or pink).  Baby Frederico had tried to throw it away, but his Momma Mia found it in the trash and had scolded him for not taking better care of his gifts.

So now here he was with his favorite Hot Wheel, his best buddy Grenelda who was using his least favorite Hot Wheel, and he was about to win a good old-fashioned race!  And then….it happened.  At the very last moment, just ahead of the final ramp that would catapult him into the winner’s circle that was Grenelda’s Barbie swimming pool…the pink and purple car jumped ahead and landed square in the middle of the splashing water of that pool and, horror of all horrors, she had won the race.

It was too terrible for Baby Frederico to comprehend.  He hated losing, especially to a girl using a purple and pink Hot Wheel, and now….he had lost.  What would he do next?  Smile and congratulate his best buddy?  Jump up and down and yell and scream and accuse her of cheating?  And what in the world would Grenelda do?  Would she be so proud of her win that she would call Baby Frederico the biggest loser ever?  Or would she just think that he was the sorest loser ever?  What do you think Baby Frederico should do (or not do!)?  Stay tuned next week, same website, same weekday, same best buddies and find out!

Only an Open Book Gets Read


“We convince by our presence.” – Walt Whitman

I think if there is one thing I have learned about being a dad that has proven especially helpful to me as my daughters get older, it is this:  open up the book of your life and get to know each other.

Last week, I came home from work and the girls were so excited to meet me at the door because they each had a big surprise in store.  They had been shopping at their favorite antique stores for the day and had me close my eyes as they presented me with two gifts – a Hot Wheels car from 1976 and a coffee-table size book entitled Star Wars:  Where Science Meets Imagination (2005, National Geographic Society) with a cool introduction written by Anthony Daniels, also known as C-3PO.  My wife received a Shaun Cassidy album, the very one that she had cherished as a middle schooler and about which she had always told them stories.  She was so surprised to receive such a personal gift – and they have been listening to it all weekend!

We like that our kids know us and know our memories and know our likes and loves and dislikes, the things that make us laugh and the things that make us cry.  They know when we are happy and when we are frustrated.  We have been getting to know each other since their birth, and we have all been taking notes.

Toys have been a fun and interesting thing for us to have in common.  Today, they play with all kinds of things including some of the very same toys I played with as a little boy.One day, I came home from work to find that the girls had pulled out their box of Barbies AND my box of old Hot Wheels and combined them into a huge and very colorful car dealership.  I don’t think the toy purists would ever allow such things to be mixed, but it was sure funny to watch these very tall Barbie people sell these very little cars to each other.

And my buddies who are dads… these men are opening the book and stepping up to the plate to hit home-runs with their sons and daughters.  I’m lucky to know each one of them and learn from each one of them.  Here are just a few:  my friend Rob takes his little girl bow hunting with him now that she is a little older and his pictures of her excitement over just getting to hang out with her dad in a world of things that he loves are priceless; Andrew and his son referee high school volleyball games; Michael coaches his son in soccer and plays barbies with his daughter or takes all three fishing at a nearby lake; Dustin takes his 11-month old son strolling through the zoo; Jared and his boys love motorcycles and superheroes; Chris does his morning exercise routine with his kids, including his 3-year old daughter, who sits on his back while he does push-ups!  Some like to share the latest video games (Minecraft, Madden Football, Harry Potter Lego) or arcade favorites from their childhood (Dig-Dug, Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Chopper Command, Moon Patrol, Frogger); and others enjoy sports or music or running or walking or sledding or building snowmen and on and on and on.  They all have one thing in common – working on living their lives like an open book before their children.

And it all makes me think, open books are the best (and only) kind of books to read.